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Illinois Comptroller Says Prison Sale Isn’t Enough

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Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka

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SPRINGFIELD, IL (IRN) - The woman who pays the state’s bills says her office would like to pay down state bills with money brought in from the sale of Thomson Prison, but says it’s still not enough.

The state’s plan is to first pay off bonds used to pay to construct the prison. After that, the governor has said the state should focus on paying down some bills.

State Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka says even with money left over after paying off bonds, it is not enough to cover Illinois $8 billion in debts.

Topinka says pension reform would help the state’s financial condition. She says it’s something that must be done but she does have some qualms about the reforms.

“This is another one I think that’s unfair,” Topinka said. “Our state employees take such a beating that they have these pensions, they don’t really make all that much on these pensions. We have a few that obviously stand out but the majority are not that great, and these are things people have paid for. They’ve never missed a payment. So they’re going to take the heat for this when in effect they haven’t done the deed. They’ve been on the right here, right along. So it’s a really unfair thing, but you got to play the hand you’re dealt and here we sit so it’s got to get done.”

The governor wants lawmakers to work on pension reform when they return to Springfield for the fall Veto Session. Thomson was sold to the federal government for $165 million.

Meanwhile, a new analysis of the Illinois budget predicts a modest reduction in the state’s backlog of unpaid bills. The Civic Federation says the mix of overdue bills, Medicaid payments and insurance claims could drop by 14 percent, to $7.6 billion. But the report adds that there isn’t enough money allocated for the Medicaid program and insurance claims from public employees. It also argues some of the projections for trimming Medicaid costs are unrealistic.

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