* Unanimous override votes are not a common occurrence, to say the least…
Illinois House members sent a message about transparency Wednesday, voting unanimously to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill requiring greater disclosure of state finances.
The House voted 112-0 to reject Rauner’s veto of House Bill 3649 that requires state agencies to report monthly on bills they have not forwarded to the comptroller’s office for payment. Currently, agencies are only required to report the information annually, which makes it completely out of date by the time it is disclosed.
Comptroller Susana Mendoza, whose job it is to write the checks to pay the state’s bills, has pushed for the legislation to give her a clearer picture of what bills are waiting to be paid.
“I understand that our problems are really bad financially, but the only way to ever get to a position where we can fix the state’s financials is to know the true extent of how bad our financials are,” Mendoza said at a news conference following the House vote.
* From the Illinois Policy Institute’s news service…
Wednesday’s vote was 112-0. When the bill initially passed the House in April, it passed by a margin of 70-40, with many Republican lawmakers opposing it. […]
Illinois’ backlog of bills as of last Friday was $16.3 billion, but Mendoza’s office said it could be more than that because state departments aren’t required to report their expenditures regularly.
Rauner said the legislation was an attempt by Mendoza to “micromanage” state agencies. Lawmakers, though, countered it was commonsense accounting that would help officials gain a better understanding of Illinois’ finances. After the House vote, the bill now heads to the Senate.
“Today is a great day for transparency in the state of Illinois,” Mendoza said after the vote. “I understand that our problems are really bad financially, but the only way to ever get to a position where we can fix the state’s financials and get us on better financial footing is to know the true extent of how bad our financials are.”
Rauner vetoed the measure on Aug. 18, saying “the inclination” to be more transparent about the state’s finances is a “good one.” But he said her 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.”
Rauner too said it would divert limited funds and staff attention from their main duties in providing services to Illinois citizens.
Though the veto message appeared to take a political shot at Mendoza, bill sponsor state Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, said the intent of the bill wasn’t a continuation of the Mendoza-Rauner war.
“I know on her end I can attest to this, it was never political. It’s just doing the right thing,” Crespo said.
* And the Champaign News-Gazette’s editorial board offered belated and begrudged support…
State legislators only rarely do the right thing for the right reason. They sometimes do the right thing for the wrong reason, and that may be the case here.
This legislation reeks of politics, Democrats sticking it to Republican Rauner. The party of Chicago House Speaker Michael Madigan, which controlled the governor’s mansion from 2003 to 2015, never raised the issue during that time — a time when Govs. Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn routinely held back invoices. Suddenly, it’s become a top legislative priority. […]
Whatever the merits of the claim, few outside the governor’s office put much stock in Rauner’s words. They suggest that, for political reasons, he wants to hide what’s really hard to hide — the amount of the state’s unpaid bills. They’re currently $15 billion-plus, and when numbers are that big, people understand the circumstances are dire.
Nonetheless, Rauner is taking regular public beatings as a foe of transparency for purely venal reasons.
Since it’s unclear who has the better argument, we’ll follow our instincts and go with transparency.
If the mandate really is as burdensome as Rauner claims, Democrats can repeal H.B. 3649 when a Democrat holds the governor’s office.