It used to be rare that any Illinois resident would say “comptroller” when asked for a statewide officeholder who forcefully advocated for the best interests of taxpayers. How could the person who managed the state’s checkbook and paid the bills be considered an agent of change?
Then Democrat Susana Mendoza became comptroller in December 2016, entering office at a time when “dire” didn’t even begin to describe the state’s financial problems. She immediately began advocating for common-sense changes that had to be embraced if Illinois ever has a prayer getting a handle on its financial woes.
It’s hard to believe that the Debt Transparency Act — which requires state agencies to report on a monthly basis the total amount of unpaid bills they’re holding and estimate how much interest is owed on those bills — wasn’t already law until Mendoza championed it. Or that it took legislation to require governors to pay executive office employees out of the budget set aside for the governor’s office. With Mendoza as the chief cheerleader, the practice of off-shoring — perfected by governors of both political parties — was abolished.
Mendoza didn’t stop with ending practices that obscured the true costs of government. She nimbly triaged the state’s unpaid bill backlog, which skyrocketed to more than $16 billion during the two-year budget impasse. She successfully advocated that lawmakers borrow money to pay down that backlog, in some cases taking the interest rate the state was paying from more than 12 percent to about 3 percent.
That’s not to say Mendoza hasn’t at times gotten too political in an office that largely shouldn’t be, especially when the person in her sights was Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. But Mendoza’s legislation agenda has not been partisan; she instead has sought to create a more transparent government where residents can see how their hard-earned money is being spent, and has mustered bipartisan coalitions to support her legislation.
Few other office holders have been able to achieve that type of good-government success. She promises to continue in that vein if elected to a full term, citing as priorities modernizing technology, continuing to pay down the bill backlog and improving the state’s financial status in the country.
Like many, we are concerned Mendoza will declare victory on Nov. 6 and turn around in the days afterward to announce a run for mayor of Chicago. She’s avoided answering that question and demurs when asked if she will commit to serving out a four-year term if elected comptroller. We would be disappointed if that is the route she took, in large part because we want to see what Mendoza could do with a full term as comptroller.
If your concern is that Mendoza might not be there for four years, Libertarian Claire Ball is an excellent backup candidate. The certified CPA has pragmatic ideas on how she would run the office, stating as priorities getting financial reports out on time and establishing quarterly budget-to-actual reports so taxpayers can follow the spending of their elected officials. She also would want to audit the finances of municipalities to identify any possible questionable spending.
Republican candidate Darlene Senger has impressive legislative experience, but her ideas for the office were general and lacked the details both Mendoza and Ball proposed. Senger takes the politically easy route and advocates for combining the comptroller and state treasurer’s offices. While we’d like to see a cost-savings analysis done to see if this makes fiscal sense, both Ball and Mendoza persuasively argue that having two offices provides an important check and balance on the finances of a state that can’t pay its bills.
Mendoza’s first two years in office saw the implementation of long-overdue reforms that keep Illinoisans better informed, and came after a tumultuous time in which she was the third comptroller in two years. Stability also would be a good thing for the state. Imagine how much more transparent government could be if Mendoza has another four years in office to continue to advocate for the everyday people she represents. Mendoza is endorsed.
Region: Springfield,Feeds,Sang,Editorial,Opinion,Region: Central,City: Springfield
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October 15, 2018 at 08:06PM