WE ARE ILLINOIS
State Fair stars get paid as Illinois businesses wait
From The Pantagraph Newspaper
When it comes to getting money from the state, it pays to be a rock star in Illinois.
A huge pile of unpaid bills has thousands of business owners singing the blues as they wait months to get paid for providing goods and services to the state.
But big name entertainers at the two state fairs will get their paychecks on the same day they perform.
"They get paid the day of the show. They are not going to perform if you tell them the check is in the mail," said Jeff Squibb, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Illinois State Fair in Springfield and Du Quoin State Fair in southern Illinois.
The difference between how a band like Cheap Trick gets paid and a business owner who sells, for example, mops and brooms to a local prison dates back decades.
Usually, the state pays private vendors after an agency submits a voucher to the comptroller's office. The comptroller then cuts a check and sends it out to the business owner.
But, with the downturn in the economy and growth in state government, the state has faced horrendous cash flow problems, forcing the comptroller to hold off on paying checks for months until there is enough money in the state's account to cover the amount.
Comptroller spokesman Bradley Hahn said there are currently 166,877 vouchers totaling $3.5 billion that remain unpaid. The oldest one dates to St. Patrick's Day.
"On average, delays have been between four and six months," Hahn notes.
It's different, however, if you're Willie Nelson or Jason Aldean, two of the performers at the upcoming fairs.
Pop singer Selena Gomez provides a snapshot of how it works: The Disney Channel star played last year's Illinois State Fair. On that same day, state fair officials handed over a check for $142,555.
Gomez' paycheck was drawn on a fund controlled by the treasurer. That fund was replenished less than two months later via a check from the comptroller's office.
In some cases, bands can get paid before they even play the first note of a song.
"There are some where you have to give the manager the check when they take the stage," Squibb said.
In 2010, Gomez was the top earner between the two fairs. Lady Antebellum received $125,000 and Darius Rucker received $100,000 for their performances at the grandstand on the capital city's north side.
Dierks Bentley and Seether were paid the most at the Du Quoin fair, with each getting $75,000 for their performances.
Headliners at the 2011 fairs include Nelson, who is set to earn a base rate of $90,000 for his Sept. 2 date in Du Quoin. Lynyrd Skynyrd is set to receive $125,000 for its show in Du Quoin on Aug. 31.
At the state fair in Springfield, the big name act is Lady Antebellum, which has a contract worth $247,500 for its Aug. 21 show - nearly twice the amount the band received last summer.
Aldean, who is scheduled for Aug. 14, is set to earn a base rate of $210,000, while 3 Doors Down has a contract worth $125,000 for its Aug. 13 performance.
SOURCE: The Pantagraph
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