Editorials

If Illinois hides overdue bills, they don’t exist, right?

You owe $1,275.72. So does your spouse. So do each of your children. So do your parents and grandparents.

Every single person in Illinois owes that much, because our state owes $16.3 billion more than it has to our doctors, pharmacists, contractors, teachers, local governments, day cares, substance abuse counselors, caregivers, etc.

At least we think so. No one is really sure, because state agencies are allowed to sit on bills and only report an amount once a year that is already three months out of date. At the last accounting there were $7.5 billion in bills that hadn’t even been forwarded for payment to Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza.

Mendoza is pushing House Bill 3649, the Debt Transparency Act. It would require monthly reports from each state agency about the bills they are holding, whether the funding was approved, and the late payment or interest owed with that debt.

Mendoza equates it to being able to prioritize your credit card bills and target the oldest ones or highest interest ones that are costing you the most. She said Illinois is letting folks wait eight months for payment, and the interest costs us $2 million a day in interest. She believes having the information would help her reduce the state’s interest costs, so let’s put her to the test.

More than a dozen newspapers in Illinois are in favor of this Act. We certainly are not going to argue against transparency, either.

One thing we saw was that more than three-fourths of those bills that are pending are from Central Management Services, and Mendoza said most of those are bills for the health care of state workers. A little more transparency on that specialized class of workers, including the AFSCME workers being paid double the median salary of the rest of us, would be a good thing.

The bill was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner because he said it would be too much effort on the part of the agencies for too little actionable information. We’re not buying that.

Every business, every household must take stock of its bills and be responsible for the impact of ignoring them. State agencies should be no different.

State lawmakers this week are expected to try to override the veto. We encourage our state lawmakers to support transparency and override the governor’s veto.

  Comments