Days ahead of Govenor Pat Quinn's State of the State address, his budget director has sent lawmakers a letter detailing "encouraging" developments on Illinois' billions in unpaid bills. Yesterday's letter says the backlog will be $5.6 billion by fiscal year's end, down from roughly $10 billion. Budget chief Jerry Stermer says if progress continues Illinois will be in line with "private-sector benchmarks." Republicans say the backlog is still too high and the 2011 income tax increase was pitched to fix it. The increase expires next year. Quinn has been noncommittal. A budget spokesman says there isn't a connection between the letter and Quinn's speech Wednesday. He says Quinn will later outline budget issues.
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