Tougher Illinois bill reporting rules clear hurdle

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CHICAGO – Illinois legislation requiring state agencies to report monthly on the unpaid bills they are holding is one step away from becoming law.

The House on Wednesday unanimously voted to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the Debt Transparency Act. The Senate will move to override the veto when it returns for the second week of the General Assembly’s annual veto session next month.

"This is a huge victory for taxpayers who will soon be able to get a better look at the state's pile of unpaid bills – that's more than $16 billion that has been run up in their name," state Comptroller Susana Mendoza, who has been working to build support for the override, said in a statement.

The legislation expands what’s now an annual report on bills held by agencies to monthly reporting.

“We don't really know how many bills are sitting at the agencies. Sometimes we get bombarded by an overnight surprise of a billion dollars worth of bills we never knew about,” Mendoza said. “Knowing the extent of our state’s liabilities is an essential component of responsible cash and debt management and will put us on the path to sounder fiscal footing.”

The bill originally passed with limited GOP support in the Democrat-controlled House and the unanimous vote that occurred Wednesday is a rarity. Democrats hold the super-majority needed for an override in the Senate.

The bill backlog was driven up to a record level by the record long two year budget impasse that ended in July. Its record growth is a key factor in the state’s credit profile as it provides a picture of the state’s cash and liquidity status. The state carries two ratings that are the lowest investment grade level.

The state sold $6 billion of 12-year general obligation bonds in a $4.5 billion sale Wednesday and $1.5 billion issue last week to pay down the backlog. The closing is set for early next month. The state captured an all-in borrowing rate of 3.5%.

Rauner, a Republican, had vetoed the act saying it was a move by Mendoza, a Democrat, to micromanage state agencies.

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