Illinois comptroller warns of more financial troubles

August 19, 2011

by Sean Crawford

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Ill. Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka said Thursday that lawmakers need to take action or the state next summer could end the budget year with another huge backlog of bills. Topinka said Illinois government is still paying bills that date back to April. She admits a recent income tax increase has helped the situation, but "only slightly."

Topinka said a slow economy and growing costs are hurting Illinois' finances and she predicts a backlog of $8 billion by the time the current fiscal year expires. That's roughly the same amount as the recently completed cycle.

"It is significant," she said. "So some reform needs to be done and it needs to be done as soon as possible."

Topinka was flanked by Republican leaders united against borrowing to pay the overdue bills. While others say the state should pay what's owed to vendors, the GOP says spending cuts will allow the state to dig out of the hole. Although they admit that could take several years.

Moody's Investor Service issued a report this month critical of the latest state budget. It said lawmakers and the Governor failed to address an "unsustainable rise" in retirement benefit costs as well as the pile of unpaid bills.