Government Spending

Illinois Doesn't Pay Its Bills, Leaving Dependent Non-Profits on the Hook

Try taking the state to collections


ROCKFORD — The state's $5 billion backlog of unpaid bills didn't quietly creep up; it announced itself like the first violent flashes of lightning in a coming storm.

Stephen Langley, executive director of Stepping Stones of Rockford, felt it in 2007, the first time his nonprofit had to borrow money to make payroll while it waited for state payments to arrive. Over the past six years this has become more of the norm, Langley said.

Now, the organization that cares for 150 adults struggling with debilitating mental illnesses survives on a month-to-month basis, struggling to keep enough cash on hand as it waits on the inconsistent ebb and flow of payments from the state.

The deadbeat practices of a state that's broken have, like the sins of the father, turned the 50-year-old mental health organization into a reluctant deadbeat itself.