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Rep. Hultgren: Illinois Economy Continues To Deteriorate, State Now 'Last In The Midwest'

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U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), standing in for the still recovering U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, on Wednesday delivered a report on the state's financial health.

And the news, according to Hultgren, is not good.

"Last year, the General Assembly raised taxes on hardworking Illinoisans, but the statistics reported today make it clear that Illinois cannot tax its way back to prosperity," Hultgren said in a statement announcing the updated report. "Illinois cannot afford to continue on its current path -- and Washington will not bail the state out."

Last fall, Kirk issued what he called "a call to action" for the state's lawmakers to work to right its "insolvent" wrongs -- namely its "European-style debt spiral." The report, according to CBS Chicago, was authored by venture capitalist Henry Feinberg.

In the six months that have passed since Kirk's proclamation, the report [PDF] argued, "Instead of taking steps to protect residents and businesses, Illinois' leaders have: increased taxpayer liabilities, deteriorated the state's fiscal environment and incurred an additional debt downgrade by Moody's Investor Services."

Feinberg's findings also show that the state's unfunded liabilities have climbed from $82.9 billion in fiscal year 2011 to a projected $89.8 billion in fiscal year 2012.

"Over-spending, tax hikes, and blocking necessary fiscal reform have given Illinois the worst economic reputation in the nation," the report concludes. "State leaders should move to enact bipartisan pension reform and spending restraint to put Illinois' fiscal house back in order."

Last week, fellow Republican and Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka described her job as the state's chief fiscal officer as "like being one of your obituary writers at the newspaper, because I’ve only got bad news to report all the time."

According to Topinka's newly unveiled "The Ledger" site, the state currently has just over $6 billion in general funds it is waiting to pay out, a figure that excludes Medicaid bills and some other expenses.

Meanwhile, a University of Illinois study released last week reported a glimmer of good financial news for Illinois: The state's economy expanded for the first time since 2008, according to the monthly U. of I. Flash Index. The index is based on data including corporate earnings, consumer spending and personal income.

When he delivered his budget address earlier this year, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn described his $33.8 billion spending plan as a "rendezvous with reality." The governor said, "This budget contains truths you may not want to hear. But these are truths that you do need to know. And I believe you can handle the truth."

State Republicans, meanwhile, have criticized Quinn for not making enough spending cuts, while labor unions have decried the existing cuts included in his budget proposal. His plan to shutter 14 state facilities could mean the loss of more than 2,300 jobs.

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