Can 'Reforms' Fill A $13b Deficit?

Dec 1, 2016

With just one month until Illinois government loses spending authority, the state's political leaders remain sharply divided on how to unwind the crisis.

They've been clear about their positions: Republicans say no budget deal without first adopting the governor's agenda, which aims to help businesses, weaken labor unions and sideline long-serving politicians.

Democrats, on the other hand, have said state spending cannot be held hostage to such "non-budget issues."

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno says the ideas Republicans are holding out for are budget issues.

“The reforms are integral to the budget," Radogno says. "That’s the point that’s being made here. Education reform, worker’s comp reform — these reforms directly impact the budget."

Here's the thing: Illinois is running up massive deficits during the budget fight. (The U. of I.'s Institute of Government and Public Affairs has just projected a $13 billion deficit this year.) You could eliminate education spending and still not close the gap.

So how much money would the governor's ideas save? Radogno says she has figures for that — but she and a spokeswoman said they didn't have them handy just now.

Brian Mackey covers state government for NPR Illinois. You can follow his reporting on Twitter and Facebook.