State Budget Crisis

The state of Illinois is $15 billion in debt. To solve the budget crisis, lawmakers are planning to raise the state’s income tax. Legislators are also looking at borrowing billions of dollars to bridge the gap.

Joe Straka is Executive Director of PACT, Inc., a DuPage County not-for-profit that connects people with disabilities in DuPage County to the funds and services they need. The agency is state funded, and Illinois is months behind in their payments to the organization.

“Sometimes in crisis situations, even currently with current state funding levels, not everybody, particularly adults, is able to get the services that they need,” said Straka.

The State House approved a plan to borrow around $4 billion dollars in December. Now, Illinois lawmakers are poised to borrow more, and pay for that borrowing with an income tax increase. This would allow agencies like PACT, Inc. to receive their funding, but state Republicans, like Naperville’s Darlene Senger, say the plan simply puts off the need to make program cuts and balance Illinois’ budget.

“To me, it makes no sense to borrow to make up for that difference,” said Senger. “If you have so much coming in in taxes, you should say that’s all we can spend. That’s all government can be, not the other way around.”

But for groups served by agencies like PACT, Inc. the borrowing plan would be a positive.

“It would clear up delays in payment, and it would allow services to be funded on a relatively timely basis going forward,” said Straka.

The debate over Illinois’ fiscal problems is sure to continue into the future. The effects of the crisis are already evident; Illinois has the nation’s second worst credit rating, according to Moody’s Investors Service. California has the worst.

Illinois will soon swear in new lawmakers. Finding a solution to the state’s budget problems will be one of the most important tasks facing the new members of government.

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