A big reason for the unbalanced budget comes from how politicians account for the state's retirement debts versus how financial professionals do. There's often a gap of several billion dollars between the two. Hiding that gap has allowed Illinois pols to perpetuate the myth of balanced budgets for decades.
Take Pritzker's 2020 budget. The state's pension funding laws, set up nearly 25 years ago by the General Assembly and then-Gov. Jim Edgar, require the state to pay $9 billion* to Illinois' five state-run pensions in 2020. "We are paying the full payment that is required under the ramp that was put in place in 1995, the statutory required payment," Pritzker said when he signed the budget.
But what Pritzker ignores is the amount the state's own actuaries say is required to properly fund Illinois' pensions in 2020, an amount that exceeds $13 billion. That's a total shortfall of $4 billion.