Originally Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2012, 12:59 pm
Last Updated: Oct. 23, 2012, 1:02 pm
Jacobs: On state finances
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By Sen. Mike Jacobs
Last week, we got the news that the federal government finally was closing the deal to purchase the state's maximum security prison in Thomson. The move will bring hundreds of jobs to the area, but it will also provide the state with $165 million -- the agreed purchase price of the prison.
This is a one-time influx of money and, to me, the most responsible thing to do with it -- once we pay off the remaining balance on the prison construction loan -- would be to pay some of the bills we owe.
Now, $165 million is a lot of money. But, unfortunately, even if it all went to pay old bills it won't wipe out the backlog. For too many years, too many governor's over promised on services and never followed up with the funding. In effect, the state borrowed billions from businesses, not-for-profit agencies, schools and others who provide services on behalf of Illinois and then await payment.
But that is the past. We are, finally, paying our bills.
The budget that was approved in May includes more than $1 billion to clear out old health-care bills and other payments to state vendors. When combined with budget cuts and our re-prioritizing of the budget process, we've been able to reduce the backlog by several billion dollars.
We will have to continue doing this in the coming budgets as we pay down this debt to our vendors and institutions.
At the same time, we must put in place safeguards to make sure there's no more fuzzy math that allowed the backlog to grow in the first place.
That's why we also changed the law to end the accounting trick of governor's hiding the true cost of state government by carrying millions of dollars in health care payments from one budget year to the next.
This combination of finding savings and following the safeguards will put us on track to getting these bills paid.
As for your other question, no, I have not seen anything to convince me that the current tax rates should continue past 2015. By law, the current rates go down in January 2015. Extending them would require someone proposing and passing a new law. As I said above, that's not something I would support.
Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, represents Illinois Senate District 36.