(The Center Square) – A new report found Illinois is one of the least transparent states in the country for reporting government financial information.
The nonprofit organization Truth in Accounting released its Financial Transparency Score report for financial reporting by the states and gave Illinois a score of 56 out of a possible 100. Only four states scored lower.
The report focuses on annual financial reports on file in statehouses across the country and measures their contents against best practices from the private sector. The report is based on fiscal year 2020, which includes the beginning of the pandemic and the most recent reports available for all 50 states.
Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of Openthebooks.com, said state governments have to show us the money trail.
“If they tax you, they have to prove they are spending our money honesty, efficiently, and in ways that help people who have real needs,” Andrzejewski said.
Some of the criteria to gain points include receiving a clean opinion from an independent auditor, the reporting of all retirement liabilities on its balance sheet, and being easily accessible online.
Truth in Accounting CEO Sheila Weinberg said some governments like Illinois are promising future pensions without a funding mechanism or transparency.
“We believe in what we call fact-based accounting,” Weinberg said. “You shouldn’t be able to promise something and get votes for without having to include it in your budget.”
Andrzejewski said most states don’t report pension liabilities, and Illinois’ situation is a mess.
“For a family of four, your share of the Illinois unfunded pension liability exceeds the median income in the state,” said Andrzejewski. “You will owe more to pensions for public employee promises that were promised but never funded than you make in a year.”
The scores are worse than previous years, which the report authors say could be due to the COVID-19 pandemic and federal relief funds which presented challenges with audits.
While no state earned a perfect score in this year’s analysis, TIA regards a score of 80 or above as noteworthy. Utah received the top score of 88, while Colorado was the least transparent state with a score of 46.