The Tribune's Bob Secter has a nice and dispiriting piece today
laying out the basic facts about Illinois' gigantic budget deficit. If you've read our
budget coverage this past year, this won't contain any new information,
but it's nice to see the Tribune devote some time and energy to explaining the dynamics at play.
What does Secter conclude? That it all starts with the state's structural deficit, which has
historically been covered by skimping on pension payments and what
Secter calls "fiscal tricks." When the recession hit, revenues
plummeted and demand for services jumped, knocking the system "over the
edge." He notes that 80 percent of the $26 million budget is devoted to preserving funding for education and Medicaid (thus maximizing
federal matching funds) and making timely debt service and reduction
payments for the loans the state must repay. When it comes to cuts, there's just very little "wiggle room" -- let alone $13 billion worth.
Read the whole piece here.