Illinois State legislators are keeping a close eye on COVID-19 numbers. Lawmakers are expected to return to Springfield on Jan. 4th.
Governor J.B. Pritzker said yesterday during his COVID-19 press conference that he has spoken with leaders of both chambers of the General Assembly ahead of the upcoming session: “We’ve had to take extra precautions for the legislature when things have gotten very bad within Covid. So, I’m watching it as they are for how many days will they actually be in person in session. They both have remote committee meetings available, of which much of what happens in the early part of a legislative session. So, I imagine they will be using that.”
Pritzker says his top priority ahead of the session is working with the General Assembly to provide a balanced budget: “I have one priority every session that is the number one priority and that is balancing our budget – making sure we are doing the right thing to put our state on firm fiscal footing, to continue to get credit upgrades as we have, and to make sure that we are providing the services that people need.”
Pritzker didn’t spell out how he and the General Assembly would reach a balanced budget, as the remainder of the press conference yesterday focused on the state’s Covid response.
According to a report by the Civic Federation, state lawmakers passed a balanced budget for fiscal 2022 that called for $44.3 billion in total operating expenditures on an estimated $42.4 billion in General Funds revenues, with $2 billion in federal aid. Pension contributions accounted for $9.6 billion of the state’s operating expenses, or nearly a quarter of every dollar spent.
In June, both Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investor Service upgraded the state’s credit worthiness. Illinois still has the lowest credit rating of any state in the nation. A higher bond rating generally means the state can borrow money at a lower interest rate.
In June, S&P Global Ratings announced a credit upgrade for Illinois’ from BBB- to BBB, a couple of notches above speculative grade. S&P noted in its report that a further upgrade to the state’s credit hinges on economic recovery and further funding of the state’s pension system.