SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state's comptroller highlighted Illinois' worsening finances due to the budget deadlock Tuesday as the Republican governor unveiled a plan he said would save money by changing how goods and services are bought.
Rauner is urging lawmakers to pass legislation he said will reduce the time it takes to buy products by eliminating redundant steps in the procurement process. He estimates the state could save $514 million a year that can be used for colleges and human service programs.
"All of which I as governor would like to fund. We don't have the money today, and we haven't frankly had the money for a long time. We need reform to save taxpayer money," he said.
Rauner's announcement Tuesday came on a day when he and Leslie Munger, a Republican he appointed as comptroller following the death of predecessor Judy Baar Topinka, highlighted Illinois' worsening financial shape as the state enters the eighth month without a budget. Munger says the state is on pace to finish the fiscal year $6.2 billion further in debt because of court-ordered spending, other required appropriations and a drop in the income tax rate.
"Without a budget, the spending is open-ended and our fiscal path is catastrophic," Munger said in a statement.
Munger said state spending will outpace last year's rates by $1.2 billion. Factoring in the $5 billion in revenue lost when the individual income tax rate dropped last year from 5 percent to 3.75 percent brings the deficit to $6.2 billion.
The comptroller's projection Tuesday was top of the state's roughly $7 billion backlog in unpaid bills and the worst-funded pension system in the nation with about $111 billion in unfunded liability.
"We are in a cash crunch," Rauner said, pitching his plan to overhaul the state procurement system. The pending legislation would allow state agencies to have a "pre-qualified pool of vendors" for various supplies and services so officials don't have to go through the same steps every time goods are purchased.
Rauner also wants Illinois to be able to join a contract that another state has in place in some cases to speed up the process. At the same time, the proposal would create a preference for buying from Illinois businesses.
But with Rauner locked in a bitter budget dispute with Democrats controlling the Legislature, it's unclear how far his plan will go.
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