Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza said she is encouraged by the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, signed by Gov. JB Pritzker today.
“This builds upon the solid foundation we’ve created in recent years with responsible budgeting for the benefit of taxpayers, children, students, the elderly and programs serving the most vulnerable citizens of Illinois,” said Comptroller Mendoza. “I commend Gov. JB Pritzker, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Senate President Don Harmon, lead budget negotiators Senate Leader Elgie Sims and Speaker Pro-Tempore Jehan Gordon-Booth and the rest of the legislature and budgeteers for their diligent and collaborative work.”
Since 2021, Illinois has earned eight credit upgrades. Last year, Comptroller Mendoza announced the elimination of the bill backlog, which had reached $16.7 billion in 2017, a consequence of the budget impasse under the former governor’s administration. It is now an accounts payable of $1.6 billion. The Illinois Office of Comptroller’s oldest General Revenue Fund voucher is 14 days old as of today – a far cry from the 210 business days vendors had to wait to get paid by the state in 2017.
The budget includes needed investment in health care and human services, including an approximate $240 million increase to support those living with disabilities, increases in rates for workers who assist the elderly in their homes and reimbursement rate increases for hospitals and nursing homes.
There is also $20 million of investment that will go toward adding more grocery stores in areas of Illinois in crucial need of access to healthy foods.
“I will continue to call for restraint when it comes to spending on new programs. That said, as a state – it should be our foremost obligation to protect the vulnerable. We know areas like health care and education have a great return on investment, and targeted, strategic spending in these areas is good government in action,” said Comptroller Mendoza.
Education was made a priority in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, which includes $250 million for Smart Start Illinois, aimed at making preschool more accessible.
An additional $100 million was also appropriated for the state’s Monetary Award Program (MAP), bringing the total to more than $700 million, which will allow more eligible college students from Illinois to attend state universities and community colleges.
“I have been a vocal advocate for bolstering MAP funding, which often serves first-generation college students. We know many of these students will plant deep roots in our state. They carry the torch for our future. They create jobs and families, they help grow our economy,” said Comptroller Mendoza.
Comptroller Mendoza continues to call for additional prioritization of the Rainy Day Fund and Pension Stabilization Fund. Credit rating agencies have cited the revival of saving into these reserve accounts as a reason for Illinois’ recent upgrades. Generally, better bond ratings translate to savings for taxpayers through decreased interest on loans.
Comptroller Mendoza was pleased that the legislature approved the Govenor’s call for an additional $200 million in additional funding for the state pension systems through the Pension Stabilization Fund. However, she will continue to push for her measure that passed the House State Government Administration Committee unanimously but was not called for a vote in the full House. HB 2515 would require automatic payments into the Rainy Day and Pension Stabilization funds when the state can afford it. The measure’s supporters include chief sponsor Rep. Stephanie Kifowit and co-sponsor House Republican Leader, Rep. Tony McCombie.
The Rainy Day Fund could only cover 30 seconds of government operations after its decimation during the 2015-2017 budget impasse. With about $1.9 billion in the fund projected for the end of Fiscal Year 2023, it could fund government operations for about 10 days. Still, Illinois is near the bottom of all 50 states when it comes to its reserves.
“We must continue living within our means and earning credit rating upgrades. Ultimately that will result in more savings for taxpayers and an even better quality of life for all Illinois residents,” said Comptroller Mendoza. “One crucial way we can exercise fiscal prudence is by continuing to restore our Rainy Day Fund, and ensuring we save when we can.”