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Illinois on course to be $6.2 billion more in debt in 2016

Illinois’ spending deficit is expected to reach $6.2 billion this year — enough to buy both teams in this year’s Super bowl, the Willis Tower and a return trip to the moon.

That’s the assessment of Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger, who on Tuesday urged state lawmakers and the governor to put aside their differences and finally agree on a spending plan.

“Clearly, Illinois must pass a budget and we must reclaim our controls over spending and revenue,” Munger said, speaking to reporters at the Thompson Center. “We must stop the financial bleeding and start healing.”

Last July, Munger’s office had estimated that without a budget, the spending deficit would reach about $5 billion by the end of fiscal year 2016. But spending at the state Department of Human Services and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services — controlled, in the absence of a budget, by court orders and consent decrees — is now expected to add an additional $1.2 billion to the projected $5 billion deficit.

“That is $6.2 billion further in debt for a state that already had billions of dollars in backlogged bills waiting to be paid,” Munger said.

And as the backlog continues to grow and bills go unpaid, everything from social service agencies to state universities and colleges suffer, Munger said, echoing a familiar refrain.

Munger said the state could raise taxes, but suggested doing that alone would be political suicide.

“If we solve this problem on revenue alone, we will be looking at raising our tax rate in Illinois 3.75 percent up to somewhere between 7 and 8 percent,” Munger said. “I don’t know any legislator who would vote for that and I don’t know many businesses that would stay in Illinois for that.”