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Waste Watch: Illinois' Unpaid Bills Costing You
Illinois owes $9 billion in unpaid bills. But did you know that because the state doesn't pay on time, as a taxpayer, you are paying millions in late fees?
The main job for Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka is to pay Illinois' bills. But, when you owe $9 billion, that job is pretty difficult.
"It's terrible," Topinka said. "We don't have a lot of money. I feel this is like a magic shop because we are consistently trying to pull rabbits out of a hat. We don't have the money to entail a rabbit so it's more like a hamster level. It's small, so we are at that level."
And when the state can't pay its vendors on time? That costs you even more. The state paid nearly $90 million in late fees last year. The reason for that is The Prompt Payment Act, which means after 60 days--
"We have to start paying interest which amounts to 12 percent a year," Topinka said.
Topinka said the act should be in place because the state has to do something for the people who are owed money, because they are waiting for so long. But for many organizations, the Prompt Payment Act hasn't helped.
"Schools are at a critical point," State Sen. Andy Manar (D-Litchfield) said. "The backlog of bills has had its impact on staffing levels, on classroom sizes, on outcomes we expect from teachers."
The comptroller said they try to take care of the non-profits first. So what are some of her solutions for the unpaid bills issue? She said the state has to continue to cut spending. She is also hopeful consumers spend more, to bring in more sales tax revenue. She doesn't want to see any borrowing. Then, there is pensions. Lawmakers are demanding pension reform. So far, nothing has happened. Gov. Pat Quinn said each day there is no pension reform, Illinois falls another $17 million in the hole.
Quinn is also calling on lawmakers to end corporate tax loopholes to help pay down the state's backlog of unpaid bills. He said closing tax loopholes could bring the state about $445 million each year. But, those against the proposal argue, it will hurt some of the state's largest businesses, which could affect job growth.