ILLINOIS (WMBD) — The General Election is just under three months away.
One of the statewide races voters will see on the ballot is for the Comptroller’s office.
Comptroller Susana Mendoza joined WMBD’s Matt Sheehan for this week’s On the Record segment.
MS: Let’s talk about a few pieces of financial news in the State of Illinois. Your office says we have a zero-day bill payment cycle. Can you break down what that means for taxpayers?
SM: “We had a general revenue funds payment cycle, as you just mentioned, of a grand total of zero days for the first time in decades. That means that vendors in Illinois were waiting zero days to get paid. Every bill that came into my office that day, as comptroller, on July 1 was paid out on July 1. That was the first time we have been that caught up in decades,” Mendoza said. “Today, our oldest bill is only 11 days old. You would not hope or expect that the State would be at a zero pay delay normally, we want to be under 30 days, that’s our target.”
MS: Your office says Illinois has had six credit upgrades over the past year. Who are these upgrades given by, and what do they mean in terms of financial stability for the State?
SM: “Those upgrades are an amazing accomplishment. Especially considering that we are still in a global pandemic. All six of them were earned throughout the course of this pandemic,” Mendoza said. “There’s no other State that can say they’ve received the six full credit upgrades in such a short time.”
The credits are from Fitch, S&P Global Ratings, and Moody’s. Both Fitch and S&P’s credit upgrades came in Illinois, Moody’s was in April.
“We’re also completely caught up in all of our bills related to Medicaid,” Mendoza said. “Medicaid bills are the bills I pay first because they give us the biggest federal match. Think of it as stretching the value of a dollar. For every $1 I pay in Medicaid bills, the federal government gives me a little over 50 cents back.”
Mendoza said her office is also completely caught up in paying bills related to group health insurance, K-12 bills, higher education bills, and other State level government operations bills.
MS: Looking ahead to November, you do have a challenger in this year’s General Election. What are you doing now to prepare for that race?
SM: “The same thing I’ve been doing since the day I was elected. I work incredibly hard and have led our State to six full-credit upgrades. I’ve traveled all 102 counties in Illinois and will continue to do so. Talking about the great work, and I’ve reformed this office in a way that no Comptroller before me has ever managed to do,” Mendoza said. “I’ve championed and spearheaded transparency reforms, the likes that have never been seen in this State. Like my Debt Transparency Act that allows me to be able to see the debts at all of the different State agencies.”
When Mendoza entered the Comptroller’s office, she said she wasn’t able to see the debt other State agencies had.
“I had to pass legislation to allow me to do my job the way every Comptroller before me should have been able to,” Mendoza said. “Now, not only do I get monthly reporting from the State agencies as to what their liabilities are and how old their bills are and whether or not they’re collecting late-payment interest penalties, but I actually report back to the public and to the press. I put out monthly reports based on those reports that come into me so people can understand what is going on.”
MS: Lastly, there are some lawmakers who want to consolidate the Treasurer and Comptroller’s offices. Are you in favor of this idea?
SM: “I’m not. Not only am I not in favor of it, and the credit rating agencies have already said if that happened, that’d be something that’d give us a credit negative. Why? Because it would be a dramatic reduction in internal controls,” Mendoza said. “The two largest government embezzlement schemes, in the history of the United States of America, both happened right here in Illinois. Both were when the offices of Comptroller and Treasurer were held by the same person.”
The first scheme Mendoza is referring to was back in 1956 when Orville Hodge was the state auditor.
A 1986 article headline from the Chicago Tribune reads, “ORVILLE HODGE, AUDITOR WHO ROBBED STATE.”
“He embezzled $6 million, which today would be worth about $54 billion. It’s an outrageous amount of money. He was eventually caught and went to jail,” Mendoza said. “More recently in 2012, Rita Crundwell might ring a bell to you. She was the Comptroller and Treasurer. She embezzled, at that time, $54 million worth of taxpayer money. In a little town like Dixon, Illinois… that you would be able to steal $54 million from taxpayers is an incredible amount of grift.”
Mendoza said that having both a Treasurer and Comptroller helps enhance transparency in State government.
The General Election is on Nov. 8, 2022. Comptroller Mendoza’s opponent is Shannon Theresi. Sheehan has reached out to Theresi for a future interview.
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August 12, 2022 at 01:27PM