State racks up more than a billion in late interest fees

Local News

ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Taxpayers are shelling out an extra $1 billion, not to education, healthcare or human services, but in late interest fees.

A new special report from the Comptroller’s Office reveals in under three years, the state collected an extra $1.3 billion in late interest fees after failing to pay vendors; more than the previous 18-years combined.

“I think it’s poor management and poor planning overall.”

“If you know you live in this state, it’s kind of what you expect.”

Some taxpayers say, no shockers here.

“It’s disheartening, but reality.”

The report is a product of a new system at the Capitol. Thanks to a new law, one Gov. Bruce Rauner opposed, state agencies are reporting their debt to the Comptroller’s Office each month.

But, the truth is unveiling added hurdles for the state’s already unbalanced checkbook and roughly $6 billion in unpaid bills.

Comptroller Susana Mendoza blamed Gov. Rauner for the record high debt in a statement: “The fact that, under Governor Rauner, the state allowed its bill backlog to grow to a point in just over two years is asinine.”

Some say the political attack is unfair.

“When the governor came in, the state was billions of dollars in unpaid bills. He’s the one who pushed for balanced budget and was overruled byt the legislature, so it’s really the legislature’s fault,” says Sen. Dave Syverson (R- Rockford).

He says the big lesson here is the state’s need to change its spending habits.

“The best thing for the state to do right now is make some tough decisions, cut spending and balance the budget.”

Right now, Democrats and Republicans are negotiating a budget for the next fiscal year. The Comptroller’s Office has only made a dent in those payments.

More than $500 million is still pending. The majority of it is money owed to healthcare bills for state workers and Medicaid recipients.

An AFSCME spokesperson says, they’re on the edge awaiting a new budget. He says bills are up to eight months late.

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