SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza continued her push Thursday for better accounting of the state's finances, urging legislators to require the governor's office to pay employee salaries from its own budget instead of "off-shoring" the costs to agencies.
Mendoza, who previously convinced lawmakers to mandate better reporting from agencies on overdue bills, announced the new legislation at the Capitol while surrounded by supportive lawmakers, including a Republican.
"This is a very simple bill," the Democratic comptroller said. "It says if you work in the governor's office, you will be paid from the governor's payroll."
While on paper Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has an office budget of $4.9 million, Mendoza said he's actually spending $10.4 million. The comptroller's staff can decipher the practice known as off-shoring by pay codes which identify account sources.
"You think the governor only has 44 staffers. Wrong. He has 102," Mendoza said. "But 58 of them are off-shored onto other agency payrolls. ... This bad practice is siphoning money from health care, from environmental protection, juvenile justice and public safety."
An August 2015 analysis by The Associated Press found that payroll for all employees reporting to the governor's office at that time was $8 million, but only $4 million of that came out of Rauner's budget.
Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold said the governor is open to "changing bookkeeping practices."
"But let's be clear: All state agencies that operate under Gov. Rauner are part of the administration and carry out the necessary functions of state government," Bold said.
Sen. Andy Manar, the Bunker Hill Democrat carrying the legislation in the Senate, dismissed that notion. He and House sponsor Rep. Christian Mitchell, a Chicago Democrat, contended that off-shoring undercuts the Legislature's constitutional requirement to appropriate money where it's needed.
"Why are legislators in the appropriating business and why is that in the constitution in the first place?" asked Manar. "If that's how government should be run, we should just appropriate one number to the governor's office and go home. That's not what checks and balances is."
Mendoza, who has feuded with Rauner since she beat his hand-picked comptroller in a special election in 2016, called the "truth-in-hiring" legislation a continuation of the debt transparency act requiring more frequent reporting of bills incurred by agencies. Lawmakers approved it in October over Rauner's veto.
But she and her supporters, which also included Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris and GOP Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills, insisted they're not trying to embarrass Rauner. They denounced off-shoring by past governors and pointed out that if their plan becomes law, it would apply to Rauner's successors, Democrat or Republican.
"When I hear that a governor has a budget that's twice the size of what he says it is while he's advocating for cuts in other program areas, that's problematic," Mitchell said.