U of I Partners with Universities For Fiscal Operations Study | Alton Daily News


70611101108-bag%20of%20money.jpgPublic administration and policy researchers from the University of Illinois Springfield and University of Illinois at Chicago are joining teams from 11 other universities and academic institutes in a multiyear national study of the fiscal operations of all 50 states.


Focusing on the processes of budgeting and establishing fiscal sustainability, the “Truth and Integrity in Government Finance Project” is intended to pave the way for state governors, legislators, civic organizations and citizens working to enhance fiscal stewardship to create meaningful improvements in the quality and transparency of state budgets at a time of fiscal crisis for many governments.


The study is an initiative of the Volcker Alliance, a nonpartisan public policy nonprofit organization founded in 2013 by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker, who, according to the group’s website, sought a way to positively affect the performance of public officials and, ultimately, help rebuild public trust in government.


The need for such lofty goals is felt more than ever in Illinois, where the current budget impasse and the fiscal practices that preceded it have added up “to a big mess which has resulted from years of bipartisan neglect and a bipartisan willingness to move the costs of current services on to the next generation,” said William Glasgall, director of the Volcker Alliance’s State and Local Program, which concentrates on challenges that prevent the successful implementation of state and local government policies.


“When you have one of the largest states in America getting by without a budget, one of the biggest states in America getting by, by not paying its vendor bills, the fiscal health of Illinois is pretty grim right now,” Glasgall said.


Similar to the way lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have long handled budget issues, Illinois is relying on continuing resolutions to keep running, but with at least two differences with the federal government, Glasgall said. “Illinois can’t print its own money and, unlike the federal government, Illinois doesn’t have nuclear weapons, thank heavens,” he said.


Beyond any insights the new study may offer, Glasgall said there are a number of things Illinois can do now to begin getting its fiscal house in order, including paying recurring costs only with recurring revenue, hammering out a definition of a balanced budget that everyone in Springfield accepts and agrees to follow, regularly issuing long-term revenue and spending forecasts for each state agency and program, and maintaining transparency when reporting on structural deficits, the protracted gap between revenue and spending.


Glasgall also recommended that Illinois, like other states, should generate budgeting forecasts based on data from a combination of sources. “States really should use not just an estimate from the governor’s office, but from outside experts, the legislature,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily make for a more accurate forecast, but it’s more inclusive, less political, gets things out of the way.”


The study is funded through grants from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and is anticipated to deliver its first set of findings sometime in 2017.

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U of I Partners with Universities For Fiscal Operations Study | Alton Daily News

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