Governor, Democrats, Disagree On Borrowing To Reduce Illinois Bill Backlog

Susana Mendoza speaks at Democrat Day at the Illinois State Fair in 2015.

In this file photo, Susana Mendoza speaks at Democrat Day at the Illinois State Fair in 2015.

Brian Mackey/NPR Illinois

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is criticizing lawmakers’ plan to address the state’s massive backlog of bills.

The state’s backlog is currently almost $14.4 billion.

It nearly tripled over the last two years due to the state budget impasse.

Lawmakers approved a plan to borrow money to pay that debt down so the state would not be losing $2 million dollars a day in interest payments.

But Governor Rauner is critical of that plan, which won’t take place unless he directs his budget office to issue bonds to borrow the money.

“More borrowing on top of the spending behavior of the state government is not an optimal answer”, said Rauner during an appearance Monday in Chicago.

Rauner did not say how he would address the backlog of bills.

He says lawmakers should adopt reforms so the state would not be in this position in the future.

Democratic Comptroller Susana Mendoza accuses the Rauner administration of dragging its feet on the borrowing plan. She says the governor’s refusal to issue bonds in order to pay down the debt is costing the state more money.

“Every day that goes by without the capital from the new bonds being issued is costing taxpayers an additional $2 million a day”, said Mendoza.

Mendoza’s comments led to a back-and-forth between the offices.

Through a spokeswoman, Rauner says there are things Mendoza should be doing on her own — including moving money around state accounts.

But Mendoza's office says she's already doing that, and that Rauner should get going.

State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, another Democrat, also called on Gov. Rauner to issue bonds to refinance the state’s backlog of bills.

In a news release, Frerichs argued that the backlog represents “loans from unwilling employers” that cost the state 12 percent in interest.

“There is not a financial advisor worth his salt who would urge a family to keep a 12 percent loan when better interest rates are available”, said Frerichs. “Refinancing isn’t enough, of course, and difficult decisions remain. But why in the world would we not do this?”

Story source: Illinois Public Radio