Rep. Mitchell: A Balanced Budget Puts an End to Illinois’ Fiscal Crisis

On July 1, Illinois entered its third fiscal year without a balanced budget in place. The budget impasse has caused devastating harm to our social services, hospitals, schools and universities, and put Illinois on the brink of fiscal collapse.

The State’s backlog of unpaid bills tripled in the past three years, to an all-time high of $15 billion owed to our schools and universities, hospitals, doctors, dentists, and service providers. Illinois’ credit rating teetered on the edge of “junk bond” status and we risked defaulting on pension and debt payments by August.

Many of our schools were at risk of not opening this fall and the State still owes them more than $1 billion for last fiscal year. On July 1, IDOT shut down 900 transportation projects totaling $3.3 billion, affecting 20,000 construction workers. And in a final embarrassment, Illinois was suspended from the multi-state Mega Millions and Powerball lottery games.

For these reasons, I voted this week in support of a balanced budget that will finally put an end to Illinois’ fiscal crisis. The $36.5 billion Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes nearly $3 billion in spending cuts and is $800 million less than the Governor’s introduced budget. This budget contains significant spending reforms and reprioritizes programs of vital importance to Downstate. It includes funding for our schools, universities and community colleges and ensures that road construction projects will continue. This budget begins to pay down Illinois’ massive backlog of unpaid bills.

After two years without a budget, which saw the State spending nearly $40 billion on court-ordered programs, consent decrees and mandates, the stark reality is that Illinois could not begin to dig out of this hole without new revenue.

The budget agreement includes a 1.2 percentage point increase to Illinois’ individual income tax rate to balance the budget and begin paying down past due bills. The new 4.95 percent income tax rate is the same rate that Governor Rauner signed off on in May and is less than the 5 percent rate that expired in 2015. There are no new services taxes included in this budget.

This vote was the most difficult decision I have made in my career in public service. I am a fiscal conservative. I don’t like taxes and had never supported a tax increase before. But as a fiscal conservative, I believe we have an obligation to pay our bills and provide essential services to our citizens. Continuing the fiscal insanity of the past two years was not an option. I could not let our State collapse into insolvency.

I was elected to represent the interests of my constituents and to make the tough choices necessary to ensure government continues to serve our citizens. The budget I supported is far from perfect and I completely understand the outrage over higher taxes. However, there were no easy decisions left that could end the longest budget impasse in our nation’s history. Therefore, I made the difficult and politically unpopular decision to support a balanced budget that includes spending cuts and new revenue.

As your state representative, I will continue to support much-needed reforms to improve our economy, create good-paying jobs for working families, and get Illinois back on track. The balanced budget that I supported is a step in the right direction. Working together, we will keep moving Illinois forward.

Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) represents the 101st House District, which includes all or portions of the following counties: Champaign, DeWitt, Macon, McLean & Piatt.

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