CHICAGO (Reuters) - Illinois ended fiscal 2013 with an estimated $6.1 billion in unpaid bills and other obligations, and that could swell to $7.5 billion by August and nearly $9 billion in November and December, State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said in a report on Monday.
The year-end total was down from $7.5 billion at the end of fiscal 2012, which Topinka said was largely due to a one-time increase in income tax collections in April.
“Make no mistake, the ‘April surprise’ is history,” Topinka said in a statement, referring to the fact that many taxpayers accelerated their income and capital gains at the end of 2012 to avoid expected federal income tax increases.
Illinois stands alone among U.S. states in its broad-based use of delayed payments on bills and funding for school districts, universities and others as a budget-balancing tool to deal with ballooning public pension payments.
“We continue to force businesses, hospitals, schools and service agencies to wait months on end for promised payment from the state,” she said. “It is unconscionable and further highlights the importance of keeping spending flat and restoring our fiscal integrity.”
A structural budget imbalance and huge unpaid pension liability have shoved Illinois’ bond ratings down the credit scale to the lowest levels among states.
Lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled Legislature have failed to find a fix for the nearly $100 billion owed to the state’s five retirement systems. A legislative conference committee has been appointed to come up with a solution ahead of a July 9 deadline.
Topinka, a Republican, said her office had 73,184 bills dating back to June 3, 2013 and totaling $3.3 billion on June 30. The one-month delay with some bills compared to two and a half month delays a year ago, according to Topinka’s office.
She said estimates of fiscal 2013 bills still held at state agencies had increased the backlog to $6.1 billion.
Reporting By Karen Pierog; Editing by David Greising