Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday that the state is projecting revenue shortfalls of $2.7 billion this year and $4.6 billion next year because of the economic toll of the coronavirus.


The governor said state agency directors had been asked to take steps to reduce spending, and he’s working with the treasurer and comptroller to leverage more than $700 million in other state funds to keep the government running.


He’s also planning to authorize up to $1.2 billion in short-term borrowing.


"This is a public health crisis, but it is accompanied by massive economic disruption that’s unprecedented in modern history," Pritzker said during the daily news conference from the Thompson Center in Chicago.


About $1 billion of the projected $2.7 billion loss is the result of the three-month extension of the April 15 income tax filing deadline, Pritzker said.


The revenue shortfall would widen to $7.4 billion after accounting for repayment of short-term borrowing and if voters reject a proposal on the November ballot to institute a graduated income tax.


"We may need it now more than ever," the governor said of the graduated income tax, which would raise the current flat rate of 4.95% for those who earn more than $250,000 annually. "This isn’t just about one year. It’s about fixing the structural deficit for the state."


Saying that Illinois residents are "all too familiar with the pain the lack of a state budget can cause," Pritzker said the state will not go without a budget this year.


"We will need to make extraordinarily difficult decisions on top of the difficult decisions that we’ve already made," he said. "But together with the state Legislature, we will make them."


Meanwhile, state public health officials said that an additional 1,346 people had tested positive for COVID-19, and that 80 more people had died from the disease.


That brings the total number of cases to 24,593 in Illinois, including 948 deaths.


"Even though we are flattening the curve we still have a ways to go and we have to tough this out together," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.


She encouraged people to continue staying at home and practicing social distancing.


"Remember this is a marathon. We are seeing a slowed rate of increase," she said. "These measures are cumulatively beneficial over time, but we have to stay the course."


Tracking the curve
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Further exacerbating the projected budget deficit is state spending on equipment to respond to the pandemic.


Illinois had spent more than $170 million as of Tuesday for medical equipment, meals and other supplies needed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s office.


Mendoza debuted an online portal Tuesday that tracks each coronavirus-related expenditure since Pritzker’s March 9 disaster declaration. Among the most recent receipts posted on the site is more than $1 million for medical staff at McCormick Place Convention Center, which has been turned into a 3,000-bed alternative care facility to respond to the coronavirus crisis.


Pritzker said no decisions have been made about when schools may reopen or whether students will be permitted to attend graduation ceremonies or summer camps.


"Decisions need to be made soon to make parents aware and kids aware of what that next month or month and a half might look like," Pritzker said. "Remember: Everything about this is new so it’s very difficult to make projections months in advance."


He said his administration is still working to determine how to end the stay-at-home order while keeping certain restrictions and protections in place. The order is scheduled to expire April 30.


Kevin Haas: khaas@rrstar.com; @KevinMHaas