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Watchdog Predicts $22B In Unpaid Bills For State Gov’t By 2018

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The long list of people the state owes money to could nearly triple in five years, if lawmakers don’t get costs under control, according to a local budget watchdog group.

WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports an analysis by the Civic Federation found the state’s unpaid bills could balloon to $22 billion by 2018 if the General Assembly doesn’t act to reduce pension and Medicaid costs.

“We are concerned, and we’re quite worried that the state of Illinois is on a path to run up its unpaid bills to over $22 billion, and it’s not going to be able to fund essential state services,” said Civic Federation President Laurence Msall.

Even though lawmakers have made some reforms to the state’s Medicaid system, Msall they must trim more costs. He also said state lawmakers have yet to tackle the state’s massive pension costs – amounting to more than $96 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

Msall said the backlog of unpaid bills might mean doctors caring for state employees would see their current one-year wait for reimbursement double.

“This raises real questions about who will continue to provide services to the state of Illinois,” he said.

Msall suggested lawmakers cut the compounding 3 percent pension benefit hike that retirees automatically receive.

“It’s far more generous than the state can afford, and because we’ve underfunded it, it’s the most natural place to go to stabilize these pensions,” he said.

While $22 billion in unpaid bills sounds daunting, it’s down significantly from last year, when the Civic Federation’s five-year outlook for unpaid bills was $35 billion.