During the height of the state's budget impasse, Comptroller Susana Mendoza's office regularly had to "triage" bills.
It was a process where businesses or organizations facing severe financial problems had their payments moved to the head of the line to stave off disaster.
Now Illinois has its second full-year budget in a row in place, but the triaging of bills goes on.
"We still get that. We get it all of the time," Mendoza said last week. "We still continue to get people who, they've been so decimated. They've tapped out every line of credit. They have a very difficult time building their credit back up. Not a tone has changed for us. It's just perhaps these cases are invisible because we now have budgets."
Illinois budget impasse came to an end nearly one year ago when lawmakers on July 6, 2017, approved a 12-month spending plan. They followed up just weeks ago with another budget approval to cover the year that starts Sunday. And while there is general agreement that having a budget is better than not having one, it doesn't mean the state's financial problems are solved.
"The crisis is still continuing for the state of Illinois," said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a nonpartisan budget watchdog. "It was a big deal that they passed a budget finally. However, that budget they passed did not effectively eliminate two enormous financial challenges."
Those two challenges are the state's enormous pension debt and a backlog of bills, that while smaller than it was at height of the budget impasse, is still far higher than is considered normal for a state of Illinois' size. Mendoza said an amount in the $3 billion range "is manageable."
The amount of the backlog varies from day to day. On Friday, the backlog stood at nearly $6.4 billion and is expected to grow as the state enters a period of traditionally slower tax collections.
"Having $6 billion in unpaid bills is an enormous drag on the state's financial condition and its credit worthiness," Msall said.
Mendoza also said the new budget "did nothing to help me with the bill backlog."
Last year, the state was able to cut the backlog nearly in half by borrowing money and using most of it to pay Medicaid bills which got the state additional federal money. Interest on the borrowing was far lower than the 12 percent a year the state owed to vendors when bills were paid late.
"It's still a cost to taxpayers for which they get no benefit," Msall said. "They don't get any new programs. They don't get any new investments."
There is also the matter of the budget itself, particularly the one passed by lawmakers this year that goes into effect Sunday. Msall calls it "aggressively balanced." Mendoza uses a different term.
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"It's a consensus budget," she said. "But it's not balanced. It's predicated on things that haven't happened yet."
Such as the sale of the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago, which the budget assumes will be worth $270 million.
"They keep selling the Thompson Center every fiscal year," said Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. "I think we've sold it five times now. They're building revenue into the budget that's just not going to materialize."
The budget also assumes more than $400 million savings from a couple of pension buyout programs in which people would give up benefits in exchange for some other compensation.
"There was no actuarial study done for the specific legislation that was passed," Msall said. "The state of Illinois appears to have taken a program that was used in another state, apply it to Illinois and estimate we could reduce this year's pension contribution over $400 million."
Martire noted that in the budget that ended Saturday, lawmakers assumed savings from creation of a Tier 3 pension plan that would combine parts of a traditional defined benefit plan with a 401(k). No Tier 3 plans have been developed yet.
For Martire, the biggest problem still facing the state is the roughly $130 billion owed to the pension systems.
"There's no way, no how to pay that debt back," he said.
At least as things are structured now. That's why his organization has long called for restructuring the pension debt which would give the state more time to pay it off. The idea is often dismissed as costing the state more in the long run, but Martire insists that doesn't have to be the case if the debt is restructured properly.
Despite problems remaining, the state has made progress in the last couple of years. Msall said the new budget provided more money for K-12 and higher education, even if very little money was included for infrastructure improvements.
Also, the bond rating agencies, while citing many of the concerns that others have discussed about possible problems with the new budget, didn't further downgrade Illinois' worst in the nation credit rating.
"Not losing ground could be viewed as a positive," Msall said.
Mendoza cites the borrowing last year that cut the bill backlog and saved interest costs for taxpayers. She's also been able to generally pay bills more quickly to eliminate further late fees.
And if the new budget has its problems, that's the price of compromise, she said.
"It's the best they were going to get and this is unfortunately what you have to do with compromise and having two parties that work together to move the ball forward," she said. "It's not pretty. It's not perfect, but it's at least going to allow us to operate. I tell folks that we're not breathing easy yet, but we can at least breathe."