Comptroller issues state budget warning

State Comptroller Leslie Munger says the state’s backlog of unpaid bills could hit $8 billion by the end of the year if the state continues to operate without a state budget, while the Governor’s budget office told a Senate panel this week the state is on track to spend more than $38 billion this year.

Court orders, consent decrees, and statutory continuing appropriations are funding about 90 percent of the state’s budget right now. The state, however, is expected to bring in only $32 billion in revenue, according to the Governor’s office. The Comptroller said most of the state’s money is being spent at rates the state cannot afford in the long run. Current spending is based on previous Fiscal Year 2015 levels, while available revenues, which are based on the current Fiscal Year 2016 levels, are much lower than last year’s as a result of the reduction of the tax hike in January.

Munger says with no budget in place, Illinois’ unpaid bills could reach $8.5 billion in December, but that doesn’t include payments for obligations like higher education, employee-retiree health insurance, and MAP grants for students, which would add an additional $4.3 billion to the tab. Those are bills that can’t be processed without a state budget.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Lottery is now facing a lawsuit due to the lack of a state budget. Two lottery winners filed a federal lawsuit this week seeking their lottery winnings, which the state has not paid. The Comptroller says without a budget, she doesn’t have the authority to issue checks over $25,000.

Chapin Rose

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