November 30, 2010
Follow the money
What’s wrong with finding out where Illinois taxpayer dollars go?
Illinois Auditor General William Holland recently waded into an ongoing political debate by announcing his opposition to the idea of conducting a forensic audit of state spending.
Holland said the proposal, which is vehemently opposed by Democratic Party leaders in the Illinois House and Senate, would be costly and time-consuming and is simply not necessary because forensic audits use accounting methods designed to identify criminal behavior including fraud and embezzlement.
Noting the frequency with which legislative candidates expressed support for the idea prior to the Nov. 2 election, Holland expressed the hope that “maybe some cooler heads will prevail and we’ll step back from this concept of forensic audits.”
It’s too late for that. The General Assembly has passed and Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation authorizing a forensic audit of the state’s Medicaid spending, which accounts for about 25 percent of the state budget.
So the question really is not, as Holland suggests, whether the state ought to conduct a forensic audit of its non-Medicaid spending.
The real question is if the state has determined it’s a good idea to examine Medicaid spending, why isn’t it an equally good idea to do the same with the remainder of the state budget?
As for Holland’s suggestion that accounting methods associated with criminal conduct would be inappropriate, perhaps someone should remind him that corruption has a long and storied history in Illinois.
As a matter of policy, it’s pretty clear that the proposed forensic audit is not going anywhere in the Legislature. House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton want nothing to do with the idea, so it’s dead.
But Republicans made a lot of political hay with the idea during the last campaign, so much so that some Democratic legislative candidates signed on to it rather be identified as publicly opposed.
Unsuccessful GOP gubernatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski first proposed the plan during last winter’s primary election campaign, and the Republican Party picked it up.
Holland has gone out of his way to challenge Andrzejewski’s judgment on the wisdom of the issue, and Andrzejewski has responded in kind, suggesting that Holland is not interested in alienating Madigan & Co.
“This is a case of the fox’s auditor saying an audit of the henhouse isn’t necessary,” said Andrzejewski, noting Holland’s background as a Democratic operative before being named to the non-partisan post of auditor general.
This kind of partisan sniping is inevitable in Illinois, and, unfortunately, it distracts from the real issue – the state’s disastrous financial condition.
What is wrong with a comprehensive examination of state spending, particularly when it’s clear that Illinois cannot maintain the spending status quo even if Gov. Quinn gets the state income tax increase he desperately wants?
Everyone knows that state government in Illinois is a mess, that legislators have created one new program after another without the means to pay for them. The state is essentially bankrupt. Perhaps it would be instructive to examine the gory details.
That’s what a forensic audit can do, and that’s why powerful people in state government want nothing to do with the idea.