Illinois House members on Wednesday unanimously said they want to know how many unpaid bills state agencies are sitting on on a monthly basis, rather than on an annual basis.
The state representatives voted 112-0 to override the governor’s veto of the Debt Transparency Act, which would require state agencies to report on a monthly basis the amount of bills being held, the liabilities for which there are appropriations, and those liabilities that are subject to late interest penalties.
State agencies now only have to report once a year all of their unpaid bills. The information is due in October, but is only through the previous fiscal year, which ends in June.
Comptroller Susana Mendoza, who met earlier this week with the Belleville News Democrat Editorial Board, has pushed for adoption of the legislation.
The Senate still needs to vote on the override, but it has adjourned until Nov. 7. When the Senate voted on the legislation in the spring, it passed the bill with a veto-proof majority. In May, state Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville and state Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, voted yes. State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, voted no.
Schmipf said he supports more transparency and listing the vouchers, but doesn’t like how the agencies have to produce additional reports. He said it’s an extra burden on the agency staffs. However he said he wasn’t sure how he would vote on an override.
Mendoza, a Democrat, called the Debt Transparency Act an overdue reform. Mendoza said she would speak up over unpaid bills and transparency no matter who was governor and whatever party the governor was from.
She said not knowing what’s sitting at the agencies makes it difficult if not impossible to prioritize bills.
The state’s bill backlog stands at $16.3 billion, including about 740 vendors who are owed at least $500,000.
When the comptroller’s office receives the annual report in June, she said the data is outdated, and doesn’t accurately reflect the real-time situation.
The comptroller’s office said the law would help the state better manage finances and help legislators make better policy decisions on how to approach the bill backlog.
The last accounting was $7.5 billion worth of bills being held by state agencies, as of June 30. Bills however, continue to come in for services rendered for agencies.
“I have no idea what they are, no idea what they are for, how old, if they’re accruing interest or if they were appropriated,” Mendoza said. “If it’s not appropriated, it’s still accruing interest. ... Taxpayers have no idea what’s been charged in their name.”
Rauner, in his veto message, said transparency is good, but the legislation doesn’t help in monitoring state finances.
I have no idea what they are, no idea what they are for, how old, if they’re accruing interest or if they were appropriated. If it’s not appropriated, it’s still accruing interest. ... Taxpayers have no idea what’s been charged in their name.
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza
“The inclination to provide more transparency about the state of our finances is a good one. Unfortunately, this legislation 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 said in his veto message in August.
Rauner called the requirements time-consuming and the law would only yield decreasing marginal information.
“This legislation neglects to account for the realities of agency record-keeping and reporting, which makes compliance with this mandate especially difficult and expensive,” Rauner said. “Due to asymmetries in technology and variances in the input and calculation of the required information, this bill will be highly burdensome for agencies and will require an allocation of significant additional resources to reporting compliance.”
State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, voted to override the governor.
“We in the legislature need to know, before we’re making decisions, we need to know exactly what these agencies, what bills they’ve accrued and I think our taxpayers deserve to know. Just because they’ve accrued an expense, doesn’t mean they’ve put in in a voucher, and there’s a lag in the system and that will give people access to the information,” Stuart said.
State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, supported the override.
“This bill would simply make sure that the agencies are transparent for budgeting purposes and for cash flow purposes and for making sure providers for the state actually get paid for the services they provide in a reasonable time period,” Hoffman said.
Other metro-east representatives who voted yes were State Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton; State Rep. John Cavaletto, R-Salem; State Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Red Bud; State Rep. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis, and State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville.
In other action
The House failed to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill that would have banned local right to work zones. The Senate on Tuesday had voted to override Rauner’s veto.
Only 70 House members voted to override; 71 votes were needed to override.
“Local communities should be able to decide how best to compete for jobs and choose reforms that can make their economies stronger, help their businesses grow and give the freedom to individual workers to support a union at their own discretion,” Rauner said in a statement. “It will help Illinois be better positioned to be competitive nationally and globally and create opportunity for all the people of our state.”
State Rep. Jay Hoffman said during debate that states with right-to-work laws have lower paid workers, less on the job safety, and fewer benefits.
Hoffman said having local right-to-work zones could cause problems on a road project that cross multiple jurisdictions, where some workers are union and some workers would not be union.
“It makes no sense. We shouldn’t be talking about this, but the governor over and over and over again keeps beating his fists demanding to have right to work in some form in Illinois,” Hoffman said.
How they voted:
- State Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton: Yes
- State Rep. John Cavaletto, R-Salem: No
- State Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Red Bud: Yes
- State Rep. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis: Yes
- State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea: Yes
- State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville: No
- State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville: Yes
- State Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville: Did not vote
- State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton: Yes
- State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon: No
- State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo: Yes