Lawmakers Discuss Spending Cap And Revenue Estimates

Apr 27, 2018

Credit State of Illinois

As the state works toward a budget for the next year, some lawmakers say they need a target for how much money is available.

A revenue estimate is already required by state law, but House Republican Leader Jim Durkin says for the past few years, no official amount was agreed upon. He’s proposing the estimate that comes from the legislature’s economic forecasting arm. 
Durkin says lawmakers spend hours listening to agencies talk about their budget needs, and need a framework. “I must ask -- What is the purpose of appropriation hearings if our members don’t know how much they can or should appropriate?" Durkin wondered. "How is this common practice acceptable?"
The Governor’s budget office also presents a revenue estimate, but it sometimes varies from others. 

A plan with bi-partisan support would set an annual cap to keep spending under control.
But State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) says even with a limit in place, there would still be circumstances where additional funds would be spent.    

“We also have a safety clause, if emergencies do come forward, if we have a flood, if we have tornadoes, if we have emergencies in the state of Illinois, we can’t say we can’t be responsive to those,” Cullerton said. “Those are within this limit as well.”​
Putting a spending cap into law would require changing the state’s constitution. If the General Assembly approves it, voters would have the final say.  Supporters want it on the November ballot. ​