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Today’s assignment: Budget toolbox

Monday, Feb 24, 2014

* From an e-mail…

Hi Mr. Miller,

The University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs is pleased to provide a new tool for anyone who is interested in examining ways to solve the state’s budget crisis. The Illinois Budget Policy Toobox, available now at, can help you navigate the myriad proposals, ideas, and suggested solutions that have been or will be offered as possible ways to shrink the budget deficit and get Illinois out of its fiscal mess.

The Toolbox represents the work of IGPA faculty and other scholars who have examined several approaches to solving the problem. Our experts in public finance, economics and governance provide a nonpartisan overview of the state’s fiscal situation and evaluate the pros and cons of a variety of revenue and spending options, ranging from the reduction of the state income tax to business tax reform to reducing social services spending, among others. Our goal is to provide the background, context and evidence necessary to weigh each of these approaches fairly. We also expect the Toolbox to continue to develop. As new ideas and proposals arise, IGPA experts will examine them and provide new information to the Toolbox in a timely manner.

We at IGPA trust that you will find the information in the Toolbox useful in your efforts to tell your audiences about the fiscal policy debate in coming weeks and months. We invite you to use this information in concert with the many other sources of information at your disposal, knowing that the information that comes from IGPA is grounded in the best scholarship and is based on evidence rather than ideology or politics. The Toolbox essays will be followed by commentaries by the authors on each particular issue.

All of the experts who have contributed to the Toolbox are available for interviews, whether they be formal for use in a story or simply to gain more background and insight that will help you to work on a particular topic. And we stand ready to assist in whatever ways we can to enhance the value of this resource. We encourage you to check the Toolbox often for new information and, of course, we invite your feedback and ideas to help us make this resource even more useful for you.


Kelsey McCoy
Coordinator of Communication and Media
University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs

Go check it out and report back.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - RNUG - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:13 pm:

    That link with an expanded write-up was in the SJ-R this morning on the editorial page. Haven’t had time to play with it yet; one thing I want to see is if they have an option that says pension reform was found unconstitutional and to add that expense back in.

  2. - Robert the Bruce - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:31 pm:

    I might’ve missed it, but it looks like a lot of quick summaries followed by pdf reports, rather than a nice way of balancing the budget for yourself.

    And the quick summary of across-the-board cuts neglected to mention federal matching funds.

    I’d love to see something more like

  3. - Robert the Bruce - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:32 pm:

    (but for Illinois’ budget, rather than for the federal budget)

  4. - PublicServant - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:34 pm:

    It would be nice, RNUG, if they could fine tune not only figuring pension debt back in, but a more realistic repayment timeline for the debt and realistic targeted funded levels (80-90%) for a state that exists in perpetuity. In addition, new GASB reporting guidelines don’t change a thing. GASB is not an elected, legislative body. The state can and should develop a repayment timeline that is reasonable in repaying a debt that has been 6+ decades in the making. Setting a repayment schedule and sticking to it, will satisfy the bond market much more so than attempting to make the hole our legislature has dug for us fit into the newly minted GASB reporting requirements form that some in the ILGOP are screaming that Illinois must comply with.

  5. - anon - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:37 pm:

    Yeah, all the “tools” on that site seem to be PDF summaries. I’m not sure when PDFs (or summaries) became tools.

  6. - RNUG - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:39 pm:

    - PublicServant - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:34 pm:

    May take on it is the bond market is looking for permanent revenue. Every other state that did ‘pension reform’ and got a boost in their bond rating also did a permanent revenue increase. The one that didn’t make revenue permanent (us) got a bond rating downgrade.

  7. - Angry Republican - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:41 pm:

    Turn out the lights, the party’s over. From the fiscal futures report:
    “Illinois has a chronic, structural fiscal problem so huge that it cannot be eliminated by increases in economic growth alone, or - alas - agsressive pension changes alone. Indeed, the researchers concluded, even if we combine the change in pension laws with higher tax rates, the structural deficit still grows”

  8. - Give Me A Break - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:44 pm:

    Wonder if they take into consideration programs that are mandated by concent decrees, statutes or federal match. When you get into the budgets of DHS, HFS and DCFS, what looks like you cut on paper, quickly gets shot down when you consider the above.

  9. - RNUG - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:45 pm:

    Don’t know what good the PDF’s are other than conveying some facts. I was looking for a actual tool that let you click different revenue sources in and out, fine tune the revenue rates, click cuts or expanded spending in and out including federal dollar gain or loss, SB0001 pension reform in or out, school pension cost shift in and out, and have it show the overall budget impact in bar, pie and line chart format. Now THAT would be a tool to have fun with,

  10. - RNUG - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:47 pm:

    You put the kind of tool I just described together, and even the politicans will be able to understand fisca policy in this state.

  11. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:49 pm:

    A good starting point for background on the main issues. Thanks to the fine folks at IGPA for putting it together.

    It’s a bit surprising, however, not to see anything addressing the fact spending from “other state funds” is now nearly on par with spending from “general funds”.

    Spending from those “other” funds has increased from $17,769,053,800 in 2009 to $28,005,000,000 in 2014.

    We need to look at the big picture on both the revenue and spending side, and take everything into consideration - including extending the tax increase.

  12. - Bill White - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:49 pm:

    Yup. I was expecting something like this:

  13. - RNUG - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:54 pm:

    And the tool I described should allow not only FY15 but about 5 years out using a baseline growth assumption and let you pick a base growth assumption.

  14. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:54 pm:

    “Budget Toolbox” was one of the few nicknames I had for John Filan back in the early days of the Blog that Rich wouldn’t delete iirc.

    To The Post, this wasn’t what I was expecting, either. Something interactive/real time would be very useful.

  15. - Almost the Weekend - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 12:55 pm:

    This should be at the next GOP debate, using the budget tool box, what government entities would you cut since every single one of you supports repealing the income tax hike.

  16. - Demoralized - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 1:04 pm:


    Those non-GRF funds (for the most part) have their own sources of revenue that are dedicated specifically for the purposes for which they are used. Unless you are going to pull a Blago and start taking money out of those other funds to use contrary to the statutory purposes of those funds then it isn’t very useful to look at those funds in terms of the budget problems.

  17. - Lunchbox - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 1:05 pm:

    It’s too bad, an interactive graphic with the different options would have been more effective.

  18. - Judgment Day - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 1:05 pm:

    Off Topic, but the State of IL just won a big one:

    Congrats to everybody who worked on getting it done. Nice work!

  19. - Arizona Bob - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 1:12 pm:

    Just glanced over the toolbox. Most were pretty objective and scholarly, except for the “Waste and Abuse” section by Elizabeth Powers, that used terms that indicated “underfunding” without establishing a factual basis for that claim.

    This seems to have provided no new information, it was just a rehash of other publications. One wonders how much this cost the taxpayers. It seems like just another matter of “Pork for Professors”!LOL

  20. - Arizona Bob - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 1:18 pm:

    Having done graduate work at U of I (Urbana) I’m willing to bet that all the “heavy lifting” in this information was done by low paid graduate students, while the cash was collected by the profs. I REALLY wish someone would take a serious look at the way money is squandered at U of I. Only about 40% of their budget is spent on actual instruction, and most of that is done by inexperienced graduate students who have no proefessional experience in their field, no interest in teaching, and often are “English challenged” despite their TOEFFL scores. My guess is that you could cut 15% to 25% off their budget (with a commensurate drop in tuition and fees) and the students wouldn’t miss it a bit.

  21. - Bill White - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 1:22 pm:

    @Arizona Bob

    Despite my disappointment at the lack of interactive ability to play “what if” scenarios my initial impression is that the data is presented in an easy to grasp format, which allows people new to the topic a shorter learning curve for grasping existing information.

    And that is a good thing . . .

  22. - Filmmaker Professor - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 1:23 pm:

    why don’t you request an interview with Jim Edgar? That way he can do something besides traveling the state endorsing Republicans for his $175,000 taxpayer salary.

  23. - PublicServant - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 1:29 pm:

    ===Only about 40% of their budget is spent on actual instruction, and most of that is done by inexperienced graduate students who have no proefessional experience in their field===

    Care to provide links to where you’re getting your figures?

  24. - Arizona Bob - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 2:18 pm:

    Public Servant, it’s in the U of I budget presentation document. They give a general breakdown to as to where the revenue comes and where the spending goes.

  25. - steve schnorf - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 3:04 pm:

    Those looking for something interactive might take a look at this, developed by CTBA for Crains, with financial support from Crains

  26. - x ace - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 6:14 pm:

    Immediately went to list of experts and found :


    Read no more . Tossed it !

  27. - Filmmaker Professor - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 9:31 pm:

    Arizona Bob - I have been researching one particular aspect of the budget for several years. The info I have will knock your socks off.

  28. - cod - Monday, Feb 24, 14 @ 10:26 pm:

    The section on personal income tax does list useful chunks of revenue related to specific policy items. Like, each 1% flat tax increase = $3B revenue increase, etc.

    I would like to see them do a policy package that does an analysis for a graduated tax system for Illinois, using the current income tax rates of our peer states (NY, CA, and MA?).

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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