Measure would reveal true cost of Illinois’ bill backlog
An effort to force state agencies to be more upfront and accountable with the Illinois comptroller about the bills they owe to vendors is headed to the governor’s desk, and Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) is urging him to sign it.
The Debt Transparency Act, sponsored by Manar and Representative Fred Crespo (D-Hoffman Estates), passed with bipartisan support last week. It would require state agencies to report monthly to the comptroller the bills they are holding and estimate the amount of interest that will be paid on those bills.
Illinois’ bill backlog currently stands at a record $14.4 billion. An estimated $6.6 billion of that is being held by state agencies because of lack of appropriation or processing delays.
The backlog amount jumped by $1 billion recently after the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget reported additional bills for medical, corrections, state group health insurance, human services and other state agencies.
The problem is that state agencies are not required to regularly report their liabilities, including the late payment interest penalties associated with outstanding bills, to the comptroller’s office.
“This is not a hypothetical problem,” said Manar, chairman of a key Senate appropriations committee. “We just learned of $1 billion in additional bills that state agencies suddenly reported. This is a terrible way to monitor the state’s ledgers, and it isn’t fair to taxpayers.”
The comptroller’s office projects that Illinois will owe at least $800 million in interest and penalties on its overdue bills by the end of the current fiscal year.
“That’s $800 million of taxpayer money we are just throwing away. It’s not helping kids get day care or go to college. It’s not helping seniors get meals on wheels or keep their home health care,” Comptroller Susana Mendoza said.