Illinois Comptroller Warns of More Financial Woes

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By Evie Allen
By Benjy Jeffords

CARTERVILLE -- Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is warning of serious financial trouble ahead.

When the state's income tax hike rolls back at the end of the year, that will result in a nearly $2 billion decrease in revenue.

Topinka is criss-crossing the state this summer. She's talking to different groups about how the end of the income tax increase will impact their funding. 

On Thursday she stopped at John A. Logan College, where leaders of local non-profits admitted to the comptroller they're already struggling. One major concern is underpaid staff that haven't seen a raise in several years.

"The cost of living for our staff has gone up just like it has for everybody else but yet they don't have any cost of living increases," says Linda Reiss with Lutheran Social Services of Illinois.

Reiss says the organization has a hard time getting money in a timely manner.

"It has gotten better, however it just seems like there's more and more responsibility, more and more work that needs to be done and shrinking amounts of money to do it with."

Topinka's urging Reiss and the others to start thinking about the future. Warning funding problems will likely get worse before they get better. The temporary income tax passed in 2011 ends next year, coming to a loss of nearly $2 billion.

She'd like to see lawmakers phase it out in increments.

"I really don't think you could take it out all at once. I think that it is just too startling to the system," says Topinka.

She says it would be up to the General Assembly and the Governor to determine the increments.

"If you do that, it will be a little at a time and then we can make it up because you'll also have some natural growth, which will help to fill in. You'll go through another tax season, you'll have some money coming in," she explains.

In the meantime, local groups are left with a lot of questions and continued concern.

Topinka admits agencies are in a tough spot because lawmakers have not yet addressed the income tax hike. She says a big part of the state's financial problem is that Illinois has done too much borrowing. She says groups need to live within in their means which could mean cuts have to be made. 

 
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