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Illinois makes dubious top-10 list

By Amanda Vinicky, Illinois Public Radio

Springfield, Ill. – Illinois has received a unwelcome distinction in a new report. It's ranked as one of the ten states at risk of a fiscal calamity.

The report says like other states, Illinois can blame the economic downturn for some of its problems.

But according to an analysis from the Pew Center on the States the recession isn't the main culprit in Illinois.

Researchers say mismanagement of state government is to blame. The report says even before the recession, Illinois demonstrated a "lack of fiscal discipline."

Pew says the recession took the state's budget situation from "shaky to unsustainable." The state, for instance, had one of the top three largest budget gaps in the county this year. The deficit is at least $13 billion.

The analysis singles out Illinois' habits of using short-term approaches, such as delaying payment of bills, skimping on pension payments, and borrowing.

And while Pew says some of these approaches were used before Rod Blagojevich became governor in 2003, the state increasingly resorted to them during his tenure.

In order to get back on track, the report says lawmakers will have to demonstrate political will. Whether that involves making cuts or increasing taxes the analysis does not say.