* One of the bills Gov. Rauner vetoed on Friday was this one…
Gov. Bruce Rauner has vetoed legislation that the Democratic comptroller says would help the state manage overdue bills.
The Republican governor rejected on Friday a plan pushed by Comptroller Susana Mendoza. It would require state agencies to regularly report the bills they’ve not yet sent the comptroller for payment.
I took notice of Mendoza not long after she was sworn into the House. She was working hard on some bill that was important to her district and had reached out to Democrats and Republicans alike. After the bill passed with a huge margin, she walked the entire House floor personally thanking each legislator who’d voted for her legislation. I was impressed.
* Comptroller Mendoza did the same sort of thing with editorial boards before Gov. Rauner vetoed her bill. And it’s paying off now. Favorable newspaper editorials generally don’t pass bills, but they don’t hurt, either. From the Daily Herald…
In a statement defending his veto, Rauner said the bill “more closely resembles an attempt by the comptroller to micromanage executive agencies than an attempt to get the information most helpful to the monitoring of state government.”
But in truth, micromanaging payment of the state’s bills, within the context of the law and court orders, is precisely the job of the comptroller. Regardless of party, whoever is in that role needs to have a financial snapshot more frequently than once a year. What’s more, lawmakers need a more definite picture of the state’s financial status as they contemplate legislation, and taxpayers need to have that as they evaluate lawmakers and the actions of government.
The past-due balance of bills on the state’s ledger is an unqualified embarrassment for everyone in state government. It is reported to have produced $800 million — and constantly counting — in penalties alone.
No action is going to get such a huge backlog under control immediately, but no opportunity to make the process more manageable should be overlooked. This one could have been undertaken while simultaneously demonstrating the governor is not reflexively opposed to any meaningful legislation Democrats support.
Unfortunately, that leaves it to lawmakers to override the governor in yet another show of contention and discord. We’re disappointed by the appearances, but agree that lawmakers should take it on themselves to create a more reliable and up-to-date system of accounting for the state’s bills.
* Jacksonville Journal-Courier…
Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure Friday. In doing so, he said providing this information monthly would create more work for departments.
That’s not satisfactory. Pardon us if we seem uncaring about government workers having to push a few more buttons or take a few more hours out of their monthly schedule in the name of transparency. Taxpayers are having to work harder than ever to pay the debt, and they deserve to know the realities of state finances down to the penny. […]
Rauner has painted a vision of his administration as one that puts taxpayers ahead of the political status quo.
Yet his veto of legislation that would give a clear and useful accounting of the state’s debt load belies that.
Lawmakers on both sides of the political fence need to do what is best for taxpayers: Demand accountability and override this veto.
The Alton Telegraph ran the same editorial.
The state of Illinois, as of Friday, owed its vendors about $14.7 billion.
At least, Comptroller Susana Mendoza thinks that’s what the debt is, based on the bills in her office and the ones she is aware of at state agencies.
Ridiculously, state agencies are only required to annually report in October the aggregate amount of bills being held as of June 30. By that point, it’s outdated. Mendoza said there have been four times since she became comptroller in December where a stack of bills that she was unaware of landed in her office. Some were 11 months overdue. One time, it added $1 billion to the backlog of unpaid bills. And, the state must pay penalty interest on those late bills.
Mendoza’s reasonable request is to lose the surprises that add to the already difficult job she has of triaging the state’s checkbook during times of unprecedented financial uncertainty. She wants to have, on a monthly basis, the most accurate snapshot of what the state’s debt is so her office can better manage it.
It’s dumbfounding to think such a policy isn’t already in place, but then again, Illinois isn’t exactly known for having its ducks in a row when it comes to anything financial. Mendoza is championing the Debt Transparency Act, which would require state agencies to report monthly to the comptroller’s office what bills they are holding and estimate the amount of interest that will be paid on those bills. […]
We encourage the General Assembly to override the governor’s veto and get this long overdue, best-practice accounting policy in place.
* The Dispatch-Argus…
Gov. Bruce Rauner missed an opportunity to make reporting of Illinois’ outstanding bills and overdue interest more accurate, transparent and accountable when he vetoed the General Assembly approved Debt Transparency Act.
Politics clearly were top of mind for the GOP governor facing a crowded field of Democrats seeking to unseat him in 2018. […]
Politics aside, this is at its heart a good-government bill that does what a fiscally responsible state ought to have been doing from the beginning. Indeed, past comptrollers, including the late Ms. Topinka, a Republican, and Dan Hynes, a Democrat, championed similar efforts to increase bill reporting and transparency. […]
It’s time to end the practice of hiding and holding bills. We continue to believe the Debt Transparency Act will do that. A comfortable majority of lawmakers in both houses agreed. We urge them to set aside political concerns and override the governor’s veto.
* The Quincy Herald-Whig…
The bill received bipartisan support in both houses in being approved last spring and was sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature. It seemed to be the kind of common-sense legislation that would appeal to Rauner, who has repeatedly vowed to apply sound private-sector business practices to improve the efficiency of state government.
Instead, the governor vetoed the bill Friday. […]
Clearly, accountability and good governance should transcend politics, but this is, after all, Illinois. Outwardly, Rauner’s veto decision appears to be based more on political tit-for-tat than reasonable policy differences. […]
It bears repeating: Elected officials need reliable financial information to make budget decisions, vendors and service providers deserve to know how long the line is for those awaiting payment, and taxpayers deserve to know the magnitude of the state’s debt.
The Debt Transparency Act clearly is a step toward achieving those goals. We urge lawmakers to override the governor’s veto and make it law.