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Analysis: Illinois lawmakers rarely know how much bills cost before voting for them




CHICAGO – A new analysis by the Illinois Policy Institute finds that Illinois lawmakers have been “shopping without looking at the price tag” by voting for bills without knowing how much they will cost.

The 99th General Assembly was in session from January 2015 to January 2017. The Institute’s analysis found that during this time, lawmakers passed 938 bills – but only 27 had fiscal notes, which serve as price tags for legislation.

“If you want to understand why Illinois is burdened with massive state debt, soaring deficits and a giant pile of unpaid bills, just look at how irresponsibly our elected officials operate. They’re passing bills left and right without a clue as to how much they will cost – or considering whether Illinois even has enough money to pay for them,” said Kristina Rasmussen, president of the Illinois Policy Institute. “No private citizen, family or business can afford to act this way. It’s unacceptable that our elected officials are allowed to get away with this.”

Even bills seemingly unrelated to more spending can have an impact on the state’s budget. That’s why law in at least 10 other states requires fiscal notes. Among the states with fiscal note requirements are Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Maryland, Nebraska and Colorado.

But here in Illinois, where there is no such requirement, the state is on pace to spend billions of dollars more this fiscal year than it will take in. The state also has a backlog of bills that now exceeds $13 billion, as well as $267 billion in unfunded government worker retirement debt.

“Lawmakers must know the price tag of a bill before they vote on it – and embrace fiscal notes as other states have,” Rasmussen said.

While the solution seems simple, it has not become a reality. Perhaps this is why: In order to pass a fiscal note requirement, lawmakers would need to impose this rule on themselves.

The Institute’s new analysis is available online here: http://illin.is/fiscalnotes


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  1. With over SIX THOUSAND bills in the Illinois Legislature this year, even the State Rep.s and Senators can’t keep track of them? How is the public supposed to know what’s happening in this chaos?
    How about we make some common-sense structural changes and LIMIT each lawmaker to 5 new laws per session? This cap on new laws would force them to actually WORK TOGETHER for the good of the people, instead of grandstanding and polishing their ego…

  2. This is a good idea, but when they don’t like the fiscal note they just vote to eliminate it as they did this past week with HB 40, a bill to fund abortion through Medicaid and the state employee health plans. I’ve never seen anything like it, but they did it not once, but twice.