A law taking effect January first is meant to force Illinois government to be more honest about its money problems.
Comptroller Susana Mendoza says she got the idea for the law when she heard about a nursing home that was on the brink of closure because the state had been a deadbeat during the budget stalemate.
But Mendoza, whose job is to pay the state’s bills, could only find paperwork for a "tiny fraction" of the debt.
“They’re saying we owe them … something like $80 million, and we only have about $1.2 million worth of vouchers total? … And so the first question is like: Where’s the rest of it?"
The rest was being deliberately held up at state agencies — hiding the true amount of money Illinois owes its vendors.
“It’s not even possible … under the current scenario, to pass a balanced budget, even if they tried. Because they’re basing their budgeting on their June 30 numbers, and now they’re talking about passing a budget in the month of May, almost an entire year later,” Mendoza said.
Right now, agencies are only required to report unpaid bills to the comptroller once a year. The new law makes them do that every month.
Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the idea, but the vast majority of state legislators overrode him.