Use special funds as intended or scrap them, Truth In Accounting founder says
Truth In Accounting founder and CEO Sheila Weinberg thinks Illinois’ special funds should either do what they’re advertised to do or be discarded altogether.
“If taxpayers are told funds are going to be used for a specified purpose, then those funds should be used only for that purpose,” Weinberg told the Prairie State Wire. “If the funds are consistently used for purposes other than their specified purpose, then these funds should be eliminated.”
In Illinois, there currently are more than 600 special state funds supporting everything from cancer research to environmental protection to the local government tax and the road fund. For the most part, the funds are established through legislation mandating that money collected for a specific purpose only be used for that express purpose.
In late 2016, Illinois voters took a major step in protecting special funds by approving the “Safe Roads Amendment” to the state Constitution. The amendment stipulates that the state must spend all transportation derived taxes and fees exclusively on transportation projects.
“Some believe an advantage of having special funds is the funding of services and benefits that might get overlooked in the overall budget project,” Weinberg said. “For example, the fee to become a CPA is put into a fund that is used to administer CPA licensing.”
The funds can only be eliminated by an act of the Illinois General Assembly or if the fund has languished inactively for a period of at least 18 months.
Weinberg said Truth in Accounting is opposed to what is known as fund sweeping, the practice of diverting special funds to other areas for use during times of budget crises. She argues if taxpayers are told funds are going to be used for a specified purpose, then those funds should be used only for that purpose.
Wirepoints founder Mark Glennon estimates that the special funds now have collected somewhere in the neighborhood of $14 billion, begging the question of why lawmakers would allow such a vast windfall to simply collect dust at a time when the state finds itself mired under an avalanche of more than $16 billion in unpaid debt.
“Illinois is holding the cash with the hope it will be used for the specified purposes,” Weinberg said. “Most states have these types of funds.”