Illinois budget director Jerry Stermer says he agrees with the Report of the State Budget Crisis Task Force that spending on infrastructure is not a place to cut. (Photo used under Creative Commons from Flickr user aka Kath)
By Jim Anderson
CHICAGO - A new report says the state is making progress in dealing with its budget crisis.
There’s still a long way to go and painful spending cuts or tax increases are needed to get the state out of a hole, according to the Report of the State Budget Crisis Task Force.
But there has been progress in cutting spending, even if state budget director Jerry Stermer isn’t happy about it.
“We’ve reduced education funding and human services funding by billions of dollars. We’ve reduced our capacity to provide pre-school education for 17,000 children,” he said mournfully.
The state has also enacted a pension program for government workers hired since last year that caps benefits and raises the retirement age. Stermer says school districts have experienced higher-than-expected turnover, so the number of employees governed by the new rules is greater than anticipated.
The state also enacted Medicaid reform this year that are designed to save $1.3 billion, but much of that has yet to be realized.
The big remaining issues are pension reductions of some sort for state employees and retirees, and the expiration of the 2 percentage point income tax increase at the end of 2014.
The state has a budget deficit now estimated at $3 billion.