* My Crain’s Chicago Business column…
State agencies under the governor’s control are required to report the amount of unpaid bills they have not yet submitted to the state’s comptroller for payment.
The supremely goofy “Only in Illinois” part is, the agencies are required to make that report just once a year. And the information is always badly outdated by then.
Comptroller Susana Mendoza, the state’s bill-payer, can look at payment and revenue histories to approximate how many bills she has to pay every month and how much money may be available. But after more than two years with no budget and Gov. Bruce Rauner signing state contracts without official legislative appropriations, there are a lot of unknowns right now. Mendoza thinks there may be somewhere around $1.2 billion in spending that the General Assembly never approved. But she doesn’t know for sure.
To give you an idea of how ridiculous this process is, the state’s bill backlog unexpectedly grew by $1 billion one day in May when the governor’s Office of Management & Budget abruptly revealed the unpaid invoices.
The comptroller has to plan ahead to make the state’s bond payments so she doesn’t accidentally trigger a credit downgrade (which would put the state into junk bond territory). She has to make regular (and huge) state pension payments, and schools rely on their state funding to keep their doors open. So plopping $1 billion in new bills on her desk without warning can cause all sorts of very real problems.
Some of the state’s approximately $15 billion in unpaid bills qualify for an interest penalty, designed to help businesses and not-for-profit groups that aren’t being paid in a timely manner. But, in yet another “Only in Illinois” quirk, state law doesn’t require state agencies to tell the person who pays all the bills which invoices qualify for that penalty. So all Mendoza can do is guesstimate what is owed, and she thinks it may be nearing $1 billion.
In February, Mendoza had legislation introduced to require state agencies to tell her
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*** UPDATE 1 *** Wordslinger noticed something in the GOMB presentation to bond buyers that I missed….
Approximately $2.8 billion in State General Funds operational liabilities were not appropriated in FY 2017, but these may be paid from future year appropriations
*** UPDATE 2 *** Pritzker campaign…
“$2.8 billion in unappropriated spending is just the latest cost of Bruce Rauner’s budget crisis,” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. “Illinois is drowning in bills manufactured by this failed governor and his damage is done.”
* State Comptroller’s Office: Checks Are in the Mail to Prevent Utility Shutoffs at Centralia Prison: “The bills have already been at the Department of Corrections for several months by the time they get to us. Most of the bills we’re paying for the state right now, we’re still paying bills from January to the state. So they talked about this being sort of an important bill they need to get paid right away so they can continue to get service at the prison so we bumped it up and paid those bills.”
* Editorial: Rauner’s DTA veto makes less sense by the day
* Our View: Debtor in denial
* Some Republicans may change their votes on bills governor vetoed