More good news-bad news from latest report on state revenue
For months the state’s nonpartisan budget watchdog agency, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) has been issuing much the same warning about state revenue: 2022’s numbers have been good, but these good times won’t last. This month’s report was no different as COGFA again warned that the upcoming end of federal COVID relief funds and the continuing inflation threaten to blow a big hole in the state’s budget next year.
In Fiscal Year 2022 the state brought in $50 billion in general funds receipts – the first time in history that Illinois hit that mark. Much of that money came from corporate and personal income tax payments, but a significant factor in the budget for the just-concluded (on June 30th) fiscal year was the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) which poured billions into the coffers of state and local government. But those federal funds won’t be coming in for much longer, and Illinois did a poor job of planning for the day when they would no longer be available.
COGFA warned of “reduced revenue expectations for the upcoming fiscal year in FY 23,” which began on July 1. The concern is that the one-time nature of the federal funds and the economic challenges such as inflation and even fears of a recession will make it harder for the state to pay its bills in the coming fiscal year. These were all things which House Republicans warned about during the very brief budget debate in the spring.
DCFS Director held in contempt of court for the 12th time this year
Barely halfway through the year, the Director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has been held in contempt of court for a 12th time over his agency’s failure to properly place children who are in its custody. In this latest episode a Cook County judge held the director in contempt because DCFS has kept a 15-year-old girl in a psychiatric hospital even though she was cleared for release six months ago.
Earlier contempt citations followed a similar pattern. Multiple judges have issued multiple citations over DCFS leaving children in these psychiatric hospitals or other facilities for weeks or even months after the children were cleared for release. In another case which earned a contempt citation, DCFS moved a teenager between different foster homes 24 times in four months. Still another case involved an 11-year-old who was kept in a psychiatric hospital for a year after she was cleared for release – meaning that she could not go outdoors, receive needed speech therapy or get more than one hour of education each day. Another judge told DCFS that “we can’t continue to torture kids.”
We’ve talked about this issue several times in this newsletter. At this point there really isn’t much left to say. There is something terribly wrong in the leadership of an agency when its director is held in contempt 12 times – roughly once every two weeks.
Local districts receive school maintenance grants
More than 600 Illinois school districts recently received funding for maintenance and upkeep of their buildings as part of a grant program run by the Illinois State Board of Education. Among the districts receiving funds were several local schools, including Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley CUSD 5, Woodland CCSD 50, Pontiac HSD 90 and Dwight HSD 230.
To be eligible for these grant funds, a school district must be able to match any monetary award they receive from the state and must commit to finishing the project within two years of receiving the funds. The money can only be used for “maintenance or upkeep of educational buildings.”
Penfield hosts Historic Farm Days
I was glad to visit Historic Farm Days in Penfield. They featured Ford Tractors this year. It was a beautiful day: great for looking at hundreds of different tractors, gaters and golf carts! The show featured all kinds of vehicles from many different eras. It was nice to meet Chris Karr, the public address announcer, and it was wonderful to see many folks from nearby areas. These events are always time very well spent!
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $2,341,138,108 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $3.6 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $141 billion.
Did You Know?
One of the most powerful earthquakes in American history struck close enough to be felt here in Illinois. The 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes hit just over the river in Missouri, but shook Illinois so violently that future Illinois Governor John Reynolds, who lived near the Illinois Territory’s capital city, Kaskaskia, wrote that “the whole valley of the Mississippi was violently agitated,” and that “our house cracked and quivered so we were fearful it would fall to the ground.”
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