Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Pandemic leaves huge holes in Illinois budget

By Jim Hagerty

ROCKFORD – The State of Illinois is projecting a $2.7 billion budget deficit for this fiscal year and another $4.6 billion hole for the next.

The immediate deficit represents a $6.2 billion loss from the revenue Gov. J.B. Pritzker projected in February. It would grow to $7.4 billion if voters do not approve the graduated income tax amendment in the November election.

Pritzker said Wednesday that Illinois, along with nearly every state, will need to rely on further stimulus bills, in addition to the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, to fill the  holes.

“Illinoisans are all too familiar with the pain the lack of a state budget can cause, so let me just say up front: We will not go without a state budget,” he said. “We will need to make extraordinarily difficult decisions on top of the difficult decisions we’ve already made, but together with the state Legislature, we will make them, and we will do so with an unswerving dedication to fairness.”

Illinois’ current fiscal year ends June 30.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Health reported 1,346 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 24,593. Eighty more deaths were also reported, 53 of which occurred in Cook County. Illinois’ death toll is now at 948.

As of Wednesday, 116,929 people have been tested for the virus, and more cases are expected as testing increases. The state is flattening the curve though but likely not enough for Pritzker to lift the statewide stay-at-home order that runs through April 30.

The governor said there could be modifications to the order but has not specified if certain businesses would be allowed to reopen. He said he is considering an executive order requiring people to wear masks in public, which will likely be part of future orders once he starts to ease stay-at-home restrictions.

Pritzker added that Illinois won’t be completely back in business until it is able to test 10,000 or more people for coronavirus per day, effective contact tracing is in place, and there is a treatment for COVID-19.

Some models show that Illinois is at the peak of the pandemic, which could indicate a sharp decline in new infections. However, Pritzker says the experts he’s consulting are predicting something else.

“We are looking at a variety of models,” he said. “You are working your way up to a peak,  unfortunately, and then, as you come to the other side, it is going to be a gradual downward slope, not an immediate drop.”

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