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Topinka: State needs to find a billion dollars

Tuesday, Jan 22, 2013

* 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.

* More

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.”

* Meanwhile

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.

* Related…

* Deadbeat Illinois: Ambulance services suffer as state delays payments

* Drug disposal program languishes as state waits for funding to build

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Sue - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 6:29 am:

    Judy- here is a thought- reduce the State contributions into the pension funds by a Billion $$ and fund more pressing needs- the only way to get the unions to the table for serious negotiations on the pensions is to reduce the $$ being contributed- why should the IEA, IFT and the rest of the bunch give serious thought to negotiating a solution as long as the State is making 100 percent of the funding contributions recommended by the actuaries?

  2. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 6:54 am:

    What she should recommend is that each state department look at the core of what it is supposed to do. The department can then focus on that core goal, and get everything else.

    For instance, the Comptroller should focus on the money management task and get out of the dog adoption task, even if that means that the Comptroller can no longer pose with cute little doggies.

    And then maybe the Comptroller can look at her office and realize that it exists for no other reason than politics and recommend that it be folded into the Treasurer’s office.

    At least those are the recommendations that a Comptroller would make if she cared about our money and not about getting headlines for the Comptroller.

  3. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 6:58 am:

    Sue, here’s a thought. Let’s get the cash to pay for state services from the taxpayers and not the constitutionally and contractually protected pension funds. Your drive-by comments are as repetitive as they are predictable. Say hello to your fellow tea-partiers for me.

  4. - Joe Taxpayer - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 7:10 am:

    I don’t know….seniors, children and the disabled are some of the state’s most vulnerable people.

    I kind of agree with Sue, we need to prioritize things a little better. The thought of throwing the most vulnerable out on the streets to fend for themselves is horrifying.

  5. - Sue - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 7:17 am:

    Hi Joe- did you happen to miss the news on Indiana which now has a 500 million $$ surplus- how long do you think the taxpayers want to see their hard earned contributions flushed down the Springfield toilet of ineptitude- it is time to stop hoping that taxes are the only answer- the answer is reform plus taxes which will only happen when we elect public officials who recognize we are in a crisis and need to address both spending and revenue

  6. - Sue - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 7:19 am:

    Sorry Joe- my comment was intended for public Servant

  7. - Joe Taxpayer - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 7:45 am:

    “Translation: Without bipartisan support, Madigan probably won’t move ahead with this.”

    So Madigan is willing to hold seniors, children and the disabled hostage?

    Speaker Madigan, your party controls all the levers of power in Springfield, and has for over a decade. Your party has controlled the state’s largest city lock, stock, and barrel for decades.

    You control redistricting in the state. You control which candidates get campaign funds. Hell, you even have a member of your party that is from Illinois in the White House in the first days of his second term controlling the executive branch of the largest, richest nation on earth.

    What else do you need, man?

    PLEASE stop holding seniors, children and the disabled hostage!

  8. - Sir Reel - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 7:48 am:

    I suspect the “supplemental” funds Topinka refers to included dedicated funds. Is Quinn ready to skim/borrow from such funds again? Folks I’ve talked to who have created and paid into dedicated funds for a specific purpose are disgusted that their efforts and money have been taken.

  9. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 8:29 am:

    Facts I’d like to introduce you to Sue. Sue, if you have a moment to educate yourself, and you would, if you turned Hannity off, read the following:,%20Tax%20and%20Revenue/CTBA%20Graduated%20Income%20Tax%20FINAL%20Report%20Feb%202012.pdf

  10. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 8:32 am:

    You’ll never see interest rates this low again. A portion of the income tax increase was dedicated for a bond issue to pay old bills.

    The choice is between continuing to borrow from social service providers at a higher rate — putting them and their clients at risk — or borrowing from Wall Street at a lower rate.

    It’s just arithmetic. The rest is just spin.

  11. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 8:42 am:

    Need to find a Billion Dolars? One word.


    To the Post,

    ===Without bipartisan support, Madigan probably won’t move ahead with this.===

    Madigan, who is pretty good at things, will not go down this borrowing road without Republican votes. Further, Madigan won’t go down this road unless Quinn gets his act together to get some Republican votes, because, at this point, and the way Madigan ended the 97th GA without a vote on the Dopey commission, Madigan is making it quite clear, “It ain’t all gonna be me.”

    Sidebar - Where are all those “Conservative Reagan Republicans”? Where is the “Way to go, Comptroller”? Is Comptroller Topinka not worthy of your fiscal conservative praise? Well … McSweeney? Oberweis? McCarter? Topinka is fighting those nasty Democrats, fiscally …all I hear are crickets? 80% is still 80%.

  12. - Anonymour - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 9:21 am:

    OW - the reason you hear crickets is that they are too small for Squeezey to bother eating.

  13. - Caveman - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 9:29 am:

    I suggest we increase the income tax to 5% for a couple years to pay off the backlog. Oh wait, never mind.

  14. - Anyone Remember? - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 9:43 am:

    Caveman -

    As was noted on these pages previously, Dan Rutherford has stated the increase has all gone to the pension ramp up. Not a penny for past due bills.

  15. - Dirty Red - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 9:55 am:

    Did someone seriously suggest skimming the state’s pension contribution for other spending? Really? I realize it was a three day weekend, but seriously listen to what you’re suggesting, Sue.

    Skeeter - She’s talked about consolidating the offices since before she took office. The Senate passed it unanimously. The Speaker won’t budge and call the bill for a vote. Why should she continue to put her political capital behind an amendment that is going nowhere? I’m not saying consolidation is a bad idea because it’s a great idea. But standing behind a bill as dead as the Comptroller of the Treasury for so long would be too Pat Quinnish.

  16. - Caveman - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 9:57 am:

    Anyone Remember-
    The point is what was presented as a fix is not.

  17. - USMCJanitor - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 9:59 am:

    ==What she should recommend is that each state department look at the core of what it is supposed to do. The department can then focus on that core goal, and get everything else.===

    Dead on. This has to start right away. Instead of each department or agency constantly looking to get more money and expand what they do (for PR or other reasons). The need to focus on their core responsibilities and prioritize.

    In private business its what we have to do! we dont expand what we do unless we can afford it. We cut budgets ALL THE TIME. But a cut in government and the first cries are “old people and children will die!!! Police and Fireman will lose their jobs!!!”

    Sorry. If that is all our state government did I could see it. But we have programs, services, and agencies that just continue to grow with no way to pay for them and right now people and business are not exactly flooding to Illinois and providing hopes for a bright future.

    On Madigan… what can you say. the Democrat party in Illinois controls pretty much everything and has big majorities, but he says he needs bi-partisan support. BS. He doesnt want to own the issue. But he needs to.

  18. - Kevin Highland - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 10:11 am:

    “And then maybe the Comptroller can look at her office …and recommend that it be folded into the Treasurer’s office. –Skeeter

    If you look back in time on this very blog the Comptroller suggested that very thing:

    · FISCAL OFFICE CONSOLIDATION ($12 million in savings): Combining the offices of Treasurer and Comptroller will save an estimated $12 million annually – and while we’re at it, let’s look at the Lt. Gov’s office and all the other unnecessary layers of government that exist in Illinois.

    I’m sure she ran for the office because it constitutionally needs to be filled until the do nothing legislature can pass the Constitutional amendment to eliminate the office.

  19. - Wumpus - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 10:17 am:

    Why does Skeeter hate doggies?

    Nah, I actually think his suggestion is a great start.

  20. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 10:18 am:

    What I used to do is to put the gas company check into the electric bill envelope and vice/versa. Or, I would “forget” to sign the check when I put it into the phone company envelope. That usually gave me a couple weeks leeway.

  21. - cubird - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 10:21 am:

    Comments that Illinois tax rates should be like the State of Indiana…I agree. We should adopt their service tax policy.

  22. - mythoughtis - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 10:25 am:

    I agree seniors should be protected. Now why is it that we should only protect seniors that did not work for the state prior to becoming seniors?

    I agree we should protect the disabled. Now why is it that we should only protect the disabled that did not work for the state prior to becoming disabled?

    If we don’t make the required pension contributions, then we will not adequately fund the retirement security for retired state employees, therely making them poor enough to be eligible for state services for the low income. Thereby increasing the strain on that budget… unless of course we will only protect the low income people that were not formerly state employees?

    I suggest we stop all feel good grants. If it is not legally required, necessary for security, safety, food, shelter, utilities, etc… then we give it a once-over to see if we really need it. If you wouldn’t fund it in your home budget, then maybe we need to re-think it in the state budget. If we still need to fund it, then let’s face it, the temporary tax increase become permanent, and we start legalizing things that we have ruled illegal to protect adults from themselves.

  23. - ChrisB - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 10:26 am:


    She basically ran on that second point during her election. I could be wrong, but I believe that she’s been banging that gong since she was the Treasurer.

    Talk to Madigan about merging the offices, JBT is totally for it.

  24. - walkinfool - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 10:32 am:

    JBT tells the truth, and talks like many of the responsible Democrats in Springfield. There’s got to be a way to meet at the center on this.

  25. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 10:45 am:

    Nice to see that even California managed to balance their books and pay their bills current during the past 2 years or so.

    Us? Not so much.

    Someone call Jerry Brown, quick.

  26. - Irish - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 11:07 am:

    “If she has identified additional reserves,” Ms. Feigenholtz said in an email, “she should present a detailed plan and we will gladly review it.”

    “But don’t expect any of us to take the time or expend the effort to come up with a plan ourselves to solve the fiscal problems.” she went on to say. “We are only here a few days a year and we only have time to say no.”

  27. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 11:12 am:

    This sounds all too familiar - when borrowing was suggested in the past, Madigan indicated a need for bipartisan support. The GOP indicated they were adamant that no borrowing should be done. Calls for looking for fat in the budget/eliminating waste fraud and abuse were trumpeted. Nothing was done and here we are.

    Happy New Year

  28. - RNUG - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 11:19 am:

    Notice the health insruance is the biggest item listed? Back last year, we knew this day was coming when the GA underfunded the employee / retiree health insurance.

    The only surprise of sorts is the $800M amount for that item; at the time they were estimating only about $400M short and figuring on getting that from the retirees by eliminating the “20 year premium free health insurance”.

  29. - USMCJanitor - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 11:45 am:

    ===There’s got to be a way to meet at the center on this===

    What center? Political center or center between cuts/spending? or where?

    I just heard this also this morning… Meeting in the middle, need bipartisan support… Illinois is not run by the republicans. Here we have a single party in control, they dont need repubs for anything.

  30. - MrJM - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 3:01 pm:

    Topinka: State needs to find a billion dollars

    Has anybody looked under the car seat? There’s usually some money under there…

    – MrJM

  31. - cassandra - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 3:39 pm:

    Are we sure all the cash-seeking agencies have made the necessary economies. DCFS, for example, had a well-publicized plan to move mid-level managers into field positions, to bolster the front-lines and reduce caseloads–as well as middle management flab. Nobody was to be laid off either. But then Quinn terminated the contract, so it wasn’t clear the required negotiations were completed. These, and similar economies should be implemented across the board before agencies start transferring cash to one another.

  32. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 4:20 pm:

    “But we’ve cut to the bone and then some.”


    The SJ-R recently reported on an IDOT “Urban Streetscape” grant program with $20 million available IIRC. The City of SPI is planning to apply for $5 million to complete the “Capitol Avenue Beautification Project” between 2nd and 5th streets.
    First of all, why should State (or maybe Federal) taxpayers fund projects of local value? Secondly, are they going to pave the street with gold bricks? Over $1 million a city block. Geez.

  33. - wishbonelpable - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 6:18 pm:

    I know broken record, but a 4% across the board cut on all appropriations (except pensions) would generate almost exactly the one billion needed. Challenge the so called senior agency managers to do their jobs with 96% of last year’s resources. It seems so obvious.

  34. - wishbone - Tuesday, Jan 22, 13 @ 6:20 pm:

    That was wishbone.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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