Illinois is third worst among what it calls “sinkhole states” when it comes to overall fiscal health, thanks to growing unfunded pension and retiree health care liabilities, a new report from Truth in Accounting concludes.
It’s no secret each Illinoisan is on the hook for a lot of debt. How much? Truth In Accounting Founder and CEO Sheila Weinberg said “each taxpayer, in order to clean up the unfunded debt that they [lawmakers] have accumulated for us, owes $45,500.”
Only Connecticut and New Jersey taxpayers owe more.
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Weinberg said Illinois, like other states, keeps retiree health care liability hidden from taxpayers and uses gimmicks to say the budget is balanced. “Illinois is, oh my gosh, they’re the poster child of the accounting tricks they use in the budget to pretend the budget is balanced,” she said.
While Weinberg said her organization doesn’t offer fixes, the first step to solving the growing debt issue is to recognize there’s a problem. “Let’s go ahead and be honest with the public,” she said. “We promote what we call fact-based budgeting which is you include all of your costs and you onlyinclude revenue that you earn in the budget.”
Illinois hasn’t had a full-year budget since July of 2015. An analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago recently confirmed that Illinois hasn’t had a truly balanced budget in more than 20 years.
Weinberg said some municipalities have growing taxpayer debt as well, putting Chicago taxpayers on the hook for more than $29,000 on top of the state debt.
Meanwhile each U.S. citizen owes $272,000 in federal debt. If that federal debt were based on taxpayers, and not citizens, Weinberg said the number would be over half a million dollars.