When Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed bipartisan debt transparency legislation last year, he argued that the measure was in essence an attempt by Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza to “micromanage” state government’s executive agencies.
Given state government’s woeful fiscal record, a little micromanaging would actually be a good thing — and if anyone else has doubts about that, we suggest they review the first debt transparency report released since Rauner’s veto was overwhelmingly overridden.
Since the beginning of the state budget impasse midway through 2015, the January Debt Transparency Report shows, the interest fees on the state’s late payments of bills has totaled $1.03 billion and counting.
That’s $1.03 billion wasted in 2.5 years simply because the state cannot pay its bills on time.
The legislation’s sponsor in the House, State Rep. Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates, eagerly points out that the first monthly report also shows that state agencies currently have bills of about $2.5 billion and liabilities yet to be submitted of an estimated $1.2 billion.
As significantly, an analysis by Mendoza’s office indicates the state agencies have generated $2.3 billion in debt that never was appropriated and cannot be paid until it is.
“Contrary to what Gov. Rauner claimed when he rejected this legislation,” Crespo said in a prepared release, “these reports are going to give taxpayers and legislators a clearer picture of what is actually owed to schools, small businesses, social service providers and others.
“Next month, when the governor presents his budget proposal to the General Assembly, he must not only address these needs but he must lay out a plan to address the over $2 billion in unauthorized debt that his administration accrued.”
Mendoza and Crespo are Democrats but outside of Rauner, debt transparency has considerable support among Republicans too, including State Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills who was a co-sponsor.
“The bipartisan Debt Transparency Act is already providing the people of Illinois with valuable financial information,” McSweeney said. “Gov. Rauner needs to immediately tell us what his detailed plan is for addressing the over $2 billion of unpaid bills that have not been appropriated.”
The first part of solving a problem is to recognize it. The Debt Transparency Report plays that role.
The more challenging part is acting upon it. The ball now is in the governor’s court to do so.