CHICAGO — Illinois Republicans criticized Democratic Comptroller Susana Mendoza on Sunday for spending $32,000 on a used SUV when the state is months behind in paying its bills, an attack her office dismissed as an attempt to distract from GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner’s “failure.”
The comptroller’s office, which controls the state checkbook, bought the 2016 Ford Explorer from a central Illinois dealership and paid for it in full in January, shortly after Mendoza took office, the Chicago Sun-Times first reported.
Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider on Sunday called the purchase “outrageous,” noting Illinois has $11 billion in overdue bills because of the state budget stalemate. That has led to social service agencies and other vendors going unpaid or waiting months to get money that’s owed them.
“I don’t think buying a 2016 SUV for the comptroller’s office is a priority,” Schneider said. “I think that can wait.”
Mendoza’s office said the money came from an administrative fund that’s not used to pay state bills and isn’t related to the bill backlog.
Director of Communication Abdon Pallasch said Mendoza has reduced the office fleet from nine to eight vehicles and the SUV replaced a car that was inoperable.
He said Rauner has a larger state vehicle fleet, and noted state agencies controlled by Rauner have spent $11 million on vehicles over the past two years, not including leases.
“The Governor’s party’s phony outrage at one purchase of a used car instead of the state’s $11 billion dollar backlog of bills he refuses to address is a transparent attempt to silence the state office-holder who has been most vocal in holding the Governor accountable for his failure to do his job,” Pallasch said.
Mendoza, who defeated former GOP Comptroller Leslie Munger in November, has repeatedly blasted Rauner as responsible for Illinois’ nearly two-year budget fight.
That has made her a frequent target of the Rauner-funded state GOP, which has linked the former Chicago city clerk to Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. Munger, meanwhile, has since been rehired by Rauner as a “deputy governor.”