There's a new political tone in Springfield, but the state is still limping along.
After the big party is over, it's back to reality and, sometimes, a hangover to boot.
The Illinois General Assembly just wrapped up its latest version of a party, a bill-passing frenzy in which new and higher taxes were levied and money was appropriated by the billions.
The jury will be out for a long time before deciding whether legislators acted wisely. In the meantime, the self-congratulations have subsided and reality is setting in.
But what about the hangover? Who better to decide than the "bond ghouls," the phrase former PBS financial journalist Louis Rukeyser came up with to describe bond traders' penchant to always "see things from the worst point of view, assuming that the economy is going" to collapse any day now.
So how do the bond ghouls see Illinois these days?
Writing for Fixed Income News, Yvette Shields quotes market participants as crediting Gov. J.B. Pritzker with a "productive" legislative session in terms of measures passed but contending that his ability to "ride the tide ... depends a lot on some risky bets."
"With two (bond) ratings one downgrade away from junk and warnings from rating agencies that a buildup in a now $6.4 billion bill backlog or worsening of a $133.7 billion unfunded pension tab could trigger such a cut, the state has little room to maneuver," Shields states.
There's even less room than Shields suggests.
State Comptroller Susana Mendoza tweeted Tuesday that the state's unpaid bills have jumped to $7.1 billion, a 12 percent increase from a week ago. At the same time, the unfunded pension liability is projected to be $136 billion by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Whatever the circumstances, Pritzker has proclaimed that "a new era of fiscal stability has arrived in Illinois." If that is the case, it's come disguised as the same old fiscal instability that has driven this state to its knees.
For instance, there are obvious hurdles in Pritzker's path to prosperity.
The governor's budget basically ignored the pension underfunding problem. There also are major concerns about "the ability of new gambling revenue to support new capital borrowing."
"Revenue streams like video gambling fell short of projections to cover borrowing on the last capital plan and that resulted in general fund draw," writes Shields.
If that happens again, it would be a problem for two reasons. For starters, legislators approved a $45 billion spending plan, far larger than previous building programs, and second, the state has no financial cushion on which to draw.
Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes, an obvious superoptimist, acknowledges "we still have a hill to climb financially" but insists the state is on an "upward trajectory to financial stability."
From the outside looking in, it's hard to see progress. Even the governor's much-touted balanced budget isn't really balanced, according to outside analysts.
One thing, however, is clear. Pritzker's "risky bet" is that voters will approve his proposed progressive income tax hike amendment in November 2020, 16 months from now.
Even though Pritzker promises to tax only the super-rich, that amendment would make it far easier for Pritzker to raise taxes on Illinoisans at all income levels and generate multiple billions of dollars in new revenue.
It may pass. It may not. But it's a long time until voters decide, meaning the sinking ship that is Illinois will have to keep feverishly bailing water to stay afloat.