* Supermajority allows Democrats to approve GO bonds
* Bill backlog at $5.9 billion at the end of September
CHICAGO Nov 15 Illinois' pile of unpaid bills
is growing and Governor Pat Quinn is eyeing another run at a
plan to sell bonds to help pay it off, state officials said on
Jerry Stermer, the state's budget director, brought up the
matter at a legislative hearing on Thursday, although Quinn's
office said he was reiterating an interest in working with state
"While the governor has always been interested in
refinancing as an option to help pay down old bills, there is no
new plan on this issue right now," said a statement from Quinn's
In 2011, Quinn, a Democrat, pushed to sell $8.75 billion of
15-year bonds to pay bills that would otherwise be pushed into a
new fiscal year, exacerbating Illinois' structural budget
deficit. But even a smaller version of the plan that called for
$6.2 billion of seven-year general obligation bonds failed to
pass amid Republican opposition.
The Nov. 6 general election boosted the ranks of Democrats
in the House and Senate, theoretically giving them the
three-fifths majority vote required to authorize GO bonds.
A bill introduced by Democratic lawmakers in the House last
week would allow for the sale of $4 billion of bonds with
proceeds earmarked for bill payments.
BILL BACKLOG IS GROWING
Meanwhile, the state's unpaid bill pile, which stood at
about $8 billion when fiscal 2012 ended on June 30, is growing
at a faster pace than last year, Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar
Topinka reported on Thursday.
The comptroller's report for the first quarter of fiscal
2013 showed a bill backlog of $5.9 billion at the end of
September, up from $3.8 billion in September 2011. By the end of
October, the current backlog jumped to $6.5 billion.
Brad Hahn, a spokesman for the comptroller, said the
increase was due to bills coming in from state agencies at a
faster rate than last year. At the same time, monthly payments
to public pension funds are bigger than in the previous fiscal
year and revenue is not high enough to keep up, he added.
General funds revenue was up 7.1 percent or $529 million in
the first quarter compared to the same period in fiscal 2012,
according to the report, which warned that bill payment delays
The nagging bill backlog and escalating pension payments
have severely eroded Illinois' fiscal situation, leaving it with
low credit ratings relative to other states.
A report last week by the Chicago-based Civic Federation, a
government finance watchdog group, said the unfunded liability
for the state's five public pension funds jumped to $96.8
billion at the end of fiscal 2012 from $83 billion at the end of
fiscal 2011. The state's funded ratio declined to 39 percent
from an already low 43.3 percent, the report added. A funded
ratio of 80 percent is considered healthy.
Quinn Administration is pushing lawmakers to take up pension
reforms during a lame-duck session in January.
"We are focused on comprehensive pension reform to rescue
the system, ensure public employees have access to benefits and
prevent out of control pension costs from eating up core
services like education and healthcare," the governor's office