With the books closed on another state fiscal year, the comptroller sees no improvement in the state’s finances. State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says the state still has a backlog of bills worth $8 billion, about the same as at this time last year. Some of those bills haven’t been sent to the comptroller’s office. For those that have arrived, the arrearage is $3.9 billion, with 160,000 bills awaiting payment, and those from the end of March now being paid.
As far as the new state budget containing $1.3 billion to pay off old bills, Topinka says she doesn’t believe it. “Basically, we moved the money out of the General Revenue Fund, we move it into funds which are dedicated to pay down unpaid bills, and then we go back to the General Revenue Fund, so we make a big circle. It’s not as though we’re really improving the situation much at all,” she said.
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Topinka insists that the only way the state can catch up on its bills is to cut spending, yet she criticizes the governor’s decision to close state facilities – prisons, developmental center and mental hospitals – that he considers unneeded.
“The reality is that we use every extra dollar we have to pay down bills, so if they would just cut spending by $1.3 billion, those dollars would be available for our paying,” she said.