Governor, pass budget reforms before shifting funds or transferring local fund reserves

Chuck Sweeny writes in the Rockford Register Star, “With Illinois on the verge of running out of money to pay day care centers, court reporters and prison guards, Gov. Bruce Rauner said Thursday a solution can be found easily, by shifting money from the state’s hundreds of special funds into the General Fund.”

Governor, isn’t skimming off special fund monies to support day care, court reporters, prison guards and other “essential” General Fund services the same excuse your predecessors, Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn used? Wasn’t this practice roundly criticized by Republicans?

Also, it was this kind of inter-fund borrowing mentality that resulted in a severely underfunded pension program that has placed the state in such a precarious financial situation in the first place.

If these special funds are so non-essential, as Illinois governors seem to believe, were these special funds set aside for such General Fund emergencies, and if so, why did the state begin the special funds in the first place?

Besides, this technique of robbing Peter to pay Paul is at best a temporary solution. Without substantial cuts in the state’s General Fund or increasing state revenues, what will the strategy be for next year’s expenditures in these essential state areas when the special funds run out of money?

Another strategy being considered by the governor is to increase the state’s revenue side of the equation by sharing only half the income tax previously shared with the cities and counties.

Is this a new unfunded state mandate on the cities and counties; unfunded mandates, which the governor promised were to be reduced or eliminated?

According to the article, our new governor’s view is that the local governments “have among them $18 billion in reserve … $18 billion is a lot of money” – a new source of state revenue apparently.

The reason the locals have those reserves, governor, which you now view as a revenue source to be transferred to the state, is that many local government bodies have remained frugal, cutting expenditures to stay within their budgets, while your predecessors and the General Assembly were unwilling to do the same to balance their budget.

The state kicked the can down the road by borrowing billions of dollars each year to cover their deficits. Local governments were forced to take on more and more of the state’s liabilities, yet still managed to balance their budgets and even managed to save some money for a rainy day.

Also, you met with the Rockford mayor and discussed your reforms, which are intended to reduce local costs and may increase the chances of balancing local budgets with the state reforms you are considering.

First, pass the reforms governor. Demonstrate that the General Assembly is willing to vote for your reforms, intended to make our local elected jobs easier and less costly, before transferring our local budget reserves to the state in the form of reduced state income tax sharing!