Illinois’ unpaid bills reach record $14.3 billion

Illinois’ unpaid bills reach record $14.3 billion

May 17, 2017

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Illinois’ unpaid bill backlog has hit a record high of $14.3 billion as the legislature nears a May 31 budget deadline, the state comptroller’s office said on Wednesday.

The bill pile jumped from $13.3 billion after the governor’s budget office this week reported more than $1 billion in liabilities held at state agencies, the comptroller said.

Illinois is limping toward the June 30 end of its second straight fiscal year without a complete budget due to an impasse between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the legislature.

“It’s clear the Rauner Administration has been holding bills at state agencies in an attempt to mask some of the damage caused by the governor’s failure to fulfill his constitutional duty and present a balanced budget,” Comptroller Susana Mendoza, a Democrat, said in a statement, adding that the governor’s office was keeping lawmakers in the dark about the true size of the backlog.

Eleni Demertzis, Rauner’s spokeswoman, said instead of the “same tired partisan attacks,” Mendoza should be talking “to her party leaders about working with Republicans to pass a budget that is truly balanced and job-creating changes that will grow our economy.”

Illinois’ reliance on continuing appropriations, court-ordered spending and partial budgets has caused the unpaid bill backlog to balloon from $9.1 billion at the end of fiscal 2016. Mendoza told a Senate committee last week that late payment penalties owed to vendors total about $800 million.

Lawmakers, who have not agreed on a fiscal 2018 spending plan, face a May 31 deadline to pass budget bills with simple-majority votes.

(Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Meredith Mazzilli)

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