Comptroller says state’s net deficit up to $16.7B

The state’s finances are getting worse and taxpayers are on the hook for a lot of government debt. That’s the takeaway from government spending watchdog Truth In Accounting after reviewing the state’s latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

Tuesday’s published CAFR from Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s office for the fiscal year that came to a close more than 8 months ago said the state spent $126.7 billion with a net deficit of $16.7 billion.

Truth In Accounting Founder Sheila Weinberg said forget about the numbers lawmakers use when they discuss the budget–it’s the CAFR that tells the true story.

“You’ve heard that infamous keeping two sets of books–that’s what they do,” Weinberg said.

“They have a book that is audited, that is reviewed by accountants for accuracy and then they do the budget and the budget does not include all the liabilities and it does not include all the expenses that the state incurs. There are over 600 funds and many of those are not included in the budget,” Weinberg said.

Mendoza’s office said the lion’s share of the increased debt was from the pension shortfall.

Weinberg said the CAFR is already dated.

“The unfunded shortfall for pensions increased by $24.4 billion between 2015 and 2016. The numbers are worse than what she is reporting because she is reporting 2015 numbers for pensions. Not 2016 numbers for pensions,” Weinberg said.

Totalling up the state’s unfunded pensions and retiree health care and other accumulated bills, Weinberg said each Illinois household owes $45,000 to the state.

Mendoza’s office blamed Gov. Bruce Rauner for not submitting a balanced budget, stating Rauner “handed the General Assembly a proposal in which expenditures exceeded revenues by $7 billion.”

The governor said Mendoza was finger pointing.

“As a decade-long member of the general assembly, Comptroller Mendoza was a leader in passing the very policies that helped plunge our state into its dire fiscal situation,” Rauner spokesperson Eleni Demertzis said. “The governor continues pushing for a truly balanced budget along with changes to our system that create jobs, strengthen schools and provide for our human services.”

Weinberg said both sides have not been using the term ‘truly balanced budget’ completely accurately.

“The governor’s budget that he’s proposed is not truly balanced, and the budget the Democrats have been using for decades has not been truly balanced,” Weinberg said.

Weinberg said the state’s leaders need to be honest in addressing all of the state’s debts, from pensions to retiree health care liabilities and beyond. She also said the CAFR needs to be published sooner, not more than 8 months after the conclusion of a fiscal year.

The state hasn’t had a full-year’s spending plan since summer 2015. Some argue that because of unfunded pension and retiree health care liabilities the state hasn’t had a truly balanced budget for more than 15 years.

–Illinois News Network

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