* Topinka warns the state needs more cash…
Illinois’ top fiscal officer urged lawmakers Monday to transfer more than $1 billion from financially sound state programs to agencies that are in danger of running out of money, including some that serve seniors, children and the disabled.
Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said the supplemental funds are needed so the agencies can pay for services through this fiscal year, which ends in June.
“We need to end the denial and address those budget shortfalls before they jeopardize critical services that our residents depend on,” said Topinka, a Republican.
She said a health insurance fund for state workers faces a $900 million shortfall. The Department of Aging needs an estimated $200 million for a program that helps seniors and people with disabilities in home-based settings; workers compensation has requested an additional $82 million; and the Department of Children and Family Services needs about $25 million to avoid laying off child-welfare workers, she said.
She suggested that other state agencies be required to set aside a portion of their appropriation in reserve, money that could be switched to the social-service providers.
The comptroller said the donating agencies and programs would have to be “financially sound.” Asked who might fit that definition, she pointed to Gov. Pat Quinn, saying that all of the agencies “report to the governor” and that he is “in the best position” to determine who can do without.
Ms. Topinka said she’s willing to set aside 12 percent of her budget, about $3 million, for that purpose. […]
Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, chairman of the House Human Services Appropriations Committee, says it “is correct” that more money is needed and vendors need to be paid, but Ms. Topinka needs to put some skin in the game herself with specifics. “If she has identified additional reserves,” Ms. Feigenholtz said in an email, “she should present a detailed plan and we will gladly review it.”
Despite repeated failures, Democrats again are considering a multibillion-dollar loan to pay down the state’s backlog of past-due bills, now hovering at a near-record $9 billion.
Republicans, led by State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, continue to resist the short-term loan idea as a way for Illinois to pay down stacks of invoices overdue by as much as four months to businesses, charities and local governments performing some of the state’s most essential services.
But an influential Senate Democrat, John Sullivan, is working on a borrowing proposal to re-introduce in this spring’s legislative session. A House budget leader, Rep. Frank Mautino, said a loan would mean “tremendous” savings and should be part of upcoming budget negotiations with Gov. Pat Quinn.
Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said Topinka’s vociferous testimony against the measure during last fall’s session had “a chilling effect” because borrowing is “the kind of thing that needs a bipartisan coalition.”
Translation: Without bipartisan support, Madigan probably won’t move ahead with this.
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