Illinois faces budget blues

January 12, 2009 3:39:37 PM PST
The budget crisis in Illinois is putting some social services in jeopardy.The state has $3 billion in unpaid bills.

Comptroller Dan Hynes says the recession, gridlock in Springfield and the battle to impeach the governor have made it difficult to solve the crisis.

Some social service agencies say they may have to shut down if they don't get funding.

The state government in Springfield would be coping with a severe case of budget blues even without the Blagojevich scandal because tax revenues are down from last year, spending is up and the politicians couldn't agree on a long term solution before the governor was busted by the feds.

But the criminal charges, the pending indictment and the upcoming impeachment trial have made it impossible to confront the big problems like how to pay thousands of service providers that can't pay their own bills when the state doesn't pay them.

Rich Kovach is one of the alcoholics, drug addicts and ex-convicts who live in a recovery center on the West Side that's in danger of shutting down because the center's only received one $6,000 check from the state of Illinois in the past six months which is $71,000 less than its contract with the state calls for.

"An alcoholic or drug addict like myself that's in recovery needs places like this because out on the streets, we're dead. Period," said Kovach who is a recovering alcoholic.

Jack Clark Recovery Center is one of more than 60,000 state contractors that have been waiting nearly two months for $3 billion in back bills to be paid by the state which doesn't have the money because the budget's not balanced.

The recession's making things worse. The governor's legal and political problems are paralyzing the process.

"Ordinarily, you would have a governor taking the lead on enacting budget cuts or finding revenues or bringing everybody together saying here are the priorities. Our governor is just basically trying to stay out of jail," Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes.

The governor's office is calling for on the state's top officials to sit down and work it out like they did in agreeing on a short term borrowing plan last month. But anything more than that may not be possible.

"We are really powerless right now because we are without leadership in the governor's office," said Hynes.

"If you have a governor in place who's being impeached I don't think he's going to be making any decisions for the people of this great state," said Anthony Williams, Jack Clark Recovery Center.

The governor had a plan to confront some of the budget issues. But with the exception of $1.4 billion in short term borrowing which paid a few bills to a few contractors Illinois still has a $3 billion problem and no solution, unless Barack Obama's recovery plan pays a lot of Medicaid bills and balances some of the state budgets. But that could be a long way off.