Mendoza to Pritzker: Be realistic about budget request

February 5, 2019

In the weeks before freshman Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s first budget address, his Democratic comptroller is reminding him about the fiscal reality of Illinois’ finances.

Comptroller Susana Mendoza called on the Chicago Democrat to use the Debt Transparency Act report, one of the transparency issues she championed that passed into law last year, to propose a budget that uses “realistic projections when estimating revenues and cost savings and to avoid relying on any concepts they know cannot be realized in fiscal year 2020.”

Assistant Republican Leader Keith Wheeler, from Aurora, said he was happy to see Mendoza asking for fiscal sanity, something he said has been absent from the state budget in recent years.

“The bucket’s only so big,” he said. “We will see first-hand and soon how much credence the Pritzker administration puts into making promises work out with the fiscal reality of the state of Illinois.”

Former Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bipartisan budget for fiscal year 2019 that relied on a number of budgetary gimmicks to get around the Illinois Constitution’s balanced budget requirement.

One particularly dubious accounting gimmick has become a mainstay of budget estimates in recent years: The anticipated revenue from the sale of the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago.

“Since 2015, the Thompson Center sale has been a regular revenue feature of budget proposals,” Mendoza’s annual report noted. “However, continued delays have made the sale unlikely to be executed by the end of the fiscal year. Additionally, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget has outlined a decrease of $285 million in expected federal revenue sources.”

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