by Ashley Muchow
For Illinois, 2010 was a record breaking era. Our state managed to shatter three tremendous records for this past fiscal year.
- Adjusted year-end General Revenue Fund balance was a negative $4.69 billion, a record.
- The backlog of unpaid bills at fiscal year end was $4.7 billion, a record.
- It now takes the comptroller’s office 153 working days to issue bill payments compared to 99 days last year, a record.
The final budget report released by the Illinois Office of the Comptroller concluded, "Illinois ended the year in the worst fiscal position in its history." Illinois’s financial situation is so dismal the state can't afford to replenish its "rainy day" fund. The Budget Stabilization Fund has been used to reduce the size of the state’s bill backlog. In the words of Hynes spokeswoman Carol Knowles, "it's more than rainy, it's a monsoon." According to the report “a few factors have had a major impact on the cash flow position – the state’s economy-driven revenues weakened and spending was transferred to other funds in the fourth quarter.”
Let’s try spending in general. Yes, the state's economy took a hit as most other states, but what has made Illinois’s numbers record breaking is the mismanagement and excessiveness that brought our finances into the state they’re in now. The extension granted by the General Assembly to delay payment of 2010's obligations to December 30th is not the only boost needed as maintained by Hynes and Quinn. According to the report, it is unlikely the state will be able to pay all of those bills without enacting the following measures: $1.3 billion in “revenue failure” short-term borrowing, newly authorized borrowing by the General Revenue Fund from other funds in the treasury, and securitization of Illinois’s tobacco settlement payments.
The report did get a key conclusion right in that "absent any significant changes to the current budget plan either through reserves, appropriation reductions, pension bonding or major revenue enhancements, the state will likely end fiscal year 2011 with a GRF bill backlog significantly higher than that at the end of fiscal year 2010."
You’d think Illinois’s officials would want to make their lives easier by making the tough cuts now, rather than delaying the inevitable. But evidently something isn’t clicking.