Illinois Unpaid Bills Approach $8.5 Billion: State Comptroller

01/20/2012 03:16 pm ET | Updated Jan 20, 2012

Republican Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka this week delivered more troubling, if not surprising, news concerning the state's financial health.

In August, Topinka estimated that her office had some 190,000 bills totaling nearly $4 billion dating back to April. She says the situation is much more dire today and not likely to get better anytime soon.

"After the largest tax hike in our history, the state continues to be in this precarious fiscal position with persistent payment delays, and frankly, the situation is unlikely to significantly improve in the near term," Topinka said Wednesday, according to CBS.

While some state officials, including Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, have said the state should borrow money to pay its bills, Topinka and others have blasted that plan.

Topinka said that organizations ranging from businesses to hospitals and non-profit organizations providing services for the state are taking the brunt of the backlog, which dates back to Sept. 1, nearly five months ago, the Associated Press reports.

"We can dig our way out of it, but we cannot dig our way out of it if the legislature -- individuals and collectively -- and the governor, are going to keep coming up with new programs, new forms of spending, because we can't pay for the old spending," Topinka told WJBC.

The news comes on the heels of Moody's Investor Services downgrading the state's credit to the worst of any state in the country because the agency contended that Illinois has "weak management practices" and the most recent legislative session which "took no steps to implement lasting solutions" on issues such as an increasingly severe pension funding shortfall.

A spokeswoman for the governor countered that the state "has taken positive steps toward fiscal stability, swift bipartisan action to implement further cost reductions and reforms in the upcoming legislative session are needed to stabilize the budget."

Quinn's three-year budget projection, also released earlier this month, said that budget cuts are coming down the pike -- as much as 9 percent across the board -- in order to offset a state budget deficit that most recently was estimated at $500 million and could grow by 2015, despite the 66 percent personal income tax hike the governor approved last year.

Last week, state GOP leaders lashed out, on the one-year anniversary of the tax hike's approval, against what they consider a "failure" on the part of Quinn and the state's majority-Democratic legislature, which approved the hike.

State House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) stated at a press conference slamming the anniversary this month that while "the majority party made many promises that its giant tax increase would solve the state's budget problems, that has not been the case."

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