Illinois fiscal woes impeding state's growth: governor-elect's team

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 09, 2015 2:27 PM

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Fixing Illinois' many financial problems with a "credible" plan will be key to expanding the state's economy, according to a report Friday from Governor-elect Bruce Rauner's transition team.

Rauner, a Republican who takes office on Monday, has blasted Illinois' budget practices, which have led to huge unpaid bill backlogs and a $105 billion unfunded pension liability, as irresponsible and dishonest. But his team's report shed little light on exactly what the former private equity investor should do to fix problems.

"An effective plan will include spending cuts, efficiencies, comprehensive tax reform, and many changes that, over time, will require difficult choices and shared sacrifice," the report said.

It added that while the team was not ready to provide specific recommendations on budgetary solutions, "Illinois’ ability to chart a more prosperous course hinges upon our addressing the state’s dismal fiscal condition."

The report laid out recommendations in several areas, including economic development, infrastructure, public safety, health and human services and education, where the transition team called for devising a new funding formula.

It also said Illinois' lack of a stable financial environment was an impediment to job growth.

"Business executives are wary of being responsible for bailing out the state when the bills come due," the report noted.

Illinois has the worst-funded public pension system and the lowest credit ratings among all 50 states.

"The state of Illinois is in a death spiral and in desperate need of a turnaround," Rauner said in a statement. "I look forward to reviewing these recommendations to ensure my administration can hit the ground running."

(Reporting by Karen Pierog; editing by Matthew Lewis)