Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger said last week that state government's backlog of unpaid bills will hit $8.5 billion by the end of December, up from about $6 billion right now.
That's a headline-grabbing number, since the end of December is not exactly the greatest time for people and companies that are owed money by the state. The state's bill backlog was about $8 billion this past January, right after most of the 2011 state-income-tax hike expired. But the backlog fell to $3.5 billion by the end of July, and just $2.3 billion of those bills were more than 30 days overdue.
But let's take a look at another estimate Comptroller Munger released last week. The comptroller totaled state spending from last fiscal year that isn't currently being mandated by federal and state court decrees (Medicaid bills, state employee and judicial salaries, etc.), continuing appropriations (bond and pension payments, legislative salaries), signed appropriations bills (K-12 education), and other things, and came up with $4.3 billion.
The $4.3 billion is the total amount that was paid out last year but is not currently being sent to colleges and universities, state-employee health-care providers, non-Medicaid social-service providers, MAP Grant college-student-aid recipients, and lottery winners over $25,000, plus various "transfers out," including to local governments for things such as motor-fuel-tax distributions.
Eventually, that money will have to be paid in full or in part, or significant portions of the state are gonna be in a big world of hurt.