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Land of Lincoln paid $86 million in 2012

11:33 PM, Feb 13, 2013   |    comments
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (KSDK) - Bills. We all have them, even if we don't like them.

Wouldn't it be great if you didn't have to pay? That's standard procedure in the state of Illinois. The I-Team's Leisa Zigman digs deep into Illinois' bills.

Just how much the state has not paid is staggering, as is just how much tax money has been wasted when Illinois' bills are not paid on time.

Right now, the state of Illinois owes more than $9 billion in unpaid bills. What are the consequences? Apparently, not much. Last year, taxpayers dished out more than $86 million in late fees because state agencies could not pay their bills on time.

Judy Baar Topinka is the state comptroller. The Republican is the one who pays the state's bills. When she doesn't, "We try and parse as much as we can to put some money here, some money there to try and hold it all together with bailing wire and bubble gum," she sa.

Illinois is bound by what's called the Prompt Payment Act. If it doesn't pay bills within 60 days, it has to pay interest.

And yes, in 2012 alone, that added up to more than $86 million. According to Topinka, that puts Illinois at the bottom of the list, nationwide.

"We're probably 49 to 50 when it comes to unpaid bills," says Topinka. "What we owe just in bills, payments on bills could be like the whole budget for a foreign country, you know, if you stop and think about it."

The Department of Healthcare and Family Services has the biggest chunk, more than $80 million. That is because federal stimulus for Medicaid dried up, leaving Illinois to foot the bill. But the bigger budget problem, the $9 billion the state owes businesses, schools and more, is tied to the state pension crisis. The state's public pension plans are in the hole nearly $100 billion and counting.

"Every day that we wait to fix our pension problem, which jacks up at $17 million a day, so every day we wait, it gets worse," says Topinka.

We asked to interview the director of Healthcare and Family Services, which is responsible for more than 90 percent of the state's late payments. The agency sent us this statement:

"While many providers are waiting several months for reimbursement, HFS prioritizes payments to the extent possible for higher volume Medicaid providers (those providers with over 50 percent of their business generated through services to Medicaid clients). In other words, we try to target our limited cash resources to those providers serving the highest volume of Medicaid clients first.

"Our ability to make payments in a timely manner is hampered by the state's historic fiscal crisis. HFS worked with the General Assembly last year to make a number of very difficult spending reductions. And the administration of Governor Quinn has worked diligently to cut overall state spending levels down to 2008 levels over the last four years. However, until we address the structural deficit caused by the pension crisis, we are not going to have the resources to adequately fund priorities like healthcare, education, public safety and many other vital state programs. The interest payments on unpaid bills are one more reason why it is critical that we pass pension reform."

Missouri also must pay interest if the state pays bills late but to give you an idea of how big of a problem this is in Illinois, Missouri paid less than $600 in late fees in all of 2012.

What can be done?  Comptroller Topinka suggests contacting your representative and urging them to take action to fix the pension problem.

To find your legislative district, check THIS ILLINOIS PRECINCT MAP.

Here are the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of the state senators and representatives in our southern Illinois viewing area:

 

Senator William Haine (D), 56th District

ilsenator@hainedistrictoffice.com

Springfield Office: (217) 782-5247

District Office: (618) 465-4764

 

Senator James Clayborne, Jr. (D), 57th District

jfc87@norcom2000.com

Springfield Office: (217) 782-5399

District Office: (618) 875-1212

 

Senator Kyle McCarter (R), 54th District

senatormccarter@gmail.com

Springfield Office: (217) 782-5755

District Office: (618) 283-3000

 

Senator David Luechtefeld (R), 58th District

sendavel@midwest.net

Springfield Office: (217) 782-8137

District Office: (618) 243-9014

 

Senator William Sam McCann (R), 50th District

senatorsam@frontier.com

Springfield Office: (217) 782-8206

 

Senator Andy Manar (D), 48th District

amanar@senatedem.ilga.gov

Springfield Office: (217) 782-0228

District Office: (618) 635-2583

 

Representative Daniel Beiser (D), 111th District

beiser@sbcglobal.net

Springfield Office: (217) 782-5996

District Office: (618) 465-5900

 

Representative Jay Hoffman (D), 113th District

repjayhoffman@gmail.com

Springfield Office: (217) 782-0104

District Office: (618) 394-2211

 

Representative Dwight Kay (R), 112th District

dwightkay112@gmail.com

Springfield Office: (217) 782-8018

District Office: (618) 307-9200

 

Representative Eddie Lee Jackson, Sr. (D), 114th District

bbsty2010@gmail.com

Springfield Office: (217) 782-5951

District Office: (618) 875-9950

 

Representative Jerry Costello (D), 116th District

staterepcostello@gmail.com

Springfield Office: (217) 782-1018

District Office: (618) 282-7284

 

Representative Charles Meier (R), 108th District

repcmeier@gmail.com

Springfield Office: (217) 782-6401

District Office: (618) 651-0405

 

Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer (R), 100th District

repcddavidsmeyer@gmail.com

Springfield Office: (217) 782-1840

District Office: (217) 243-6221

 

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