October 07, 2011

Expert to discuss Illinois’ fiscal outlook

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Illinois’ continuing fiscal woes and potential remedies will be the focus of a discussion next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Dan R. Long, executive director of the state’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, will present a lecture on “Illinois Fiscal Outlook: Where Do We Go From Here?” at 11:30 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 13, in the Student Center Ballroom B.

The bi-partisan legislative commission, formerly the Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission, provides the Illinois General Assembly with research and information on state and national economies, revenues, operations, pensions, group insurance and state government debt.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend Dan R. Long’s lecture.  For more information, contact Matt Baughman, associate director at 618/453-4009 or 618/201-0082.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and the John White Fellowship are lecture sponsors.

The luncheon and lecture are free and open to the public, but advance registration is required for meal considerations and seating is limited. To register, contact Christina Rich, Institute project coordinator, at 618/453-4078 or by email at clrich@siu.edu by Tuesday, Oct. 11.  Open seating will be available for those who wish to only listen to the speech and not be included in the meal.

Long will present a power-point presentation on Illinois’ fiscal year 2012 economic forecast and revenue estimates.  He will also review Illinois fiscal year 2011 revenues and the impact of the state’s tax increase.  Long will discuss “why even with the tax increase there are not additional funds for new programs or expansion of existing programs.”

“I really look forward to coming down to Southern Illinois and providing some information on the state budget and discuss some of the fiscal problems Illinois will be facing in the next several years,” he said.

Long, who became executive director in February 2000, is “a good neutral expert on the state’s finances,” said David Yepsen, Institute director.

“I think it’s important for Southern Illinois to pay attention to those because we are so dependent down here on state funds.  We receive a lot more money from Springfield than we send there -- universities, prisons, community colleges, and K-12 aid,” Yepsen said.

“This turmoil in Springfield over the state’s finances has some real-world consequences down here,” Yepsen said.  “He can talk about how we got into this problem and what some of the options are that face policymakers.  People want some good solid information and this is an opportunity to hear someone who has a lot of expertise.”

Long’s appearance comes the day after the Commission holds two facility closure hearings in the region.  The Commission will hold separate hearings Wednesday, Oct. 12, on proposals to close the Illinois Youth Center in Murphysboro and the Chester Mental Health Center.

A report last month by The Civic Federation, a non-partisan tax watchdog group, indicates that when the state’s fiscal year ends June 30, Illinois could be $8.3 billion in debt if nothing is done. That amount includes $5.5 billion in unpaid bills and $2.8 billion in Medicaid payments, state employee health insurance bills and business tax refunds.

Yepsen believes the state’s options are to cut spending, raise revenue “and hope for some economic growth.”

“It will take several years,” he said.

“We are seeing a lot of examples of the tension, turmoil and the difficulty that the financial situation causes.  We see it here on campus with unfilled positions; we see it terms of anxiety that people have over the security of their pension, and we are seeing in Murphysboro and Chester over the turmoil about closing facilities,” Yepsen said.  “I don’t know whether that is going to happen or not but I do know it causes a lot of stress for people.”

Yepsen anticipates the situation will last for several more years.

“There’s not an easy solution.  There’s not a simple solution,” he said.

Long’s state government career began in 1975 when he supervised the contract/obligation section in the Comptroller’s office.  He then spent five years as the chief fiscal officer for the executive office of Gov. James R. Thompson, Jr., before serving as deputy director of operations and chairman of the financial review committee for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs.  From 1987 to 1992, Long was assistant director of the Department of Central Management Services, where he was responsible for all aspects of the agency’s daily operations.

Long was deputy chief of staff for then Illinois House Minority Leader Lee Daniels from January 1992 to January 1995.

Long’s appearance is part of the John White Lecture Series.  White, who passed away in July, was a member of the Institute’s board of counselors, a major benefactor to the Institute and a close friend to Institute founder, the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon.

For more information on the program, contact the Institute at 618/453-4009 or visit paulsimoninstitute.org/.