New Laws Aim to Improve State Budget Disclosure

September 04, 2013

Several recently enacted laws are designed to increase public access to information about the State of Illinois’ budget and improve other aspects of the State’s budget process.

The following table lists budget-related legislation signed by Governor Pat Quinn since the end of the General Assembly’s spring session on May 31, 2013.

Public Act 98-0461, signed on August 16, requires the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) to post detailed information about the State budget on its website within 60 days of enactment. Information on the enacted budget for FY2014, which began on July 1, 2013, has been posted and can be found here. The new law specifically requires that the entire enacted line item budget be made available in downloadable form. GOMB has also posted summary enacted budget tables showing the operating and capital budgets by agency and the operating budget by program. Another new table shows transfers out of General Funds in the enacted FY2014 budget.

Before the new law, the Governor was required to issue a budget recommendation for the upcoming fiscal year by the third Wednesday in February unless the date was changed by an act of the General Assembly. There was no requirement, however, to publish the budget passed by the legislature and enacted by the Governor. Information on the enacted budget could previously be found in reports by the General Assembly’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability and in documents relating to the sale of State bonds. The Civic Federation’s Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability (IIFS) also issues a report each year on the State’s enacted budget.

Two other new laws require expanded disclosure about budget deficits, General Funds liabilities and unpaid bills held at State agencies. Under Public Act 98-0460, the Governor’s budget proposal must contain narrative information about the budget deficit or surplus for the current and upcoming fiscal years and two prior fiscal years. The recommended budget must also show liabilities that do not appear in the current year’s budget because they can be deferred and paid from future years’ appropriations. IIFS previously recommended that these deferred liabilities, which relate mainly to Medicaid and group health insurance, be shown in the Governor’s budget. Public Act 98-0228 requires that each State agency report to the Office of the Comptroller the amount of any outstanding bills held by the agency at the end of each fiscal year. The reports are due by October 1 and must be posted on the Comptroller’s website.

Public Act 98-0047 creates the Illinois Single Audit Commission to make recommendations on uniform State-wide standards for the administration of grants. The Commission is required to submit a report to the General Assembly by January 1, 2014, focusing primarily on “developing a coordinated, non-redundant process for the provision of effective and efficient oversight of the selection and monitoring of grant recipients, ensuring quality programs and limiting fraud, waste and abuse.” The 17-member Commission will include grant-making experts appointed by the Governor from 13 State agencies, as well as four community representatives appointed by the agencies.

Public Act 98-0044 repeals or limits certain mandates, which are statutorily required agency actions or services. Several of the changes alter notice requirements from mailings to electronic notifications. The legislation stemmed from work of the Budgeting for Results Commission, which oversees the State’s effort to improve its budget process by attempting to allocate resources to programs that are most efficient at delivering results. The Commission’s duties include reviewing mandated expenditures and making recommendations concerning unnecessary mandates. As discussed here, the Commission in its second annual report called for elimination or replacement of 18 specific mandates.

Under Public Act 98-0580, the Budgeting for Results Commission is required to establish a working group to develop a plan “to make the State budgeting process the most transparent, publicly-accessible budgeting process in the nation.” The working group, composed of Commission members, must report its findings to the Governor and General Assembly by January 1, 2015.