Topinka: State’s debt load same as last year

Illinois’ top financial officer says despite raising the state’s income tax, this year’s budget hole will be just as gaping as the last. Luke Runyon has that story:

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says she’s still facing a staggering backlog of bills. She says all the new tax money is not chipping away at the state’s massive debt.

“We are looking at probably being at the same place we were, same time, last year, roughly around 8.2 billion dollars in the hole,” Topinka said.

Power players at the capitol are all throwing in ideas to plug that hole. Topinka says spending cuts need to come first and says lawmakers need to pare back programs she deems are frivilous and wasteful. Governor Pat Quinn suggests borrowing to pay off those agencies waiting for state payments. But Ralph Martire, with the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a Chicago-based think tank, says lawmakers shouldn’t be skiddish about raising taxes again.

“You can’t take revenue options off the table. I mean just because we did a tax increase for the first time in like 450,000 years in Illinois this January, doesn’t mean that we’re done with that side of the ledger,” Martire said.

Almost all those options are politically unsavory to lawmakers, though legislative leaders say they’ll have a balanced budget by the end of next month.

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