Comptroller Tells Lawmakers To Get Thrifty

May 22, 2013

Illinois' stack of overdue bills is smaller, thanks to stronger-than expected tax revenues.  But as lawmakers begin finalizing a new state budget, one of the state's chief fiscal officers is cautioning lawmakers to get thrifty.  

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, wearing the designer dress she purchased at Goodwill.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's wearing a purple, long-sleeved knit dress.  It's by St. John's, a designer label whose dresses retail for about $800. Topinka brags she got it for $7 at Goodwill.

The Republican isn't suggesting legislators go thrift shopping -- but she is urging they adopt her style as they draft a new budget.

Yes, Illinois' doing okay ... for now.  With April's surge in tax filings, she was able to bring Illinois' $8.5 billion in overdue bills down to $5.8 billion.

TOPINKA: "I don't want the legislature, the governor or anybody around here to get all comfy cozy that we've caught up in some capacity and we've got money to burn. Uh uh.  By August and without the tax flow coming in or further changes in federal law, etc. that little bump will be history."

Topinka's advice: don't borrow, keep cutting, no new programs.

Official budget plans have not yet surfaced in the General Assembly, but there are proposals that would direct new revenues toward paying old bills. But there's also pressure to pay down Illinois' pension debt, and to stave off cuts to education.