sullivan 011210br0098 - for webSenator John Sullivan recently wrote a column explaining the state of Illinois' current $6 billion backlog of unpaid bills, and his support of a plan to pay those past-due bills. The column was published by the McDonough County Voice in Macomb. Read it here.

For those who join Senator Sullivan in supporting a plan to pay the bills, please sign the online petition.

Read the column after the jump.

OP-ED: Unpaid bills impact Illinois lives

Let’s be honest. Illinois continues to navigate some of the most challenging times in our nearly 200-year history.  On the economic front, even though our state was ranked fourth in job creation in 2010, past job losses have made it difficult to reduce unemployment rates as rapidly as many have hoped.  Statistically, our state is showing signs of economic recovery, but it is fragile at best. 

Our state balance sheets are also in crisis.  It is undeniable that, like nearly every other state in the nation, Illinois’ revenues dropped as a result of the national economic meltdown.  At the same time, the need for services has increased.  And, frankly, decades of poor budget practices by Republican and Democrat governors and the legislatures that enabled these efforts share responsibility. 

In Springfield, there is no shortage of debate taking place regarding how and why our state got to such a difficult point.  Looking to past practice does have value to ensure that history isn’t repeated again.  However, Springfield’s culture of partisan finger pointing is doing little to solve the immediate problems that, actually, have a credible solution.

Right now, our state owes over $6 billion to small business owners, schools and universities, local communities, and service providers who care for children, seniors and the disabled.  For many months, these employers have waited to be paid to no avail.  As a result, they’re forced to borrow from local banks or take out other kinds of loans to simply make payroll or keep the lights on.

In January, lawmakers raised income taxes from 3% to 5%.  Frustrated by the Governor’s lack of clarity on past cuts that were promised, I didn’t support that tax.  Nevertheless, that decision was made and now it is critical that our state pays its obligations.

This is why I support a plan to immediately pay the existing $6 billion of unpaid, past-due bills through a responsible debt restructuring plan.  The proposal under discussion would authorize low-interest bonding to immediately obtain the funds to pay those we owe.  The bonds would be paid off over several years by dedicating a portion of income tax revenue.

The situation in Springfield is complex, but one thing is certain: if we don’t pass a debt restructuring plan, the result will be thousands of unpaid Illinois employers will, at some point, be forced to cut jobs or close their doors. 

What’s holding this plan up?  Unfortunately, it’s partisan politics. This plan requires Republican votes to pass.  To date, Republicans have banded together in unified opposition to the plan.  They’ve also provided no meaningful alternatives.

Here in Western Illinois, thousands of bills will be paid through the plan I support. On the other hand, thousands of lives are affected by doing nothing.  That’s why I’m asking to hear from those who desperately need Illinois to pay its bills.

If Illinois owes you, your employer, or a provider of service that is important to you, take the time to visit my website, sign the online petition supporting this plan and, just as importantly, share with me your stories about how this issue impacts you.  Find the petition at www.SenatorJohnSullivan.com/PayTheBills.