state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka

CHICAGO -- Illinois closed out the first quarter of fiscal 2015 with its bill backlog holding steady at under $5 billion, state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka reported in her office's monthly update.

The state closed out September with $2.7 billion of submitted but unpaid general fund vouchers from vendors, down from $3.8 billion at the end of August. Another $2.2 billion of bills are being held by state agencies.

All fiscal year 2014 general fund obligations on hand in the comptroller's office were paid by the end of September. The state in the past has taken longer to pay off its previous year's bills. The state closed out fiscal 2014 on June 30 with a bill backlog of about $4.6 billion, down from a high of nearly $10 billion a few years ago.

Corporate income tax deposits were down from September of last year, and year-to-date corporate income tax receipts were down $72 million, or 11.3%. Year-to-date individual income tax deposits in to the general fund were up $72 million, or 2%, as deposits in September were stronger than last year. Sales tax receipts were up $47 million in September, and are up $95 million or 4.9% year-to-date.

Topinka's report said the state can expect the bill backlog to increase given historical pattern. Tax collections are fluid.

"After three months of weak corporate income tax collections, October's collections are not expected to be much stronger," the report said.

Another revenue the office is watching for its impact on the bill backlog is riverboat gambling, which has been weak.

"Continued weakness will impact the backlog in the Education Assistance Fund," the report said.

While the state has chipped away at its bill backlog, passage of budget that relies on some one-shots and falls short on appropriations for expected expenses is expected to drive the backlog up unless lawmakers act to make permanent 2011 income tax hikes that partially expire next year or cut more deeply into spending during the fiscal year. Analysts watch the backlog closely as a sign of the state's liquidity position.

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