CHICAGO — Illinois expects to collect $369 million more in the current fiscal year than previously estimated, according to new estimates.

The estimate came in a report released Tuesday by the non-partisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. Previous estimates projected the state would collect $35.4 billion in revenues for the fiscal year that began July 1 and ends next June 30.

With one-third of the fiscal year now complete, the commission said a clearer picture exists of total projected revenues expected to come into state general fund coffers this year and the figure was revised upward to $35.8 billion.

About $200 million of the increase is due to stronger than expected sales tax receipts.

"Fiscal 2013 sales tax ended on a strengthening trend and has continued to perform well through the first third of the fiscal year" to exceed conservative fiscal 2014 estimates, the report noted.

Another $100 million will come from available funds not used in the income tax refund account, resulting in a total transfer from the account to the general fund of nearly $400 million. The increase in anticipated general funds also is due to the transfer of various drug company settlement funds not counted in the original estimates.

"Things, in balance, appear to be doing well," revenue manager Jim Muschinske said in published reports. He cautioned that with eight months left in the fiscal year some uncertainty remains as to final revenue figures.

It's not yet clear how the state will use the extra funds. Several state agencies have requested additional funds be allocated in the current budget to cover costs and the state owes back wages to employees. The additional cash could make a small dent in the state's current backlog of more than 98,000 bills totaling $5.5 billion. Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's office posts a daily update on the status of state vouchers.

Illinois has made some progress in paying down its massive bill backlog beginning last year and again this year and was aided in the effort by higher than expected income tax collections in April as tax filers sought to avoid higher federal rates taking effect on some assets. The state ended fiscal 2013 June 30 with a $6.1 billion backlog.

The size of the state's bill backlog is one of several central factors in the state's credit deterioration although it's taken a backseat in credit reports to the General Assembly's failure to tackle pension reforms. Illinois' general obligation rating is the lowest among states at the low-single-A level and it carries a negative outlook from all three rating agencies.

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