Topinka: Progress made, but backlog continues

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

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 Illinois’ bill backlog has not been addressed.

The assessment from the state’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 state’s pension payment, Topinka noted, but no additional funding was made available to begin paying down the state’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.

“Lawmakers finally dealt with reality and made real budget cuts, and that is encouraging. It is a good first step,” said Topinka, who took office in January. “But 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.”

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 “paper over” the true extent of the state’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.

“We do everything we can to assist businesses and organizations in Illinois in enduring the hardship of these payment delays, and that will continue,” Topinka said. “I look forward to the day when the state pays its bills on time, but that will only happen through continued spending restraint.”