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Question of the day

Wednesday, Mar 15, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Gov. Pritzker was asked today about surplus state revenues

We’ve been, I think, on-point and even conservative about our revenue estimates every year that I’ve been in office. We don’t want to spend more than we’re taking in. And one of the reasons that we’ve been able to run surpluses is we’ve been conservative with our revenue estimates. Not intentionally. So, but just you know, as I should say, it’s intentional that we’re careful. But we’ve seen outsize revenue coming into the state that we didn’t expect. So, I’m glad to see that. As you know, we’ve year after year been responsible about what we’re doing with those surpluses, we’re not just spending them on new programs, we are socking it away, paying off debt, making sure that we’ve got, well, as you know, we’re down to I think 15 days of days payable. So we’re in accounts payable now and not overdue bills. We’ve reduced $8 billion to zero of overdue bills in the state. We’ve paid off all these short term debts. And indeed, now we’re starting to pay off long term debts by increasing the amount of money we put into pensions. So that’s what we have been doing with our surpluses.

They’ll obviously be some conversation with the General Assembly, we’re already putting money into the rainy day fund. We that’s another thing that we could consider with these surpluses. We still have more that we can do with regard to pensions, as well as other payments that we can make to alleviate the burden on people across the state of Illinois.

And then, finally, I would like to see as we feel comfortable with these new revenues coming in and their stability and I think we’re seeing a few years in a row now of stability of the revenue, that we should be talking about whether there are tax cuts that we can implement. And I’ve had conversations across the aisle, Democrats and Republicans about what we should do going forward in budgets if we see stability in these higher revenues.

* The Question: If state leaders believe revenues are stable, should they cut taxes or use the money for other things? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


  1. - The Ford Lawyer - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 11:48 am:

    We need to be paying off debts, taking care of the pensions and building a rainy day fund.

  2. - New Day - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 11:49 am:

    I know, it’s your blog so you may not appreciate this suggestion. But “use money for other things” is a huge category that includes new spending and paying down the pensions. That’s what I would do with the money. Might be more interesting if people had that choice.

  3. - Lurker - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 11:50 am:

    We need to rectify the errors of the previous leaders/corrupters and pay down pension debt they created.

  4. - reddevil1 - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 11:50 am:

    Continue taking care of the pension obligation, will only increase the financial stability of the state.

  5. - Homebody - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 11:51 am:

    When times are good, that money should be used to pay down debt and or build out infrastructure or other lasting things (roads, bridges, parks, buildings, etc). The government (at any level) should not be a yo-yo that goes up an down with the winds of economic change, but instead a stabilizing factor.

  6. - P. - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 11:52 am:

    We’ve done austerity for too long. Appropriate funding levels have lagged for everything from early childhood to senior care.

  7. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 11:54 am:

    ===Might be more interesting if people had that choice. ===

    That’s what the “explain” thing is for. Sheesh.

  8. - lake county democrat - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 11:56 am:

    As most of the others are saying, if there’s extra money, pay down the pension debt.

  9. - NickNombre - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 11:58 am:

    We have a long way to go before I think we can consider the State fiscally stable. Any excess revenues should go towards an emergency fund and our long-term debt. If revenues still look good during the next recession, that might be the time to focus on tax relief.

  10. - Langhorne - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 11:58 am:

    Any surplus revenue should be split between the rainy day fund, and paying down outstanding debts. Preferably long-term, like pension debt.

    It is hard enough to raise taxes, no matter the value of the expenditure. And society is becoming more volatile and unpredictable, not less so. This increases the need for resources and flexibility.

  11. - G'Kar - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 11:59 am:

    I’d be happy with them just using the money to pay down the pension debt. I’d also like to see the rainy day fund beefed up. And if there is enough, I’d like to see the state live up to its obligation by contributing more to the Community Colleges.

  12. - NotSoCivlEngineer - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:02 pm:

    Use it. Pensions, debts, short term kicker funding to shortchanged programs. As long as we don’t bake it into future funding projections it will only help the bond rating.

  13. - Tood Aloo - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:03 pm:

    Good lord, if we have surplus dollars we should be adequately paying Medicaid providers. Illinois is awful when it comes to taking care of the health care professionals who take care of the state’s poorest patients. Many providers struggle to keep the doors open. Every year they’re paraded in front of the legislative Medicaid working group and made to feel like negate looking for a hand out. It’s highly offensive to many professionals that the leaders talk a big talk about how they want to provide the best care, and that the quality of your care should not be determined by your zip code, but the reality is that these same leaders do not want to pay for it. It’s just horrible.

  14. - hisgirlfriday - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:03 pm:

    Pay down the debt or sock it away in the rainy day fund.

  15. - Tood Aloo - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:03 pm:

    Spell check gone wrong. That should be beggars, not “negate.”

  16. - Norseman - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:04 pm:

    Longhorne +1

  17. - Amalia - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:05 pm:

    Spend it. Pension, rainy day fund, reproductive services needs….

  18. - education first - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:06 pm:

    You’ve just run several articles about the dismal state of Illinois’ developmentally disabled adults. Illinois’ support and funding to care for it’s most vulnerable is sadly not a priority in this state.

  19. - Nick - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:06 pm:

    Eerytime we invest more in pensions we’ve reduced anticipated net liabilities by a significantly larger amount.

  20. - OneMan - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:06 pm:

    If nothing else put it aside, if you can’t do that use it for the child welfare system.

  21. - Lakeview Lou - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:08 pm:

    I am all for fiscal responsibility but maybe we should take a few millions dollars of this surplus revenue to stop unconstitutionally detaining foster kids. This situation is as absurd as it is morally indefensible.

  22. - Anyone Remember - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:08 pm:

    Pensions, please.

  23. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:10 pm:

    Longhorne +2

  24. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:11 pm:

    Absolutely use it for other things, like increasing the funded ratio for pensions. It’s funny to me that the same people who would be arguing for cutting taxes are the exact same people who argue about pensions being underfunded.

  25. - Benjamin - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:14 pm:

    I’d say “other things,” but specifically paying down outstanding debt and bulking up the rainy day fund. The economy is in a strange state right now where a recession might be just around the corner or not coming for a few years; this is the time to be conservative with windfalls.

  26. - Techie - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:26 pm:

    Stabilize pension funds, pay debts, and enhance the rainy day fund.

  27. - Candy Dogood - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:27 pm:

    Langhorne gets it. I would personally prioritize the unfunded pension liability in order to make future changes to the pension ramp so that as the years go by we’re not as likely to be making tough choices, or throw it into the education funding formula.

    There also seems to be an issue with the state being unable to fill thousands of positions. The higher than expected revenues could be used by the State to address the conditions that are preventing them from filling those positions in a timely fashion. Those positions are budgeted for a reason. If we’re not anywhere close to being fully staffed then our services are suffering for that and in ways we may not be able to appreciate for years from now.

  28. - Banish Misfortune - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:29 pm:

    Okay, here is what I want: pay pensions and new spending. For new spending I want protected bike lanes…

  29. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:30 pm:

    I’d sign off on - Langhorne -‘s take.

    Thoughtful, rational, fiscally prudent.

    No tax break. Use these monies best. Use.

  30. - The Magnificent Purple Walnut - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:35 pm:

    I wish to join the chorus. Pay off debt. Fund pensions.

  31. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:36 pm:

    35% of the votes say cut taxes and yet not one of them has the guts to explain their vote?

  32. - Annonin' - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:37 pm:

    Just plop it into the rainy day fund and watch how the Masters of the Banking Universe continue to work their magic.

  33. - Sue - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:38 pm:

    Rather then any wasteful spending- every spare dollar should go directly to pay down pension liabilties

  34. - Fisher - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:40 pm:

    Other things = being responsible: pay down debt, build up rainy day funds, infrastructure

  35. - illinifan - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:40 pm:

    Use to pay pensions and build reserves. We have to plan for the day funds will decline.

  36. - Phineas - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:40 pm:

    Cut sales tax rate, broaden sales tax base. Give taxpayers net relief to help ease the transition.

    This would go a long way towards eliminating a structural imbalance between revenues dependent on goods and expenses made up predominantly of services.

  37. - Back to the Future - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:45 pm:

    50% to taxpayers and the other half split up to DCFS, job training and education.
    Taxpayers can use the money to compensate for higher inflation prices on food and other necessary items.

  38. - Mason born - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:49 pm:

    While I like I suspect all of us would like a bit more cash in our wallet before we cut taxes we should retire some debt and slbuild up some reserves.

    It’s also a contract year and State Employees have been on the short end of raises for a while. To the point where professional staff are falling behind the market. While this is good for the States bottom line it’s not exactly helping the State to fill those positions. A lot if those Agencies with a smaller head count have more tasks to accomplish then they did with a full head count. I think we’d all prefer that the Specialists and Enginerrs hired by the state be competent and not just the only ones who will work for that cheap. As the Governor said a few months ago, if you want good people you have to pay them.

    We get the pension caught up, agencies staffed appropriately, and a good sized rainy day fund, then we should cut taxes.

  39. - Been There - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 12:51 pm:

    I voted to spend it. Just read the story Rich posted just below this thread about the homeless.

  40. - Rudy’s teeth - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 1:05 pm:

    Paying down debt that has accumulated over several decades would be a wise decision for the state.

    If no action is taken, a precarious situation awaits future generations.

  41. - Incandenza - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 1:09 pm:

    There are plenty of things to improve growth and quality of life in the state. Paying teachers adequately and investing in our transit systems, Amtrak, RTA, Metra, CTA are a couple that come to mind. That and making public higher education affordable.

  42. - Jibba - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 1:10 pm:

    Pay debt, especially pensions. Add limited funds where you can make a concrete difference, like dealing with DCFS issues. Rainy day fund is less important, since it is still raining.

  43. - Streator Curmudgeon - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 1:12 pm:

    Tood Aloo at 12:03 makes a good point. Last fall, AMT ambulance service left Streator because it couldn’t make a profit. Unpaid Medicaid billings.

    Streator also lost its hospital because it couldn’t make a profit. Unpaid Medicaid billings. And, the hospital in Peru recently closed. All the reasons haven’t surfaced yet, but you don’t close a profitable facility.

    These hospitals are not coming back. Paying Medicaid in full and on time might prevent some future closures though.

  44. - SouthSideGT - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 1:21 pm:

    Voted for “other things” but MUST start with pension pay down (up?). Illinois shouldn’t become known as a chisler state. Then I dunno, transportation, we all use roads and rail.

  45. - Perrid - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 1:52 pm:

    We have a mountain of pension debt and are constantly hearing about the safety net, mental health providers, child care, about school funding, etc. There is simply no world where a tax cut could even conceivably be considered.

  46. - Seats - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 2:26 pm:

    If you don’t have a surplus how can you ever pay down your debts?

  47. - ArchPundit - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 2:33 pm:

    I think ensuring the pension debt is being met as well as the rainy day fund are critical. At the same time, some of it may be targeted towards high need investments–things like rural broadband or mental health care and rural health care in general.

  48. - cermak_rd - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 2:37 pm:

    Other things like pension debt and rainy day fund (like the rest of the chorus)

  49. - JoanP - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 2:47 pm:

    There are plenty of things that this money can be used for. Pension debt, infrastructure, health care, there’s no end to the possibilities.

  50. - TS - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 2:47 pm:

    Allocate funds to different areas.

    3 areas that are key that more funding needs to be allocated to (in no particular order).

    1. DCFS- get the kids the care they need.

    2. invest in better funding for CILA’s, Choate, oversight, so on so forth. Pay the staff better and get persons off the PUNS list and make this a priority for the state. I will blanket better funding for Mental Health in with this even though the 2 areas are not under the same division but both under DHS. You can’t advocate for more oversight for these programs and persons served without funding the staff to do the jobs.

    3. Pay down pension debt which should be a no brainer.

  51. - Cool Papa Bell - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 3:09 pm:

    Spend it. Wisely. On existing liabilities.

    A dollar spend today on the pension debt is a tremendous value on paying that same dollar 10 years from now.

    I’d also be up for spending it in the form of tax rebates to households. One time checks that could come year after year if the state runs a surplus. But keep the rates the same and just adjust where the dollars go and how.

  52. - Bond Guy - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 3:09 pm:

    Pensions, which will save taxpayers even more money in the long run, and the State’s unpaid bill backlog (which will also help its credit rating and also save taxpayers money in the long run).

  53. - froganon - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 4:00 pm:

    Pay sixty -five percent into the pension debt and ten percent into the rainy day.
    The remaining 25% should go to improving the hollowed out staff and services at our state’s agencies. It will be a long time before Illinois should even consider a tax cut.

  54. - Wonky Kong - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 4:02 pm:

    I voted spend it wisely. Every day it seems like we hear some horror story about some group and the tragedies they face and how little funding there is for that. Help some people. Or just put it in pensions. Either way is better than a tax cut. I think the only reason Pritzker would float a tax cut is to bolster his resume for a national run. Not the responsible solution.
    As a note, right now it’s 63-73 for spending. If you ever wonder how much this site’s readership and commenters mirror the actual public, this a clear example that it isn’t even close. Statewide I’d bet this goes 75-25 the other way. Keep that in mind.

  55. - Tired teacher - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 4:35 pm:

    Take the money and pay for debt reduction and also to restore social services that were decimated by Rauner

  56. - Annon3 - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 5:32 pm:

    Paying down pensions and rainy day fund are the easy two. Hopefully increasing all education funding would be a welcome third.
    NY Times had an article on the trials of regional state universities and the towns they inhabit. It seems to be a big national issue not just here in Illinois.

  57. - West Sub Ladi - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 5:55 pm:

    Froganon +1

  58. - Garfield Ridge Guy - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 6:21 pm:

    ==35% of the votes say cut taxes and yet not one of them has the guts to explain their vote?==

    I did, and Rich deleted my comment. It’s his website, so I suppose my response must have run afoul of his rules/standards in some way, and I respect that. But that’s why you don’t see (at least) one defense of that stance.

  59. - RNUG - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 7:06 pm:

    50% - 75% towards long term debt, primarily the pensions.

    The balance, 25% - 50% (depending on where you draw the line on pension debt payments) should go towards Child & Family Services, both placement and mental health issues.

    Doing both these will save the State money in the long run.

  60. - Two sides of the same coin - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 7:45 pm:

    Extra money needs to go to people. Sometimes that is spending - help homeless people, DCFS, other social programs. Sometimes that is tax cuts - create a child tax credit and put money into the pockets of the lowest income families.

  61. - Pro bono - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 8:02 pm:

    Use most of the “extra” revenue for Evidence Based K-12 funding. 70% of schools districts still lack adequate funds.

  62. - Odysseus - Wednesday, Mar 15, 23 @ 11:40 pm:

    “If state leaders believe revenues are stable, should they cut taxes or use the money for other things?”

    Call me once the pensions are 90+% funded, then we can talk.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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