Comptroller cautions vendors that payment delays remain
Springfield, IL â€“ Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka commended lawmakers Thursday for showing spending restraint and adopting conservative revenue estimates during the Spring Legislative Session, but cautioned state vendors that payment delays will continue as Illinoisâ€™ bill backlog has not been addressed.
The assessment from the stateâ€™s Chief Fiscal Officer comes a day after the Illinois General Assembly approved a budget and concluded its business for the Spring. Lawmakers took responsible action in making real spending cuts and committing dollars for the stateâ€™s pension payment, Topinka noted, but no additional funding was made available to begin paying down the stateâ€™s mountain of overdue bills.
The Comptroller currently has more than 130,000 unpaid bills dating back to December, 2010 and totaling just over $4 billion.
â€œLawmakers finally dealt with reality and made real budget cuts, and that is encouraging. It is a good first step,â€ said Topinka, who took office in January. â€œBut the fact is that even with the recent tax increase, we have more than $4 billion in bills to pay down, and that is going to take some time. Vendors should know that there will still be substantial delays, but the situation will slowly begin to improve if we hold the line on new spending.â€
Topinka praised bipartisan cooperation, noting that Republicans and Democrats worked together to avoid additional borrowing, which has historically been used to hide the deficit and â€œpaper overâ€ the true extent of the stateâ€™s fiscal issues. Still serious challenges remain, including the thousands of businesses, schools, hospitals, social service and not-for-profit agencies across Illinois that will continue to wait for payment from the state.
â€œWe do everything we can to assist businesses and organizations in Illinois in enduring the hardship of these payment delays, and that will continue,â€ Topinka said. â€œI look forward to the day when the state pays its bills on time, but that will only happen through continued spending restraint.â€