The state of Illinois has spent more than $900 million on penalties for not paying its bills on time over the past six years, according to the Chicago-based government watchdog group, Civic Federation.
Most of the payments are owed to state health insurance vendors and the problems have jumped with the state's backlog of unpaid bills expected to reach $9.3 billion by the end of the current fiscal year. Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, said the problem began long before this year’s state budget impasse. When the recession began in 2007, other states cut spending or raised taxes, but Illinois "relied on gimmicks, we relied on accounting sleight of hand. We don't fully fund the employee health insurance program, or we ignore our pension obligations,” he said. State lawmakers said solving the problem will not be easy."It's certainly unfortunate. I think if we would have been able to sign a budget last year, we would have been saving billions of dollars, instead of having the consent decrees that have been agreed upon in court," said Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale.
Msall said that the longer Illinois remains without a budget, the more an eventual solution will cost.