Governors, Legislatures, and Budgets: Diversity across the American States

By Edward J. Clynch; Thomas P. Lauth | Go to book overview
Figure 3.2 Average Available and Budgetary Balances over Moving Four-Year Average: Fiscal Years 1955 to 1984, Current Dollars Avg. available balance slope = 6.4 Budgetary balance slope = 16.0

dollar mean of $180 million. Since 1970, the constant dollar mean has been relatively even less--$161 million compared with $229 million in current dollars, a decline of 30 percent. There has been a distinct decrease in the purchasing power of the Illinois surplus, especially since 1974.


CONCLUSION

The power of the governor in budget preparation has been extraordinarily strong in Illinois. The state also has a constitutionally mandated balanced budget. However, the state has not avoided executive manipulations of the budget balance and has not achieved a really balanced budget. The finances of the state have been deteriorating in recent years, at least in part because of a declining economy. The agricultural sector remains weak, as in the rest of the nation, and Illinois shares in the economic decline of heavy industry in the Midwest. Budget reforms to strengthen the governor have had relatively little effect on this long-term trend. Moreover, when the governor misrepresented the state's fiscal health, he was among the first to try to take advantage of an illusionary budget balance by spending on a capital distribution program that would enhance his political popularity. Pork barrel projects are not limited to the legislature; curbing the legislature and creating superpowerful executives is not a formula for fiscal health. In fact, one element in Illinois which was never effectively reformed, the independent election of some of the cabinet officers, is responsible for part of the openness of the budget process. Without the independently elected comptroller, who is often of the opposite party to the governor, the governor's distortions of the state's fiscal health might be less transparent.

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