SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - While critics complain the new state budget is actually a half-billion dollars out of balance, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker took a victory lap Tuesday afternoon.
"For the third straight year, I’ll sign into law another balanced budget for Illinois," Pritzker said.
Lawmakers at the state capitol worked through the holiday weekend on a long list of last-minute legislation.
The Democrats who have super-majority control of the General Assembly got a big boost from more than $8 billion in federal funds under President Joe Biden's "American Rescue Plan."
"We Democrats are investing in priorities that will grow and revitalize our economy, improving our fiscal outlook dramatically and reducing tax expenditures on the wealthiest corporations. It's the Democrats that are getting the state's fiscal house in order," Pritzker said.
Among those with a very different point of view is an analyst for the conservative Illinois Policy Institute.
"If you look at the government's own accountants, they say that, within three years, if spending continues to grow at this rate, our bill backlog will be at record levels," Austin Berg said.
That is because that $8 billion in federal pandemic relief funds are a one-time only injection of cash.
While the governor is now paying off billions the state has borrowed from other sources, Illinois still faces a huge and growing public employee pension debt that threatens to wreck the state's finances in years to come.