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Used to be, having a “state job” was a grand thing: Steady employment, good wages, even better insurance and retirement pay.

Not so much in recent years. The state, like businesses and units of government, has laid off employees, closed facilities, looked harder at salaries and benefits.

But as the state’s own budget woes — more precisely, the lack of a budget — have become more egregious, and businesses that provide benefits to state employees, dependents and retirees have gone on the offensive.

All it's done is hurt the employees, dependents and retirees, and the employees, dependents and retirees of the businesses that are being shafted by the state of Illinois.

A story last week in The State Journal-Register said a Springfield health care provider has started requiring partial payment from state-insured patients before elective surgeries.

Another provider requires state-insured patients to pay their share rather than waiting for the state to pay them; over-payments  they say, will be refunded once the state pays its share.

The first provider, Springfield Clinic, is owed more than $68 million by the state, the newspaper wrote, adding that other Springfield health care providers collectively are owed more than $188 million. The newspaper said the state Employees’ Group Insurance Program owes $3.66 billion in payments that are overdue by 18 months or more.

The numbers are high enough to make your heart stop — and those numbers are just for health care providers. Think of all the other businesses that provide services for state employees, dependents and retirees.

It’s patently unfair to the people who pay their premiums on time and agreed to work in exchange for certain benefits. It’s not fair to the providers, who agreed to provide those services in exchange for a state promise to pay what it owes.

In the private sector, the problem likely would end up in court, either for small claims or for breach of contract. The employees would find other work; the providers would pick up contracts from other businesses.

Asked for explanations by the Journal-Register, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office once again pointed a finger at the bipartisan bickering that is endemic in Springfield. The state’s largest union blamed Rauner.

And, don’t forget Democratic House speaker Michael Madigan, lobbyists, other lawmakers and the little green men on Mars.

There’s more than enough blame to go around and the longer the blame game continues, the longer the people and businesses of Illinois will hurt.

In October, a Simon Public Policy Institute poll of Illinois voters found 47 percent would like to move out of the state. More recently, the U.S. Census Bureau showed that 37,500 people did just that in the last year.

Can’t blame them.

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