Ill. Senate rejects borrowing to pay old bills

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois senators said "no" to more borrowing Sunday, even if it would have let the state pay its overdue bills.

Senators considered one part of a plan to borrow nearly $6.2 billion, but it failed 19-23, and Sen. John Sullivan didn't bother calling the other pieces of legislation for a vote.

Sullivan, D-Rushville said it was important for Illinois to pay the hospitals, businesses and community groups that work for the state but then wait months for their money.

"This is debt the state of Illinois has right now," Sullivan said. "It's hurting business. It's hurting individuals. It's hurting our children."

But Republicans said it would be a mistake to pay the bills by borrowing more money and paying it off over seven years.

"Get a grip on your fiscal horses. Stop spending. Stop borrowing," said Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon.

Republicans said the backlog of bills should be paid by cutting other parts of the budget. Sullivan noted that Republicans have not introduced legislation making specific cuts.

There was little chance Sullivan's proposal would be approved. Borrowing money by selling bonds requires a supermajority, which would mean at least one Republican voting for it.

Republicans pointed out that the cost of the borrowing plan, if it had passed, would have blown a major hole in the budget that Democrats are putting together.

Holding the vote despite that slim chance may do two things for Democrats. They can tell the public that Republicans had a chance to help pay the state's backlog of bills but refused to go along. They also can tell Gov. Pat Quinn, who is insisting on borrowing as part of any state budget, that this vote proves the idea cannot pass.