Illinois governor-elect names a panel of budget advisors

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CHICAGO – Illinois Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker tapped former state Comptroller Dan Hynes to lead a budget and innovation transition working committee with members that include Chicago’s chief financial officer, the Chicago treasurer, and the leaders of two local civic research organizations.

In addition to Chicago CFO Carole Brown and Treasurer Kurt Summers, the 17-member group includes Chicago Civic Federation president Laurence Msall and Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.

Martire’s group has suggested borrowing and re-amortization of the state’s 50-year funding schedule as part of a fix for the state’s pension woes.

A handful of current lawmakers, former Republican minority leader Christine Radogno, labor representatives and Michael Sacks also sit on the committee. Sacks is head of GCM Grosvenor and is a close advisor to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He pitched the exploration of issuing $10 billion of city pension obligation bonds at the city’s investors conference in August.

Crafting a balanced fiscal 2020 budget is a top priority and it “will impact everything our new governor is trying to accomplish,” Hynes said. “We are going to be leaving here, rolling up our sleeves and working on finding ways to address these serious fiscal challenges of our state.”

The group is charged with laying out potential fixes to state’s structural budget imbalance, $129 billion of unfunded pension liabilities, and a $7.5 billion backlog of bills. The state has a roughly $1.2 billion structural deficit and there may be red ink in the current budget if the state is ordered to make good on all $400 million of overdue raises based on experience or savings from proposed pension buyouts and te sale of a state building in Chicago don't come to fruition.

“It’s going to take a group effort and it’s going to take creative thinking to really set the state back on the correct financial path. It’s going to take an honest and accurate assessment about the depth and scope of the financial problems,” said Hynes, who was state comptroller from 1999 to 2011.

The new administration is expected to push for a constitutional amendment in 2020 to shift to a graduated income tax from the current flat one and is eyeing expanding gaming, sports betting, and legalizing recreational marijuana as sources to generate more revenue.

The working group is expected to provide a public report before the January inauguration.

The Thursday announcement followed Pritzker’s naming of a transition team on Wednesday that is to be led by Lieutenant Gov.-elect Juliana Stratton. Former Gov. Jim Edgar, a Republican, is a member. Hynes and Sacks are advisors. Pritzker, a Democrat, won his first elected office in the Tuesday contest against incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican.

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State budgets J. B. Pritzker State of Illinois Illinois