Better late than never

March 7, 2017

Yesterday Illinois State Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza finally released the state’s fiscal year 2016 financial report. This was 251 days after the fiscal year end, which is considered late even under the loose government standard of 180 days. 39 states released their reports before Illinois.

Comptroller Mendoza continues the legacy of former comptrollers who have historically released the audited report late. No wonder Illinois finances are so bad. Governors and legislators have not had the financial information they need in a timely manner for years.

The state’s accumulated deficit increased to $126.7 billion, but the numbers are even worse than the Comptroller reported. One of the bedrocks of accounting is that a balance sheet is an organization’s financial picture at one point in time.

However the Illinois balance sheet is based upon amounts at three different times. Most of the amounts are as of June 30, 2016, but the state’s largest liabilities, the unfunded pensions, are based upon June 30, 2015 valuations. The 2016 unfunded liabilities are at least $20 billion more than what was reported on the balance sheet. The unfunded retiree health care liability is based upon a June 30, 2014 valuation. I couldn’t find a new valuation on the web.

Without accurate and TIMELY financial data, how can Illinois citizens be active participants in their government’s financial decisions?

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