Illinois’ Backlog of Unpaid Bills Total $4.4 Billion


Written by Benjamin BanMetre

Illinois began August with a $4.4 billion dollar backlog of unpaid bills. If lawmakers would have kept the promises they made in 2011, the backlog would be zero today – or close to it.

In January 2011, Illinois lawmakers pushed through a record tax hike that raised the income tax rate on individuals to 5 percent from 3 percent, and on corporations to 7 percent from 4.8 percent. They called it the Taxpayer Accountability and Budget Stabilization Act and went on record making the following promises:

“We have some temporary tax increases that are designed to pay our bills, get Illinois back on fiscal sound footing and make sure that our state has a strong economy.” – Gov. Pat Quinn

“The purpose of this bill is to raise enough money so that we can continue to pay our pensions without borrowing the money, to pay off our debt, to have enough money to pay the interest on that debt …” – Senate President John Cullerton

“… remember the point of this income tax increase is not to expand programs, not to do brand new things in Illinois state government, it is only intended to pay our old bills and deal with the structural deficit.” – House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie

Between 2011 (when the tax hike was implemented) and 2015 (when the tax hike will partially sunset), the tax hike will have generated $31.6 billion in new, additional revenue for the state of Illinois. That’s more than Illinois spends on all core government services (i.e., education, health care, human services, public safety) in a full fiscal year.

The more than $31 billion in extra money that Illinois families and businesses will have turned over to government by the end of 2015 has done little to stabilize Illinois’ finances. The state’s $4.4 billion backlog of unpaid bills is far from paid off.

More of the same isn’t going to fix persistent, structural overspending issues.

That’s why Illinois politicians need to keep their promise and let the temporary income tax hike sunset in January 2015. Thankfully, Illinois Policy Action has launched an initiative to make sure that happens.

Illinois Policy Action is asking all General Assembly and Senate members to sign our “Keep Your Promise” pledge, which will affirm politicians’ stated opposition to keeping permanent the temporary 5 percent income tax rate. Signing this pledge doesn’t just assure constituents that Illinois politicians still deserve some sliver of trust, it is an affirmation of a pro-growth tax policy that Illinois’ businesses and families desperately need.

This article was originally posted at the Illinois Policy Institute website.