Illinois lawmakers will try this week to accomplish in a few days what they have been unable to do in the past two years -- resolve the state’s worst financial crisis.
The legislative session that began today as the House convened will take aim at a budget deficit of at least $13 billion, including a backlog of more than $6 billion in unpaid bills and almost $4 billion in missed payments to underfunded state pensions.
The fiscal mess is largely of the lawmakers’ own making, and failure to address the shortages threatens public schools, local governments and other public services, said Dan Hynes, the state’s outgoing comptroller.
“We’ve reached a very critical and concerning point,” Hynes said in an interview in his Chicago office, with packing boxes stacked in the corner. “What’s missing right now is a general understanding by the public of where we are, of how bad it is, and what the fallout would be if we don’t deal with it properly.”
What the public may not appreciate, Wall Street does. Illinois shares with California the lowest U.S. state credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service, which in September forecast possible “further financial deterioration.” Unlike California, Moody’s assigned Illinois a negative outlook.