Straight talk on Illinois' budget deficit

Gov. Bruce Rauner says the Democratic budget for this fiscal year has a $1.7 billion deficit. Democrats say their budget has a $360 million surplus. 

Of course.

This goes on all the time; voters and taxpayers never know whom to believe.

Charles Wheeler

Charles Wheeler

So we’re thankful that we have Charles N. Wheeler III,  director of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield, to give us the straight dope. The former Chicago Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief (someone who understood the budget better that most lawmakers) tells us that both are right, “if one takes into account the timing and the underlying assumptions behind some of the numbers.”

In other words, it depends on, among other things, the assumptions about revenues and one-time expenses that are behind the budget. For example, the Democratic budget includes  $300 million in one-time revenue from the sale of the Thompson Center–the state’s decrepit office building  in Chicago. That’s iffy at best, both in the net amount the state would receive and in the assumption that it could be sold in this fiscal year.

Wheeler explains that some of the disagreement boils down to counting money in different ways. He explains it better than I could, so if you want an objective account, check out his reasoning for yourself.

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