Comptroller: Illinois on pace to rack up $5B deficit

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger says the state's checking account is officially out of money, and that bills aren't going to get paid.

However, Gov. Bruce Rauner's Administration promised a series of judges that Illinois’ bills would be paid.

FOX 32’s Political Editor Mike Flannery reports that two of those judges have ordered state officials into court Wednesday morning to explain.

Here’s what’s at issue: Payments to providers of human services, and Medicaid for more than a million Illinoisans.

One pediatrician on the North Side says the state owes him more than $11,000 and that he's dipping into retirement funds to keep his office open.

“It's devastating. You know, we have to pay rent. We still have to buy immunizations,” said Dr. Todd Ochs.

Ochs and other doctors who care for the poor are eager to hear what happens in two federal courtrooms on Wednesday. In one, Judge Sharon Coleman will consider whether to hold state officials in contempt. In the other, Judge Joan Lefkow will preside.

Although both judges ordered state comptroller Leslie Munger to pay promptly tens of millions owed to human service providers, Munger's spokesman now says there's simply not enough cash.

"We are prepared to explain to the Court that we simply do not have the funds to immediately pay all organizations covered under the existing order(s) and still meet legally required debt and payroll payments. But we are prioritizing...with precedence given to those serving our elderly, children and most vulnerable," the spokesperson said.

“It's not a defense to say, "We don't have the funds to do it." The state's gonna have to find the money somewhere to pay for this,” said Dan Lesser of Shriver Center on Poverty Law.

Lesser's among a small army of lawyers who will be fighting this out in various courtrooms Wednesday.

Comptroller Munger says a dozen different judges in state and federal courts have issued orders and consent decrees requiring payment of billions of dollars in bills, despite the lack of an approved state budget.

Late Tuesday, leaders of 30 religious denominations, including Christians, Jews and Muslims, sent an open leader to Gov. Rauner and the leaders of the General Assembly calling on them to care for the state's poor.

“There is money. If there's not any money in your immediate pocket, then find the money and put in the pocket,” said Reverend Paul Rutgers.

“Why should children be the ones almost always to suffer in these kinds of situations," Dr. Ochs questioned.

The religious leaders leave to the pols the details of getting the money.

Comptroller Munger says the state is on track to spend about $5 billion more than it will take in this fiscal year.

So far, Gov. Rauner's made relatively few cuts, far short of what's needed.

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