Illinios Comptroller Susana Mendoza, left, with members of her staff, watching last November as the State Senate overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of the Debt Transparency Act, which resulted in her office's first debt transparency report last month.
It was a bit like the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services failed to get its required homework turned in on time for State Comptroller Susana Mendoza's first debt transparency report, but a department deputy director said they did get it turned in.
Mendoza still has the department marked as tardy in getting its report turned in, at least online, Neil Skene, DCFS senior deputy director for strategy and performance, said in an email to Prairie State Wire. "We've had several questions about this because the comptroller's statement is still online with the statement that DCFS 'remains' in non-compliance," Skene said.
When Mendoza, a Democrat, issued her office's first debt transparency report a few weeks ago, the accompanying press release included this comment about agencies tardy in turning in their report: "Eighty out of the 84 state agencies and universities required to report responded for the reporting period ending Dec. 31, 2017. The four agencies that failed to submit and remain in non-compliance with the state statute are the Department of Children and Family Services, the Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Human Rights Commission and the Sex Offender Management Board."
"DCFS filed the report a day after the comptroller’s news release," Skene said. "The report shows only a very small fraction of the DCFS budget is unpaid bills and no late-payment interest payable."
A copy of DCFS' report turned in to Mendoza's office, which Skene provided Prairie State Wire, shows more than $10 million under liability reporting from general and federal funds with zero dollars in late payment interest, estimated pending liabilities or late payment interest penalties.
Mendoza's first debt transparency report was the hard-fought-for result of her lobbying for last year's Debt Transparency Act. State Rep. Fred Crespo (D-Hoffman Estates), a strong supporter who helped get the act into law despite Gov. Bruce Rauner's opposition, called the act "a common-sense reform that will ensure government is being transparent with its taxpayers."
The act mandates greater accountability from state agencies contributing to the state's bill backlog, which reached about $13.3 billion shortly before bipartisan House and Senate votes to override Rauner's veto in November. About $4.9 billion of that amount was held by agencies "because of lack of appropriation or processing delays," according to a comptroller press release at the time.
Mendoza's office projected then that the state would owe at least $800 million in interest and penalties on its overdue bills by fiscal year's end, according to that press release.
When Mendoza's office released the first debt transparency report in January, it revealed more than $9.2 billion in estimated general fund bill backlog, with bills reporting at state agencies amounting to more than $2.4 billion of that amount. Bills at the office of the comptroller, more than $6.7 billion, or about 73 percent of the total amount, made up the rest, according to the debt transparency report.
DCFS' report was not included in those results because the department reported late but did not contribute at all to that amount, Skene said.