From The Center Square:
Pritzker plans to redirect capital funds to balance budget
(The Center Square) – Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants to redirect money from capital projects to help balance the budget.
Part of his recently released budget plan for 2022 includes a note “that $100 million of the Capital Projects Fund deposit be transferred from the Capital Projects Fund to the General Revenue Fund.”
The 2019 “Rebuild Illinois” capital plan was funded in part by 20 new taxes and fees, including
- a doubling of the Illinois motor fuel tax
- a cigarette tax hike, and
- promises of new revenue from gambling expansion.
Money was earmarked for roads, bridges, railways, universities, and other state facilities.
“Manufacturers rely on a strong infrastructure,” said Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.
“We need roads, bridges, air, waterways, rail. We supported the capital bill that was passed a couple of years ago and certainly the need for funding it. We want to make sure that we don’t see a reduction if those funds are used for other purposes.”
The fund transfer is described as a one-time event, but past governors often have used similar maneuvers to help present a balanced budget plan.
“I would argue it is contrary to the stated intent of those funds when they are swept for other purposes,” Denzler said. “But, it’s a practice that is bipartisan in the General Assembly and we’ve seen it occur for years.”
State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, voted for the capital plan in 2019 and the tax increases that came along with it.
“The way Illinois got into its fiscal mess is by not honoring obligations and our citizens continue to have their trust eroded by actions like this,” Keicher said in a statement.
“For the Governor to suggest that delaying $100 million in critical capital improvements speaks of his inability to balance a budget. It does not show the leadership Illinois needs in a time of crisis.”
On top of the potential movement of current funds, no new casinos have yet been approved by the Illinois Gaming Board. Denzler says all that might be affecting the pace of projects.
“It’s been a little bit slower uptake,” Denzler said. “Certainly there are projects ongoing on state universities and roadways and rail. We probably haven’t seen some of the big major projects that previous capital bills have funded.”
He says the possible one-time sweep might not have a huge impact this year, but he still hopes it doesn’t set a bad precedent.
“I know the governor and lawmakers are committed to getting some of these projects done,” Denzler said. “Hopefully it doesn’t become a regular occurrence and actually have a negative impact on construction in Illinois.”
The state also could be faced with a decrease in revenue from the gas tax due to a decline in travel during the pandemic.
“We seem to have a Governor reverting to the Madigan tactics we’ve seen time and again in the past of sweeping dedicated funds,” Keicher said. “We should be focusing on attracting job creators to grow our economy, but perhaps the vision of an expanding Illinois opportunity isn’t there in this administration.”