SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois state Comptroller Susana Mendoza wants to force governors to pay employees from their budgets instead of "off-shoring" them to other agencies.
The Democrat said Thursday that her legislation would end the practice by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and future executives of "hiding" employees on agency payrolls.
Past governors have done the same. Mendoza contends Rauner's official budget is $5 million and lists 44 employees. But with staff paid from other agencies, the number is $10.4 million and 102 staffers.
Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold says the governor is open to discussing bookkeeping changes. But she says all agencies under the governor carry out the administration's functions.
An August 2015 Associated Press analysis found that the governor's budget financed half of the $8 million paid to everyone working for Rauner.
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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 lawmakers — all but one of them Democrats.
"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.
"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," said Rep. Christian Mitchell, a Chicago Democrat who's carrying the measure in the House.
Other media reports about off-shoring in 2015 included one that found that Rauner paid his education adviser $250,000 from the Department of Human Services.
Rauner's spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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, including Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who is the Senate sponsor of the new plan; 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.
Manar dismissed former governors' arguments that an employee working for the governor but who is paid by the Transportation Department, for example, is working on related issues and that it's all tax money.
"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."