Fiscal Futures Project

Fiscal Futures Project

The Fiscal Futures Project is dedicated to informing the public and policymakers about state budget transparency and long-term budget concerns.

The Fiscal Futures Project began in 2008 out of concern that the state of Illinois lacked sufficient capacity to project its fiscal demands and revenue streams into the future. A longer term perspective is needed because of: the structural deficit: state expenditures have been growing faster than revenues; the serious consequences of making policy choices while ignoring the impact on the budget in future year; the relentless pressure on future budgets from an aging population and continuing increases in the cost of health care.

The All-Funds Budget and the Fiscal Futures Model

The project team has created and annually updates a All-Funds budget for the state of Illinois. Historical budget data for over 700 state funds—not just the four General Funds—is grouped into a meaningful set of revenue and spending categories, consistently measured over time. Compared to the more commonly reported General Funds budget, the All-Funds budget is more inclusive and brings important categories of spending like transportation into the analysis. The All-Funds budget is more transparent because inter-fund transfers or moving a program from a General Fund in one year to a special fund in the next will not conceal what is really going on. 

The project team has created and maintains a long-term budget projection model for the state of Illinois. Projections of economic and demographic variables are supplied by the Regional Economics Application Laboratory. The Fiscal Futures Model estimates the past relationship between each All-Funds budget category and the related economic and demographic variables in order to make projections for each component and for total revenue and spending. 

With the All-Funds budget and the budget projection model the Fiscal Futures Project is able to: provide a new level of budget coverage and transparency previously not seen in Illinois; provide legislators, public policy makers and the public with a picture of the future budget situation; stimulate the impact on future budgets of proposed policies and legislation, or different assumptions about economic trends. 

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Lead Experts

Expertise: Economic Policy

David F. Merriman's major area of study is state and local public finance. Merriman directs The Fiscal Futures Project, which created and maintains of a comprehensive and consistently defined measure of the Illinois state budget.  He has published extensively about the effect of tax increment finance policy on local economic growth and the determinants of tobacco tax avoidance. He has also studied Walmart’s impact on urban economic development. His most recent research concerns state and local business taxation.