The (Springfield) State Journal-Register
With all that ails Illinois, this is what time is being wasted on these days?
The "this" being referred to is the feud between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic Comptroller Susana Mendoza, who are arguing what fund should be used to pay about 600 state employees.
We get the politics behind it: The need to paint the other political party as uncaring or wrong is a well-worn page out of the political maneuver playbook. It's just frustrating that the pettiness between the political parties is getting this low. Did both sides decide they hadn't had a big enough public fight yet so they decided to get something going?
The crux of the disagreement is this: There are 578 employees who work in the Department of Central Management Services who need to get paid. CMS submitted payroll vouchers asking these employees be paid out of the General Revenue Fund, which is typically used for most expenses.
Mendoza wants to cut these checks from two revolving funds — the Facilities Management Revolving Fund and the State Garage Revolving Fund — that have $93 million in them as opposed to the general fund, which has a stack of unpaid bills totaling more than $12 billion. She has used the word "triage" to describe how her office attends to the state's obligations when Illinois doesn't have a budget and the majority of spending is being done through court orders, consent decrees and continuing appropriations. She argues using money from funds in the black is better than further burdening the one in the red.
Rauner says the comptroller's plan would violate a 2015 order from St. Clair County Court that has kept state workers being paid despite the lack of a state budget. The administration has filed in that same court asking for quick action, saying a delay could mean workers would miss a paycheck.
CMS has also said those two funds have specific purposes, like keeping state vehicles on the road and maintaining vehicles used by the Illinois Department of Human Services to transport vulnerable citizens. If those funds are used for payroll, CMS believes the money would be depleted before the end of the fiscal year, and that could mean, for instance, no money to pay for gasoline for state trooper vehicles.
The comptroller's office notes that both of those funds have money specifically appropriated for payroll purposes for these employees, and previous comptrollers have used those funds for payroll. Rauner's team said in the past, other agencies gave some of their general revenue funds to CMS as it serves as a consolidated clearinghouse for certain services (like negotiating leases or vehicle repairs). Without a budget, those agencies cannot transfer money to CMS, and therefore the funds to assist with CMS overhead are not there.
All that (and more) has been outlined in a series of letters, press statements and videos during the last few days, culminating in Monday's court filing.
As the popular internet meme goes, this whole episode "is why we can't have nice things."
It's a simplified explanation of a ridiculously complex budgeting system, but realistically there is one pot of money and it's called revenue. That may be divided into smaller buckets, but in the end, revenue is used to pay expenses. Most Illinois residents don't care a lick what bucket it comes from.
This is what matters: The state is $12 billion behind in paying its bills. We are in month 21 of no budget. Revenue continues to not meet expenses. Residents are leaving the state. Universities must cut expenses. Businesses are looking for ways to cut expenses. Social service agencies are reducing offerings to clients. Do we really need to add to that list squabbling over what bucket of money to use to pay 600 out of the state's 60,000 employees?
Despite the fact that we can't believe this has become a problem, its solution can be found by compromising on a state budget. Lawmakers should be spending their energy on crafting a spending plan, approving it and getting it signed into law.