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Illinois to Start 2017 With Over $10 Billion in Unpaid Bills

From Bloomberg: Illinois’s unpaid bills will continue to accumulate throughout the rest of 2016, leaving the state with a backlog of more than $10 billion by the start of next year, according to Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger.

The stack of unpaid invoices will lead to payment delays while a stopgap budget remains in place for the next six months, Munger said. Passed on June 30, the plan averted a government shutdown and ended a record year-long impasse that caused funding for universities and other programs to dry up. The compromise temporarily keeps services and infrastructure projects afloat, but pushes off bills that continue to grow and inevitably have to be paid. The backlog currently stands at about $7.8 billion.

“When we look at the numbers we are facing, the realities are sobering,” Munger said in a statement, noting the state’s expenses are to outpace revenues by $2.5 billion in the next six months. “Those severe cash shortages mean my office will continue to perform triage to help those most in need and protect our most critical services.”

 The chronic budget shortfalls led Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings last month to downgrade Illinois bonds to levels not seen for a U.S. state in more than a decade.

Munger said that while payments will continue to made on a first-in, first-out basis, autism services, programs for the homeless, and mental health services will be among the top priorities. Small businesses and higher education, which faced significant funding and ratings cuts this year, will also receive greater attention.