"April surprise" helps lawmakers pay the state's unpaid bills

By WEEK Producer

June 12, 2013 Updated Jun 13, 2013 at 1:08 PM CDT

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Human service providers in Illinois can expect to see more action regarding their unpaid bills from the state.

The more than $1 billion being paid to service organizations is a welcomed surprise but legislators doubt it will happen again.

An article from our news partner, the Pantagraph, reports the state's debt to social service groups and organizations is down to $5.8 billion from $8.5 billion in April. A large part of that is from an unexpected $1.2 billion windfall, dubbed the "April surprise”.

"My understanding is that we have really gone a long way to catching up on the past due bills,” said state Senator Dave Koehler, (D) 46th Legislative District. “You've got to remember there's always about $2 billion of unpaid bills that are laying on the comptrollers desk any given month, and that's kind of the normal cycle."

The unexpected billion dollar revenue increase came from taxpayers selling assets before new federal tax laws took effect. The money will now go to organizations like the Children's Home in Peoria. CEO Clete Winkelmann has not heard from the state regarding the “April surprise”.

"Not to say that we wouldn't like to be even with the state and have a zero balance, but certainly our agency has not been impacted like many other human service organizations,” said Winkelmann.

State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka told the Associated Press she is "surprised [the legislature] tagged another billion or two onto the budget as if happy times were here again."

She said lawmakers seem to be under the impression the windfall will appear again in the future. Koehler says no one is expecting this surprise to happen again. He commends the legislature on incorporating the $1.2 billion into the budgeting process.

"We were able to address some very immediate needs of past due bills and some programs that had been cut,” he said.

Senator Koehler says the unexpected windfall serves a third purpose as state leaders plan to avoid the problems that have led to the economic hardships of Illinois.

"It really lets up some of the pressure on next year's budget as we move forward and look at ‘Fiscal Year 14’, which starts in July,” he said.

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