* Press release…
Illinois’ estimated bill backlog has increased from $13.3 billion to a record $14.3 billion. The jump reflects more than $1 billion in liabilities held at state agencies that the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget reported to the Comptroller’s office this week. This new information brings the estimated total of bills held at agencies to $6.6 billion.
The state’s bill backlog is nearing the point of having tripled in just the past two years, making it all the more pressing that policymakers receive timely reporting of the consequences of not having a budget — at a growing cost to taxpayers. This week’s $1 billion bill dump from Governor Rauner’s office makes evident the need for agencies to regularly report liabilities to the Comptroller’s office including the late interest penalties associated with these outstanding bills. This increase is due to a reported increase of bills for medical, corrections, state group health insurance, human services and other state agencies.
“It’s clear the Rauner Administration has been holding bills at state agencies in an attempt to mask some of the damage caused by the Governor’s failure to fulfill his constitutional duty and present a balanced budget. At a time when Senators from both sides of the aisle are working together to reach a deal, this administration has been keeping them in the dark about the true extent of the bill backlog,” Comptroller Susana Mendoza said. “This action makes obvious the urgent need for more sunlight on the state’s bill backlog. It’s time for a full accounting of what the state owes to schools, social service organizations, health care providers, vendors, small business owners and others across the state.”
The Rauner administration has been exposed for holding bills at state agencies for as long as a year, and then falsely claiming to the media that the Comptroller’s office hasn’t prioritized payments of those bills.
Legislation initiated by Comptroller Mendoza known as the Debt Transparency Act (House Bill 3649) calls for more accountability from state agencies on Illinois’ bill backlog. It would require agencies to report monthly to the Comptroller the bills they are holding and estimate the amount of late interest penalties that will be paid on those bills. The Comptroller’s office projects that Illinois will owe at least $800 million in Late Payment Interest Penalties on its overdue bills by the end of the current fiscal year. But without accurate information from state agencies on what is owed, it’s nearly impossible to precisely report interest charges.
“Clearly policymakers and taxpayers need to be fully aware of the rising costs taxpayers are on the hook for and that must be accounted for in a budget,” Comptroller Mendoza said.
Representative Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, and Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, sponsored HB 3649, which passed in the House with bipartisan backing last month. Comptroller Mendoza is calling on the Senate to approve HB 3649 and on the Governor to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
Current state law only requires agencies to report on Oct. 1 of each year the aggregate amount of bills being held on the previous June 30. The information is outdated by the time it is received, Mendoza said. But the agencies already have the personnel and infrastructure in place to compile the data.
Setting aside her rhetoric, the current state law is completely outmoded. This really needs to change.