Metro-East News

State agencies now have to provide monthly updates of bills they’ve accumulated

State agencies now will have to report how many bills they accumulate on a more timely basis.

The state senate on Wednesday overrode a veto of the Debt Transparency Act in a 52-3 vote.

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure in August but Comptroller Susana Mendoza pushed for an override, including making visits around the state to newspaper editorial boards in order to gain their support.

Her efforts paid off as the House unanimously voted to override the governor’s veto two weeks ago.

The act requires 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.

Previously, state agencies had to report all their unpaid bills only once a year. The information is due in October, but is only through the previous fiscal year, which ends in June.

The state’s bill backlog stands at $16.67 billion, including about 740 vendors who are owed at least $500,000. The comptroller’s office on Wednesday said it is using recent bond sales worth $6 billion to start paying off that backlog.

When the comptroller’s office receives the annual report in June, she has said the data is outdated, and doesn’t accurately reflect the real-time financial situation.

The comptroller’s office has said the law would help the state to 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.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, voted for the bill when it passed in May. He did not vote on Wednesday.

“I was for transparency when I came to the Senate, I’m still for transparency, and that’s what that was about, and with transparency comes accountability and with accountability comes better government and better service to the people of this state,” McCarter said. “It doesn’t matter what party is in charge of that office, transparency is always good.”

State Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, and state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, each voted for the override.

State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, did not vote on Wednesday.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter