Any good teacher will notice that the student most behind on assignments usually is the one struggling the most, and the same seems to be true of states with Illinois governmental units tardy in their financial reports.
"Looking across the 50 states, we see that states that are slower than others also tend to be in worse shape, financially," Bill Bergman, director of research at Truth in Accounting, told Prairie State Wire.
Bergman is a financial expert in a position to know. With 13 years' experience as an economist and policy analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Bergman manages Truth in Accounting's federal project and its state data lab's database. "We track the timeliness of financial reporting across the 50 states," he said.
Bill Bergman, director of research at Truth in Accounting
Illinois took about 243 days to file its 2016 annual report, leading the nation in financial-reporting tardiness, according to Truth in Accounting. While that is better than states like New Mexico, which took about 370 days – more than a year – to turn in its financial reports, Illinois pales in comparison with states like Michigan, which filed in 123 days, and Washington, which filed in 124 days, according to the Truth in Accounting data.
Illinois also is notable for its overall tax burden, which is among the highest in the nation, according to Truth in Accounting. An Illinois Policy Institute report ranks Illinois as also enduring the highest overall tax burden in the nation. That and the state's slowness in reporting its financial situation could be telling, Bergman said.
"Truthful accounting includes timely accounting," he said. "While there can be some good reasons governments may be slow in reporting, one sad factor can be irresponsible stewardship."
Things also are slightly as worrying at the local level in Illinois, where the state's comptroller, Susana Mendoza, is legally required to provide an annual list of governmental agencies delinquent in sending in their financial reports by Oct. 31. In October, the comptroller's office reported more than 70 governmental units in the state were delinquent, about 1 percent of Illinois' 7,000 units of local government.