The state of Illinois owes millions to its universities, school districts and other entities, but plenty of other businesses are being nickel-and-dimed with unpaid bills of $10 or less, state records show.

When Illinois can't pay its bills in a timely fashion, the interest penalties it's required to add on by law deliver another blow to the cash-strapped state, but they do little to ease the pain of waiting vendors.

SPRINGFIELD - Don't look for quick action to reduce Illinois' huge backlog of unpaid bills, despite universal agreement among state leaders that the debt is unfair to businesses, charities and local governments that provide valuable services.

Illinois' schools are used to planning ahead when it comes to many things, but in the last few years, financial planning has become more and more difficult as a result of delayed and sporadic payments of state funds.

HARRISBURG - A general overlay of numbers provided and explained by Southeastern Illinois College Vice President Tim Walker shows the impact of state unpaid bills and state reduced funding at Southern Illinois community colleges.

As the flow of state payments slows to a trickle, those waiting for funds aren't just private vendors - in some instances it's the state waiting to pay itself.

URBANA - Illinois' nine public universities are owed more than half a billion dollars by the state, part of an ongoing debt that contributes to rising tuition, spending cuts, increasing class sizes on some campuses and a need to carefully manage reserves.

Drowning in deficits, Illinois has turned to a deliberate policy of not paying billions of dollars in bills for months at a time, creating a cycle of hardship and sacrifice for residents and businesses helping the state carry out some of the most important government tasks.