By RICK HAYES
Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka recognized the efforts of two hospital auxiliaries and the local Senior Circle program during a stop in Mt. Vernon on Wednesday.
At the same time, Topinka cautioned that non-profit groups will start feeling the pinch of the state's financial shortfalls by the end of the year.
“Right now we have our payment cycle down to about three months. I suspect that might be threatened a little in the future,” Topinka said.
“This is a very precarious time for the state and for the decisions that are going to be made in the coming months because they are going to have an impact that will last for many, many years,” she continued.
Topinka said the state just ended the fiscal year with 46,000 unpaid bills, amounting to $5 billion.
She said for Illinois that's pretty good, but it's short-lived because the state is enjoying the success of coming out of the tax season.
“It's about to end and then we're going to get to other realities,” she said.
Topinka said the backlog of bills will continue at the end of the summer and into the fall, reminding those attending the 5 percent tax increase approved several years ago is set to sunset at the end of the year.
“There is no plan out there to address the lost revenue,” Topkina said. “If no action is taken, there will be a $2 billion revenue collapse.”
Topinka suggested the tax not become permanent, maintaining it should be phased out incrementally.
“A promise is a promise and a contract is a contract and that's how it was sold,” the comptroller said.
“I don't know why this is not an understandable concept: don't spend what you don't have and you live within your means,” she added.
Topinka said while the financial future of the state is questionable at best, she still has the discretion to decide who gets paid when.
She encouraged non-profit organizations to call her office or contact their state representatives requesting payments. Even if the entire payment may not be available, it's possible partial payments could be made.
In order, Topinka said payroll, investors and then non-profits are provided payments owed by the state.
“People and organizations that take care of our neediest people come first in the line of payment. Then comes small business, and ultimately, it's come as you are,” she said.
She promised to “fill the hole” as much as possible to keep payments no longer than 90 days out.
“Your work is critical for our state,” she told health care workers. “You take care of our children, our seniors, our special needs residents. You care for those folks who have no place to turn. And frankly, you do it for a fraction of what it would cost government. I'm grateful for what you do and you do it with good hearts.”