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Coronavirus Deals A Blow To The State Budget

Screenshot of J.B. Pritzker via Blue Room Stream
Blue Room Stream
Blue Room Stream
Screenshot of J.B. Pritzker via Blue Room Stream

Illinois will likely take in $2.7 billion less this fiscal year, which ends in June, and another $4.6 billion less next fiscal year – all fallout from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The deadline extension to June for income tax filing is the biggest reason for the current shortfall, according to the governor’s budget office. Job loss, and a drop off of sales tax and gambling revenue also contributed.

Short-term borrowing, moving money between funds, and spending cuts will help cover the gap, according to the budget office. But it estimates Illinois will still run a deficit of $255 million for this fiscal year.

“This is not the path any of us would choose under normal circumstances, but it is the best path available to us,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The picture doesn’t get any better from there. The governor’s proposed budget for next year could be as much as $7.2 billion short.

Echoing his comments from his budget address in February, Pritzker said the shortfall will be less if voters approve the graduated income tax in November, where wealthier taxpayers pay more. If it passes, the shortfall would be around $6.2 billion.

“This crisis is causing a significant disruption to our fiscal year coming up. But we have many years ahead and I think a fairer tax system makes sense to me,” he said.

Money from the federal coronavirus aid package is helping to pay for needed supplies and for setting up field hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients, the governor said. But he emphasized that the $2.7 billion that the state of Illinois will likely receive cannot be used to fill gaps in the budget.

So far, Illinois has spent more than $174 million on COVID-19 related purchases, including ventilators, masks, hand sanitizer, swabs and more, according to the Illinois Office of the Comptroller.

Pritzker called on Congress to approve another measure to provide fiscal relief to the states.

Despite the challenges, Prtizker vowed that there will be a state budget.

“We will need to make extraordinarily difficult decisions on top of the difficult decisions we’ve already made,” he said. “But together with the state legislature, we will make them.”

The General Assembly hasn’t met since stay-at-home and other restrictions have gone into place. It’s unclear when they could next meet to approve legislation.

Mask Requirements And Numbers

New Yorkers will soon have to wear face masks when they go out to the grocery store or ride on public transit.

Pritzker said he’s considering a similar requirement to slow the spread of COVID-19. He began recommending residents wear masks two weeks ago, following new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Anything that we can do going forward that will protect people and at the same time make it more likely that we can have slightly different conditions for stay at home, better conditions, is a good move,” he said.

Other cities and local governments in the state have already adopted the requirement. The Sangamon County Mass Transit District now requires bus riders and drivers to wear a mask or other face covering.

Meanwhile, Illinois’ Department of Public Health reported 1,346 new cases Wednesday, bringing the total to 24,593, including 948 deaths. Statewide, nearly 117,000 people have been tested.

Still, IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike offered some optimism.

“These measures are working even though we continue to see new cases, even though we continue to report new deaths. Remember this is a marathon. We are seeing a slowed rate of increase,” she said.

Sangamon County public health officials announced four new positive cases as of Wednesday. That brings the county total to 52, with three deaths since the pandemic began.

Copyright 2020 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Mary is a reporter at NPR Illinois and graduated from the Public Affairs Reporting program atUISand received her BA in International Studies from American University. Previously Mary worked as a planning consultant and reported for the State Journal-Register where she covered city government.