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Some question rosy picture painted by Illinois' five year budget projections


Monday, November 21, 2022  |  Article  |  Andrew Hensel

Gov. J.B. Pritzker claims the state is in great financial shape after the release of the five-year budget projections. However, one economic analysis says the state still needs to address a particular problem.


The state's fiscal projections released this week shows the state has been making strides in attempting to clear some of its long-term debts.


Pritzker claims the state's financial polices under his control have given the state a surplus to work with.


"Illinois' bills are being paid on time, we have over $1 billion in our rainy-day fund, our credit ratings are up, and we are honoring our commitments to long-term financial liabilities by contributing extra to Illinois' pension systems," said Pritzker. "As we celebrate the tremendous progress we have made with our partners in the General Assembly, we remain committed to working tirelessly for Illinois taxpayers and responsibly managing the state's finances."


Sheila Weinberg of Truth in Accounting said the state is lying about its financial standing.


"The people continue to be misled by the state's finances," Weinberg told The Center Square. "Can they knowledgeably participate in their government if they are not being told the truth about their finances?"


The report shows Illinois is still struggling in one key area financially, even despite claims from the governor that things are great. Weinberg said the state needs to address its massive pension debt.


"There is no mention in the economic report or the press release that the pension report, while the picture is rosy, is going to be shorted by four to five billion dollars a year," Weinberg said.


Weinberg said how the state handles its debt would hurt them in the long run.


The governor's report indicates the state will contribute $5.9 billion to the Teachers' Retirement System. However, according to the TRS, for actuaries to adequately fund the system, $9.1 billion should be contributed. Therefore the system will be short-changed by $3.2 billion.


The actuaries say the total contribution deficiency of the state's pension system is $4.1 billion.


The proper funding of these systems would eat up all the $3.5 billion surplus report in the state's forecast. The report also indicates reduced projected deficits from 2025 to 2028 without consideration of the pension contribution deficiencies, according to Weinberg.