Friday, January 21, 2011
Overdue Bills Still Bedevil Illinois
The state’s stack of unpaid bills will soon double despite an income tax increase, according to state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. “By the time we get through four years from now and all of this and what they’re able to spend, we will probably have a debt of $12 billion of unpaid bills that have yet to be dealt with,” the Riverside Republican said.
Topinka said her office is now working on getting last August’s bills paid. A plan to issue $8.75 billion in bonds to get social services, hospitals and others the money they are due was introduced at the same time as the tax increase, but the measure did not pass. State Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, has reintroduced the bill in the new Legislature as Senate Bill 3. Democrats, who were the only ones to vote for the tax hike, said borrowing is essential to relieving the state’s financial distress.
Shortly after the income tax increase passed the state House of Representatives, House Republican Leader Tom Cross said his caucus would be willing to consider voting for borrowing, but not without some concessions. “We’ll look at it to pay our vendors, but we’re going to look at it a different way. It might be a smaller amount, we might say you’ve got to cut somewhere else, we might say you have to look at (workers’ compensation), I don’t know what else we might say,” Cross said.
While the Legislature works on the borrowing, Topinka said she is trying to make it so she can pay bills incrementally. Currently, any receipt given to the state has to be paid in full, which has caused a lot of problems, according to Topinka. “If the Legislature would allow us to pay at least some of it, then at least we can get, especially with smaller businesses, who might be holding on by their fingertips, we will get them something in an orderly, predictable fashion,” she said.
Some is better than none, said Mike Heath, executive director for Good Samaritan House Ministries, a soup kitchen, food pantry and shelter assistance service in the southern Illinois city of Carbondale. “If you don’t know at all when it’s coming, that’s not a good thing because you can’t plan ahead. If you’ve got a date knowing you’re going to get part of it, that’s better from a budget point of view than knowing nothing,” Heath said.
You can read Andrew's full report at: http://illinois.statehousenewsonline.com/4967/old-overdue-bills-still-an-issue-for-illinois/