Paying Down Illinois' Backlog of Bills

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By Fanna Haile-Selassie
By Randy Livingston

WSIL -- A new claim from the Illinois Governor's office says the state has paid down its backlog of bills by $6 billion. It's taken five years and one of the largest tax increases in state history. But not everyone believes those numbers.

As many taxpayers know, every bill has a due date. The problem with Illinois is it has notoriously skipped its due dates many times.
 
"Look at all the great things that we have in this state, and we're just not using them productively, because we're, again, spending more than we take in. You can't keep that up," explained Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka on Thursday.
 
But Governor Pat Quinn says the state is making progress, something House Finance Chair John Bradley believes is true.
 
"We've been paying down bills, but the appetite for making difficult decisions this last year just wasn't there. Now the previous two or three years, we've made difficult decisions, we'd made cuts."
 
Bradley says while the state may have made progress, the recent budget lawmakers passed could cause regression.
 
"People didn't want to make a decision to make cuts or get additional revenue, so that's just going to compound an issue which we had actually made some headway on," he explains.
 
Topinka says that $6 billion reduction is actually closer to $5 billion, since it doesn't count the Medicaid healthcare bills. But Republican Representative Mike Bost believes it's even worse than that.
 
"When this last year's budget was passed, people on both sides of the aisle said, 'Yeah, it's out of balance by about $2 billion.' Which means you can add another $2 billion to whether it was the comptroller's numbers or whether it was the governor's numbers."
 
In the end, Bost says the state shouldn't even have a backlog anymore, that's what the $31 billion tax increase was supposed to fix.
 
"So we're $4 billion behind after $31 billion in new taxes. Where's the other 25?" he asks.
 
Bradley says the continuing progress of the state will really depend on lawmakers this fall. They either need to pass the tax extension or make the necessary cuts to keep paying down that backlog.
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