Lawmakers Want AG Lisa Madigan to Rule on Legality of Illinois Budget

The Constitution of Illinois not only requires that the State enact a balanced budget, but contains a little-known provision intended to enforce the “balanced” part of this mandate. Under the provisions of subsection 2(a) of Article VIII of the State’s Constitution, the budget must comply with a nonpartisan estimate of the funds expected to be available in the budget’s fiscal year. The General Assembly has given authority to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability to generate the estimates that are required by law. 

The General Assembly is supposed to adopt, by joint resolution of both houses, a COGFA revenue estimate for an approaching fiscal year. The legislature can then use this estimate as a guiding document to control their appropriation bills and spending for the new fiscal year. House Republican lawmakers such as Rep. Keith Wheeler and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin are pointing out that the House and Senate did not adopt a joint-resolution revenue estimate for FY18, and did not take legal steps to match FY18 budgeted spending with the monies that are expected by COGFA to be brought in during FY18 through existing and new taxes. In other words, even though the General Assembly has just enacted a major Illinois income tax increase, there is no reason to be sure that this tax increase will bring in enough money to actually balance the State’s budget as required by constitutional law. The required documentation and paper trail are not there.

Leader Durkin has now sent a letter to Attorney General Lisa Madigan asking her to give an opinion as whether lawmakers need to officially adopt a revenue estimate before they can pass a budget that will have been enacted in compliance with the requirements of the State Constitution. The Attorney General has not yet responded to this request.