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Rauner Moves On Backlog; Dems Wary Of Cuts

Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza (file)

More than two months after the Illinois General Assembly finally approved a state budget, Gov. Bruce Rauner is moving ahead with a plan to begin cutting into the $15 billion backlog of bills.

The state will issue bonds to pay off bills with double-digit interest penalties, saving hundreds of millions of dollars this year.

Comptroller Susana Mendoza, whose job includes paying those bills, says the borrowing is not for new programs, it’s to pay money the state already agreed to spend on contractors who do work for the government.

“The state of Illinois has been borrowing against the will of the vendors over the last two years, and it’s time that we stop being deadbeats and get to work on paying them back," Mendoza said Thursday in a telephone interview.

Mendoza praised Rauner's move, while also wondering why he waited two months to initiate the borrowing.

Rauner, a Republican, says he's looking for programs to cut in order to pay off the bonds.

Democrats, like Rep. Greg Harris from Chicago, say they worry Rauner will target human service providers like he did during the budget stalemate.

“All his traditional targets — the epilepsy foundation, autism, teen reach, after-school programming, violence prevention — have not gotten contracts yet," Harris said Thursday in a telephone interview.

Rauner also says he wants legislators back in Springfield this fall to work more on the budget and his economic agenda.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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