A new report from Route Fifty details how Illinois Democrats, led by Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Gov. JB Pritzker, leaders in the General Assembly, and others are turning Illinois’ longstanding financial troubles around. From repaying debts early to eliminating the bill backlog, Democrats have made significant progress in cleaning up the financial mess left by failed Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Highlights from the story are available below, or read the full article HERE.
• “Illinois voters are used to hearing about what bad shape their state’s finances are in. Now, though, Illinois officials are painting a much different picture, one of responsible fiscal stewardship, as they head into re-election…”
• “‘Our view is that the state is heading in the right direction,’ said Eric Kim, the head of U.S. state ratings for Fitch Ratings, which dropped Illinois’ bond rating to a notch above junk bond status in the early days of the pandemic…”
• “If trends continue, Kim said, Fitch may upgrade its grade for Illinois bonds, too. ‘We’ve been seeing some positive things over the past year and a half,’ he said…”
• “Lawmakers dedicated much of the [federal direct aid] money for one-time projects, rather than recurring expenses that could drag down future budgets. In late March, Illinois legislators passed a law to use ARPA money to pay back $2.7 billion of the $4.5 billion the state owes the federal government for unemployment insurance costs that ballooned during the pandemic. The same law also helped pay down long-standing debts for state employee health insurance and added money for the state’s notoriously underfunded pension systems…”
• “’The reason you hear me have some level of confidence here is because truly the worst virus to ever hit our state’s finances was not Covid, it was Bruce Rauner,’ [Comptroller Susana Mendoza] said. ‘As comptroller, if I could get through that, nothing would scare me…'”
• “’The fact that we’ve been able to turn that around, not during the best economic bull market of our lifetimes, but during a freaking global pandemic, is impressive no matter who you are,’ Mendoza said. ‘I know it’s a hard story to believe because we’re not used to believing in good news about Illinois…'”
• “In fact, the improving budget picture could put those GOP candidates in a bind, because many people in the state associate problems with Illinois’ finances with Rauner, a Republican governor.”