Sunday, July 02, 2017

Illinois Self-Inflicted Junk Status



zerohedge |  S&P warned one month ago will likely result in a humiliating and unprecedented downgrade of the 5th most populous US state to junk status. 

Then came the begging. 

According to Bloomberg, on Friday Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Democrat who controls much of the legislative agenda, pleaded with rating companies to "temporarily withhold judgment” as lawmakers negotiate. “Much work remains to be done,” the Democrat said on the floor of the House Friday, before the chamber adjourned for the day. “We’ll get the job done.”

Meanwhile, the state remains without a spending plan, its tax receipts and outlays mostly on "autopilot", leaving it with a record $15 billion of unpaid bills as it spent over $6 billion more than it brought in over the past year, and with $800 million in interest on the unpaid bills alone. The impasse has devastated social-service providers, shuttering services for the homeless, disabled and poor. The lack of state aid has wrecked havoc on universities, putting their accreditation at risk.

However, in a "shocking" development, just hours remaining before the midnight deadline to pass the Illinois budget, and Illinois' imminent loss of its investment grade rating, federal judge Joan Lefkow in Chicago ordered Illinois to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars it owes in Medicaid payments that state officials say the government doesn’t have, the Chicago Tribune reported

Judge Lefkow ordered the state to make $586 million in monthly payments (from the current $160 million) as well as another $2 billion toward a $3 billion backlog of payments - a $167 million increase in monthly outlays - the state owes to managed care organizations that process payments to providers.

While it is no secret that as part of its collapse into the financial abyss, Illinois has accumulated $15 billion in unpaid bills, the state's Medicaid recipients had had enough, and went to court asking a judge to order the state to speed up its payments. On Friday, the court ruled in their favor. The problem, of course, is that Illinois can no more afford to pay the outstanding Medicaid bills, than it can to pay any of its $14,711,351,943.90 in overdue bills as of June 30.

The backlog of unpaid claims the state owes to managed-care companies directly, as well as to the doctors, hospitals, clinics and other organizations “is crippling these providers and thereby dramatically reducing the Medicaid recipients’ access to health care,” Lefkow said in her ruling 
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Friday’s court ruling, which meant that the near-insolvent state must pay an additional $593 million per month, may have been the straw that finally broke the Illinois camel's back. 

“Friday’s ruling by the U.S. District Court takes the state’s finances from horrific to catastrophic,” Comptroller Susana Mendoza, a Democrat, said in an emailed statement after the ruling. 

As a result of the court decision, “payments to the state’s pension funds; state payroll including legislator pay; General State Aid to schools and payments to local governments -- in some combination -- will likely have to be cut.”