Illinois's unpaid bills backlog still big despite revenue rise

Mon Jul 16, 2012 7:39pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Illinois made a small dent in its unpaid bills, which total an estimated $7.5 billion, despite steep increases in individual income tax, the state comptroller's office reported on Monday.

Due partly to income tax collection, Illinois cut its general fund unpaid bills by $1.91 billion to $3.656 billion in the fourth fiscal quarter of 2012, ended June 30, according to a spokesman for the state comptroller. That compares with a year ago when the backlog of unpaid bills amounted to $3.798 billion.

Bills for Medicaid and state employee health insurance have yet to work their way to the comptroller's office, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said in the state's quarterly report.

"... the state moved into fiscal year 2013 with an estimated $7.5 billion to $8 billion in unpaid obligations," Topinka said. "That compares with the $8.5 billion total of the last two fiscal years.

"The state also continues to delay issuing corporate tax refunds, and owes over $100 million to other state funds to repay previous borrowing," the comptroller said in the report.

Topinka said "longstanding delays" would continue into fiscal 2013.

Illinois collected 38.2 percent more in income tax revenue, a gain of $4.3 billion, in fiscal 2012. Income tax hikes were enacted last year.

Corporate tax receipts increased by $610 million or 33 percent.

However, base revenue only rose $2.331 billion, or 7.4 percent, when declines in transfers and falloffs in federal revenue were taken into account, the comptroller said.

Illinois faces some of the worst fiscal problems in the United States.

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services gave it the second-lowest general obligation rating of the states it rates, 'A-plus', and has had it on a negative outlook since January 2011. Of all the states S&P rates, California has the lowest rating, 'A-minus' with a positive outlook.

(Reporting By Joan Gralla)

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