Perhaps the biggest impediment to an agreement is that the conventional stereotype of Illinois government as marbled with big ticket, easily cuttable fat defies reality.
On a per capita basis, no state government employs fewer people than Illinois. No state picks up a smaller percentage of local education bills. Per patient Medicaid spending is well below national norms. And the pile of debt now owed to state administed public pension systems is staggering. […]
The biggest components of the budget – state employee costs, schools, health care – don’t provide obvious cost savings that would make a substantial dent in the deficit. The state employee workforce of 62,000 in 2016 is down from 84,000 in 2002, a 26 percent reduction, according to the Comptroller’s office. Census data show Illinois has the fewest number of state employees per capita, among the states.
The Medicaid budget, the largest and fastest-growing piece of the Illinois spending document, stood at $17 billion in fiscal 2015, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, behind Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, New York and California. But the amount Illinois spends per Medicaid enrollee stands at about $4,500, below the national average by about $1,400 a patient, Kaiser reports. […]
In the funding of public schools, no state spends less in support of K-12 education than Illinois, providing 26 percent of funds for school operations in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The average among the states is 20 percentage points higher 46 percent. Cutting state support would increase pressure on local governments to boost their reliance on the property tax.