Moody’s upgrade for Illinois’ finances, Republicans say structural problems persist

Now that Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed what he called a balanced budget, Republicans say it is a temporary fix.

Pritzker said the state budget brings “real improvements to the lives of working families and sets up a stronger fiscal future.” The governor announced Thursday that Moody’s Investor Service has given Illinois a credit upgrade.

“That’s less than a year after we received our first two credit rating upgrades in decades,” said Pritzker. “Fiscal responsibility is paying off.”

Illinois is still among the worst rated states in the country because of substantial unfunded liabilities, including the state’s estimated $140 billion unfunded pension liabilities.

House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, said Thursday’s upgrade shows Illinois is “on its way to long term fiscal surety.”

“Moody’s credit rating increase is further affirmation that Democrats are getting Illinois’ finances back on track through steadfast, responsible leadership,” Welch said in a statement. “We’ve turned [former Illinois Governor] Bruce Rauner’s $17 billion debt into a surplus, and now we’re using that financial stability to make historic investments in human services and public safety, and put money back into the pockets of hardworking families. This is the financial responsibility Illinoisans deserve.”

Senate minority Republicans are skeptical.

“The Governor is grabbing ahold of anything within reach to try and trick the people of Illinois that he is creating a fiscally responsible government while ignoring the fact that this year’s budget was only attainable because Illinois received over $16 billion in federal bailout money,” said Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods. “The truth is, Pritzker continues to put Illinois on a path toward fiscal insolvency by increasing state spending and failing to address the systemic issues that are causing people to flee this state.”

Earlier in the day, state Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, told the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University the state’s finances still need a lot of work and the budget is not what it may seem.

“The analogy would be, we had a gaping wound on our leg that was hemorrhaging, and I think it has been bandaged well, but it is not healing,” said Barickman.

Barickman said the 2023 budget passed by Democrats is an election-year budget.

“It is designed to attract the attention of voters, while they’re paying attention before the November election, then all the goodies that were there magically disappear as soon as the election is over,” said Barickman.

Pritzker also said the budget includes $500 million that will be put into the state’s Pension Stabilization Fund. Barickman said not enough was done to shore up Illinois’ pension mess.

“If anything, under Governor Pritzker, there’s been advances and new laws that actually aggravate that problem and enhance some benefits in the pension system,” said Barickman.

As for the recent spring session in the General Assembly, Barickman said Democrats were busy trying to repair some of the political damage from their crime and justice reform measures, such as the SAFE-T Act, but they fell short and will pay for it in the upcoming elections.

“I think voters are really in tune to the shift that has occurred on crime, and there are going to be Democrats who are punished at the ballot box as a result,” said Barickman.


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