The report pointed out that because Illinois already had a substantial deficit before the national recession, it will be even more difficult to regain fiscal stability. Pew Center experts said the road to financial recovery won’t be easy, noting the situation was exacerbated because “the state piled up huge backlogs of Medicaid bills and borrowed money to pay its pension obligations.”
This is unfortunate but not unexpected. The state’s deficit was made worse by massive program expansions pushed by former Governor Rod Blagojevich and approved by majority Democrats during his six years in office. Governor Quinn and legislative Democrats have left Blagojevich’s programs and policies untouched—including some that led to his impeachment.
QUINN DEAL WITH R.T.A. COSTING TAXPAYERS
A deal between Governor Quinn and the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) was announced this week, which would allow the RTA to bond approximately $160 million over two years to give to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to help fill an annual $300 million shortfall.
Although the state is billions of dollars behind in payments to Medicaid providers, service providers, and public universities—to name a few—Governor Quinn has committed $32 million in state dollars over the next two years to subsidize the RTA and CTA.
The bailout will freeze CTA fares at current rates for the next two years, though the CTA is still required to make $100 million in operations reductions, either through service cuts or layoffs.
The state funding will come out of General Revenue Funds, meaning all Illinois taxpayers—from Cairo to Galena—will be subsidizing Chicago-area mass transit. Good government groups, editorial boards and some transit authorities say that the deal is irresponsible, and only creates more debt for the RTA without actually addressing the CTA’s massive deficit.
The bailout could have been avoided if Governor Quinn would have supported income-based limits on the controversial Seniors Ride Free program, which could save an estimated $37 million. Instead of limiting the free rides program to low-income senior citizens, the Governor and his Senate Democrat colleagues refused to advance a means testing program, thus allowing high-income seniors to continue to ride free—while working men and women from across Illinois pick up the tab.
UNIVERSITIES CONTINUE TO BE AFFECTED BY STATE FINANCES
The state’s fiscal troubles are continuing to cause problems for state universities. Recently, both the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign and Southern Illinois University- Carbondale said that late state reimbursements have become a serious problem.
This week, officials at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale say they are concerned about making payroll, and representatives of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville report the university is making cutbacks and many operational budgets are being affected. Dispensable goods and services are being eliminated or scaled back, and campus officials said they are taking a serious look at their future planning and how the university will operate in the coming years.
Kudos to the Illinois CPA Society for offering free tax assistance and guidance to the immediate families of deployed military members.
The Society’s CPAs for the Public Interest will match military personnel and/or their family members with CPA volunteers in their area who will provide free personal federal and state income tax preparation assistance.
Eligible military members or their families should contact Jill Wiles, Community Service Manager for the Illinois CPA Society at 800-993-0407 (ext. 277) or firstname.lastname@example.org.