Illinois' 800 Governmental Funds

As Illinois lawmakers work on creating a viable, mutually agreed-upon budget for the 2016 fiscal year, Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek looked at the 800 various funds currently set up to pay for governmental work in Illinois.

Doubek writes:

Something is wrong in Illinois when you have a fiscal crisis you go a long way toward solving by "sweeping" $1.3 billion out of nearly 800 different state funds, seemingly in the time it takes to click your heels together and say, "Sweep away."

That's just about what happened at the end of March, minus the heel clicking. Then, after lawmakers flipped out when they thought they'd solved their immediate crisis only to find out key programs for the poor, sick and disabled were enduring $26 million in cuts, Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget office suggested another sweep might ease the pain.

I don't know about you, but on those rare days when I sweep at my house, I'm lucky to find a penny, not millions or billions. I knew we had a bunch of funds from specialty license plates and for charitable causes, but I'd never paid much attention, so I did some asking.

Illinois has nearly 800 different funds. They include the general revenue fund, the big one we all tend to focus on this time of year. They also include some others like a road fund and a motor fuel fund. And then there are, quite literally, hundreds of others like: Illinois State Police Memorial Park, Illinois Veterans Rehabilitation, Illinois Police K-9 Memorial, State Boating Act, State Parks, Wildlife & Fish, Salmon, Military Affairs Trust, Lobbyist Registration Administration and Agriculture Premium.

Then there's the Federal Mass Transit Trust, Share the Road, National Flood Insurance Program, Land Reclamation, Federal Energy, Cycle Rider Safety Training and Farmers Market Tech Improvement.

I randomly just picked a few spots from a column of 792 sent to me by Comptroller Leslie Munger's office. Omitting the general revenue fund, the biggie that funds state operations each year, all these funds late last week had $9.67 billion in them.

That's a whole lot of our money we never hear much about. The good news? Last week, the Illinois Senate approved a bill, SB1404, that attempts to make sure these funds get audited every year. Another, SB 1405, seeks to see if some of these funds can be consolidated.

(Read the rest at Reboot Illinois, where you can also check out the list of each Illinois governmental fund and its balance as of April 23.)

Speaking of Illinois government money, Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association says Illinois' biggest government entities are in the worst trouble they've ever seen.

Shaw says:

"Trouble comes in threes," or so the saying goes.

But when we're discussing the dismal financial condition of the public sector in Illinois, three is a woeful understatement.

There's red ink flowing over every level of government--villages, towns, cities, and, of course, the State of Illinois, which is the biggest fiscal train wreck, followed by the city of Chicago and its public schools.

Here are some disturbing details:

  • Chicago schools are, for the first time, on the state's "watch list." CPS is spending nearly1 billion more than it can afford, pension obligations are soaring, there's management turmoil at the top and Governor Rauner is openly suggesting bankruptcy as the only way out.
  • The city's credit rating keeps dropping, which increases the cost of borrowing and the burden on taxpayers. City Hall is also coping with an estimated300 million budget deficit and a state-mandated500 million-plus payment for police and fire pensions.
  • State government is facing a6 billion budget shortfall, a mountain of unpaid bills and100 billion-plus in pension liabilities.

This is arguably the worst multi-level financial crisis in Illinois history, a bi-product of public officials who've relied on ill-advised, politically motivated short-term fixes, or inaction--kicking the can down the road.

(Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.)