Two things were unique about Judy Baar Topinka: her hair color and everything else.
Both endeared her to nearly everyone she met. For many years, Judy sported a burnt orange to mahogany hair color that was as much a part of her personality as anything else. She cared deeply for the people of Illinois – all of them. Every single person she met over the course of her political career mattered to Judy, and in most cases they knew it and loved her all the more for it.
(Updated 3:54 p.m., Wed., Dec. 10 with more reaction.)
Judy Baar Topinka, a leading figure in Illinois politics for decades, died suddenly Wednesday morning. Topinka, the state comptroller, won re-election to a second term in that office in November. Her office says she suffered a stroke. She was 70 years old.
Topinka said Thursday that her office will work with businesses impacted by Wednesday's severe weather. She says the state will prioritize payments to businesses committed to clean-up and recovery efforts in Saline County.
Ill. unpaid bills top $4.2 billion in Comptroller's office
Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says there are even more bills piled up in other government departments. She said Wednesday the state's overall backlog is about $8.5 billion. That means organizations that provide services for the state, from businesses to hospitals to charity groups, must wait months to be paid for their work. Topinka's office is still paying bills that date back to Sept. 1 - four and a half months ago.
Illinois Republicans say the state budget and national economy are key to their political fortunes next year.
They hope to chip away at the Democratic majority in the state legislature and protect the congressional seats they picked up in 2010.
As they gathered at the Illinois State Fair on Thursday, Republican leaders accused Democrats of mismanaging the Illinois budget. They criticized the recent income tax increase and Gov. Pat Quinn's proposal to borrow money to pay overdue bills that are piling up.
Illinois legislators are preparing to debate a plan that would combine two elected offices into one.
The proposal would change the state Constitution, combining the Treasurer's office and the Comptroller's office. Both deal with the finances of Illinois, the treasurer with investments and the comptroller is in charge of dispersing the state's money.