Illinois bill backlog estimated to be $10 billion by end of 2016
Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger announced Thursday the state’s unpaid bill backlog could reach $10 billion by the end of December.
Speaking at a press conference in Chicago, Munger said the current bill backlog is around $7.8 billion, but that the stopgap budget passed on June 30 authorizes $2.5 billion more in spending than the state will bring in over the next six months.
“While the stopgap is a positive step forward, it is a very short-term step,” Munger said. “It does not address our larger financial issues and our limited available cash, nor does it provide a predictable funding stream.”
By the end of 2016, Illinois will be $3 billion more in the hole than it was at the end of 2015 without a comprehensive, balanced budget in place.
A report by the General Assembly’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability found the state will spend $39.6 billion while only taking in $31.8 billion in revenue, according to the Associated Press.
Munger said there are two years’ worth of vouchers waiting to be paid, and that payments will be made on a “first in, first out basis.” State payments are running behind 2-2 1/2 months, but those delays could increase to six months or longer without additional revenue.
“These severe cash shortages mean that my office will continue to perform triage every day to help those most in need,” she said.
That means funding will be prioritized for social service providers who are not covered under court orders and consent decrees and haven’t received state payments since last July, as well as for higher education institutions and contractors.
As for lawmakers and constitutional officers, they’ll have to wait in line to receive their paychecks. Munger said politicians’ pay for April cleared last week, but that May’s pay probably won’t be processed until the end of August. Paychecks for June could be four to five months late.
“How can I in good conscience tell our hospitals, our schools, our small businesses or non-profits and others to get in line and wait, and then we, the elected leaders of the state, walk to the front of the line?” Munger said.
“We are all in this together and we should all be waiting in line together,” she added. “I think rather than argue over when we are all paid, we should focus on doing our jobs.”