Rauner vs Mendoza: Paying down debt

ILLINOIS (WCIA) -- The governor and comptroller are butting heads again. This time, about how to pay down the backlog of bills.

The comptroller is asking the governor to borrow money. It's not the first time she's asked to refinance state debt at a cheaper rate.

Although the state's backlog has gone down since lawmakers passed a budget, Comptroller Mendoza says it's still way too high and it's costing taxpayers $2 million a day.

Even though lawmakers finally passed a budget last month, it doesn't mean the state's problems go away. The backlog of unpaid bills still sits at more than $14 billion.

Comptroller Mendoza says, the longer we wait to repay it, the more taxpayers will foot the bill.

"The state needs to refinance at a better rate than 12% and stop burning $2 million a day of your tax dollars on unnecessary interest penalties," said Mendoza.

Mendoza has sent letters to Governor Rauner asking him to take action to borrow money to help pay down the state's debt. She says money can be borrowed at a lower interest rate than what the state is paying now.

"One of the tools the state can use to address the high interest of our debt is through utilizing its bonding authority which, by the way, was approved in the budget that passed last month," said Mendoza.

The budget she's referring to gives the state the authority to borrow up to $6 billion. But, Governor Rauner says, before he goes shopping for a cheaper rate, he wants Mendoza to use money already sitting in her lap to start paying other bills.

"Under her control, there is over half a billion dollars in cash that is available to pay down debt and, if she chose to pay down some of that, some of the medical bills, we could leverage some of that for two-for-one," said Rauner.

Rauner says first, he needs to see a plan to pay down the debt before taking on more debt.

"You can't go to market and tell bond buyers, 'Hey, we don't have a balanced budget, even now, and we haven't made any allocations or appropriations to pay down debt.' We need a plan to repay the debt."

Both sides blame the other for dragging their feet. It's still unknown who will make the first move to agree to a solution.

"I think the governor has offered a lot of objections to activities, but it's not accomplished  nor proposed any ideas to repay the backlog of bills," said State Treasurer Michael Frerichs. 

Mendoza says her office already paid down some of the debt, but needs more resources to do it sooner rather than later. She would like to stop seeing excused from the governor and work towards a deal they could both agree to getting the state back on track.

Governor Rauner did sign some bills into law this weekend. One allows inmates to use video visitation, like Skype, to communicate with family members.

Another will help those people get more mental health treatment. If someone is deemed unfit to stand trial, the county sheriff's office would be required to transport the defendant to a mental health facility.


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