CHICAGO – The Illinois comptroller’s office received an infusion Wednesday of $6.48 billion of bond proceeds to cut down the state’s record $16.7 billion backlog of unpaid bills.

The state closed on its two recent bonds sales totaling $6 billion. The bonds sold at a premium price so they generated additional proceeds. Comptroller Susana Mendoza said about $2.5 billion will go immediately to cover unpaid medical bills with close to $4 billion being used to pay down unpaid state health insurance claims owed to medical providers.

The office will prioritize bills eligible for federal matching fund with the expectation that an additional $2 billion of the backlog can be paid off. The state pays interest rates of 9% to 12% on some of its bills. The all-in borrowing rate paid by the state on the 12-year general obligation bonds authorized in the fiscal 2018 budget package to pay down the backlog landed at 3.5%.

Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza
Illinois comptroller Susana Mendoza said bond proceeds received Wednesday would pay down old medical bills. Illinois Comptroller's Office

"These payments will effectively stop the bleeding of late payment interest penalties on this portion of the backlog. There is still a long, hard road ahead of us, but this is a vital first step toward smart planning for fiscal 2019 and beyond,” Mendoza said in a statement.

Also on Wednesday, the Senate overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the Debt Transparency Act in a 52-to-3 bipartisan vote. The House previously overrode the veto, so the act now becomes law.

The legislation expands what’s now an annual report on bills held by agencies to monthly reporting. Mendoza lobbied lawmakers for their support, arguing that more timely reporting was needed to improve cash and debt management that could improve state finances.

The backlog was driven up to a record level by the record two-year budget impasse that ended in July. Unpaid bills are a key factor in the state’s credit profile as they provides a picture of its cash and liquidity status. The state carries two ratings that are the lowest investment grade level.

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