Wall Street Journal: How Bad Is the Crisis in Illinois? A $14.6 Billion “Train Wreck”
No Corner of the State Spared from Bruce Rauner’s Failed Leadership
Chicago, IL — Just a week after The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board labeled Bruce Rauner “Governor Junk,” the publication took an in-depth look at the crisis of Rauner's own creating.
No corner of this state has been spared from the devastation brought on by Rauner’s intransigence. Read for yourself:
The unpaid backlog is now $14.6 billion and growing. Illinois is even late paying its utilities bills to Springfield, its own capital city.
Health care is the capital’s biggest employer apart from the state itself. Springfield’s two hospital systems—Memorial Health and HSHS St. John’s—say they together are owed more than $200 million by the state. Edgar Curtis, Memorial Health’s chief executive, says he has put off a $100 million capital-expansion project because of the uncertainty.
Springfield Mayor James Langfelder, a Democrat, says sales-tax revenue has declined by $2 million since 2015, which he attributes to state employees making fewer purchases. On top of that, the state owes the city $5 million for utilities on buildings it rents from the city.
Peoria-based OSF Healthcare, a network with 10 Illinois hospitals, is owed about $115 million for bills over four months old, the equivalent of 18 days of operating expenses, says Chief Financial Officer Michael Allen. “We have to be cautious about our future,” he says. “There’s just no end in sight."
Professors in the chemistry department haven’t been able to print in color since the department’s printer ran out of yellow ink a year ago. Biochemistry professor Mary Konkle says she decided to leave her tenured position when she no longer had funding to order equipment or chemicals for her research.
In Charleston, where the university is based, empty storefronts litter Lincoln Avenue, the main thoroughfare running by campus. Jerry’s Pizza, a staple for professors and students since 1978, closed last October, citing the university’s shrinking population.
If the state doesn’t pass a budget in the current special legislative session or allocate emergency funding, about 700 road projects under way across the state—worth $2.3 billion and employing 20,000 people—will come to a stop.
Some social-services agencies have given up on receiving state funding. Others have closed entirely, leaving some rural communities without mental-health clinics, domestic-violence shelters and drug-treatment clinics, despite an opioid crisis gripping some towns downstate.
Illinois has lost more residents than any other American state for the third year in a row, with 90% of the state’s counties seeing a drop in population, shrinking the state’s tax base. In 2016, a net of 37,508 people left, according to census data, putting the population at its lowest in nearly a decade.
The state owes Illinois dentists $225 million, and some of those bills go back 23 months, according to the Illinois State Dental Society.