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 pledgedscal 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 specic 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
is the executive vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute.
is an intern with the Illinois Policy Institute.
Illinois politicians continue to shop without price tags
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Graphic 1. No price tagsIllinois bills became law without basic cost information in 2011
Source: Illinois Policy Institute