Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said the state should pay down bills with the money it gets from selling a prison to the federal government.
Construction of the Thomson Correction Center was completed more than a decade ago, but the state has never had the money to fully operate it so the federal government is buying it in order to relieve overcrowding at its maximum-security facilities.
It's been appraised at $220 million, but Illinois agreed to sell it for $165 million.
Quinn said some of that money will be used to pay off debts related to the construction of Thomson.
The governor said he will have to work with the legislature on how to use the remainder of the money, but added he believes it should go to paying down the state's backlog of bills.
“"We owe this money right now to good people and businesses that have provided services to the people of Illinois. And there can't be a more pressing priority than that," Quinn said.
According to the comptroller's office, Illinois' unpaid bills total about $9 billion. That includes everything from reimbursements for Medicaid providers to tax refunds to the winnings for people who raced horses at the Illinois State Fair.
Thanks to Illinois Public Radio