Illinois' debt amounts to $45,500 per taxpayer
Got $45,500? If you're an Illinois taxpayer, that's your share of Illinois' unpaid bills, according to a nonpartisan accounting group that issued a report this year.
Illinois has about $213 billion worth of bills, but only $26 billion available to pay them, according to the report issued by the State Data Lab, a project of Truth in Accounting (TIA). By those calculations, the state is $187 billion short, which equates to $45,500 per state taxpayer.
“Because of budgeting and accounting gimmicks the state uses, Illinois has been able to exclude massive debts off its balance sheet and hide related costs from taxpayers,” TIA founder and CEO Sheila Weinberg said in a news release. “Unfortunately, all of these financial problems are coming to a head in Illinois.”
Weinberg is a certified public accountant with more than 30 years of experience in the field, the release said.
Truth in Accounting, known for its website and debt clock, was founded in 2002 to compel governments to produce financial reports that are understandable, reliable, transparent and correct. TIA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with headquarters in Chicago.
The TIA report's data was derived from Illinois’ June 30, 2015 audited Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and retirement plans' actuarial reports, the news release said.
After about a year without an operating budget, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner came to an agreement with the Democrat-controlled Assembly for a temporary, emergency six-month stopgap budget to keep the state running. Within hours of Rauner signing the measure, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded most of the state’s public universities' credit ratings.
Since then, tax hikes have been predicted for Cook County and similar ripples have been felt throughout the state. Groups such as Reboot Illinois have said the stopgap measure doesn't add up. Meanwhile, the governor and General Assembly head into the fall session with a number of ideas, including the governor's proposal for ballot measures to impose term limits and independently drawn legislative district maps.
And the state's bills keep piling up.
The report disclosed that the state has $116.7 billion worth of pension debt, but only $108.6 billion of that is being reported by state officials.
"This means Illinois is hiding $8.1 billion of pension debt from taxpayers," the release said. "TIA researchers also report that state officials are hiding $32.3 billion of retiree health care debt."
A year without a budget only exacerbated that problem, Weinberg said.
"Nonprofits have been forced to lay off thousands of employees, and Chicago State University almost shut down in April. Illinois’ debt is one of the worst in the country, and its pension systems have received nationwide coverage for their poor condition," Weinberg said in the news release. "With all this financial chaos, it is more important than ever for citizens to have the truthful and transparent financial information they deserve."