News - Bill's Blog

Illinois state agencies should report their unpaid bills on a monthly basis

October 18, 2017

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza has been leading an effort to pass legislation requiring state agencies to report their unpaid bills on a monthly basis. It is called the “Debt Transparency Act.”

Truth in Accounting believes taxpayers and citizens deserve truthful and timely financial reporting in general, and we support the Debt Transparency Act.

It is eminently reasonable to require state agencies to report on the state’s unpaid bills. Hidden bills were one of the reasons budgets were not truthfully balanced in the past. We agree with more than a few Illinois newspaper editorial boards questioning why this policy and the necessary accounting and communication systems haven’t been a standard practice in the first place. Monthly public reporting will improve the budget process, and promote a more timely shared understanding of developments in state finances.

We have one concern with the current language of the proposed legislation. Sec. 908(b) includes a valuable directive to the comptroller to publish “the amount reported by the state agency.” But this arrives after a directive to agencies to publish not one but three report elements, including state liabilities held at the agency, whether those amounts are appropriated, and an estimate of interest penalties. We recommend the law be more carefully drafted to make explicit the amounts, not ‘amount,’ relating to all three elements of the law.

We would also support a provision requiring the comptroller to publish a report disclosing the criteria under which accrued interest penalties are estimated, as well as a monthly report on overall trends in state agencies.

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