TINLEY PARK, Ill. | Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said Monday the state's financial problems are scaring businesses away from locating in Illinois.
Topinka used a luncheon gathering of the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce to praise local business interests that stay in Illinois despite the multimillion dollar deficit in the public pension programs and the more than $5 billion in unpaid bills.
“Why would any business executive seriously consider coming to Illinois, knowing that they would wind up inheriting these problems and having to help pay for them,” Topinka said.
“It’s hard enough for a business to start up, and (Illinois government problems are) a lot of extra baggage for an aspiring company to take on,” she said.
The comptroller said state government finance problems overcome Illinois’ advantages, which she defined as Chicago’s cultural amenities and the infrastructure that makes Chicago the nation’s transportation hub.
“Who would want to live in Indiana in their right mind,” Topinka said, while adding, “Illinois should be a destination state. But it has developed all these problems that is causing people to consider other states when doing business.”
Topinka said the development of a new Chicago-area airport in rural Will County near Peotone along with construction of the Illiana Expressway would give significant boosts to the south suburbs.
But Topinka said she wishes state government officials would be less eager to spend state funds on other new initiatives, and would focus their attention on paying off existing debts.
She said the roughly 6,500 unpaid bills in her office on Monday were mostly from small business interests that already had performed services for Illinois government.
“These people have already done their work for Illinois, and now they’re waiting, waiting, waiting to be paid,” she said, while sarcastically adding the refusal by the General Assembly to focus on paying debt is, “a form of dementia on the part of the legislators.”
Complicating this is the large amount of debt that continues to grow due to added costs from state-run pension programs. That debt threatens to overtake all of the state budget, although a legislative committee currently is trying to devise a plan to resolve the problem.
Topinka said such a plan will not be implemented quickly and could result in lengthy court battles.
And she disapproves of the way Gov. Pat Quinn has tried to pressure legislators into acting by cutting off their salaries until a solution is found.
She said it might have been more practical to put the committee in a room, and refuse to let them leave until a solution was found, going so far as to refuse bathroom privileges.
“That would put pressure on them to act,” she said, while adding, “I would have popped for pizza.”