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Published by: Illinois Policy Institute on Feb 08, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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If your personal nances were a mess and yourbank account dry, would you shop without look-ing at price tags? Probably not. But that’s exactly  what Illinois’ 97
General Assembly did in 2011, when it passed 650 new laws – and fewer than 2percent of these included a scal note.Fiscal notes are like price tags for legislative bills;they estimate the costs, savings, revenue gain orrevenue loss resulting from the implementationof proposed legislation. Crafted properly, they can provide a wealth of information elected of-cials need to make fully informed votes.Fiscal notes rarely are available to Illinois law-makers to help guide their decision-making. Un-fortunately, in a year when lawmakers pledgedscal restraint and a new era of nancial respon-sibility, only 10 out of the 650 laws passed andsigned in 2011 had scal notes.Beyond the sheer lack of scal notes, anotherpermeating concern is that the scal notes thathave been crafted often are inadequate. Many of them lack background information and underly-ing calculations, come from biased sources, failto provide a way to follow up with note’s authorand do not account for a law’s wider economicimpact outside of government. See Appendix A for an example of an inadequate scal notefrom Illinois, and Appendix B for an exampleof a thorough scal note from Minnesota. See Appendix C for specic recommendations toimprove Illinois’ scal note process.Following a July 2010 survey by the Illinois Policy Institute highlighting the stunning lack of scalnotes,
state Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry,introduced legislation to x the problem. Sen-ate Bill 31, dubbed the Fiscal Note Act, wouldstrengthen existing scal note rules. It would
Kristina Rasmussen
is the executive vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute.
Chris Andriesen
is an intern with the Illinois Policy Institute.
Shopping spree
Illinois politicians continue to shop without price tags 
   T  a  x   &    B  u   d  g  e  t
   B  r   i  e   f  
   F  e   b  r  u  a  r  y   8 ,   2   0   1   2
Graphic 1. No price tagsIllinois bills became law without basic cost information in 2011
Source: Illinois Policy Institute
Page 2 of 8
require bills to receive a scal note before they are voted on in the General Assembly unless thesponsor and three-fths of the chamber vote onthe record that a price tag isn’t necessary. Theseimproved and expanded scal notes would becreated by an independent commission andcontain more information on methodologies,assumptions and results. They would providecost estimates for a ve-year forecast timeframe – potentially longer – and be made available on-line to the public. Moreover, bills passed by theGeneral Assembly and then presented to thegovernor for signing would be transmitted withscal note information.More than one-third of Illinois’ state senatorssponsored the Fiscal Note Act, including mem-bers of both parties. Although the bill unani-mously passed committee in March 2011, it wassubsequently held on the Senate oor and hasyet to receive a oor vote.Fiscal note reform legislation deserves a closerlook in 2012. Lawmakers in a state that carries abacklog of unpaid bills in the billions of dollarscannot continue approving new laws withoutfully understanding their scal and budgetary impact.
Lawmakers in a state that carries a backlog of unpaid bills in the billions of dollars cannot continue approving new laws without fully understanding their scal and budgetary impact.
Graphic 2. Bipartisan sponsors of fiscal note reform(Senate Bill 31)
Sen. Pamela J. AlthoffR-McHenrySen. Dan KotowskiD-Park RidgeSen. Sue RezinR-PeruSen. Chris LauzenR-AuroraSen. Larry K. BomkeR-SpringeldSen. Kyle McCarterR-HighlandSen. Carole PankauR-BloomingdaleSen. Kirk W. DillardR-WestmontSen. Suzi SchmidtR-Lake VillaSen. Heather A SteansD-ChicagoSen. Shane CultraR-OnargaSen. Wm. Sam McCannR-CarlinvilleSen. Thomas JohnsonR-WheatonSen. Toi W. HutchinsonD-Chicago HeightsSen. Dale A. RighterR-MattoonSen. John O. JonesR-Mt. VernonSen. John G. MulroeD-ChicagoSen. Christine J. JohnsonR-SycamoreSen. John J. MillnerR-West ChicagoSen. Ron SandackR-Lombard
Source: Illinois General Assembly, ilga.gov 
Page 3 of 8
Appendix A: Example of an inadequate fiscal note from Illinois
House Bill 700, which became Public Act 97-0400.
Example scal note for legislation limiting the use of Social Security numbers for licensing purposes.
Fiscal Note, House Floor Amendment No. 1 (Financial & Professional Regulation) HB 700 (H-AM 1) hasa projected negative scal impact of $234,000 to the Illinois Department of Financial and ProfessionalRegulation.
Source: Illinois General Assembly, ilga.gov 

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