After being sworn in Monday in Springfield’s Capitol rotunda, Comptroller Susana Mendoza vowed to be an “independent, truth-telling watchdog” for the state.
During her speech, Mendoza criticized Gov. Bruce Rauner for backing a “bailout” for Exelon and ComEd after vetoing $215 million in funding for Chicago Public Schools. Throughout her speech, she pushed lawmakers to pass a balanced budget in order to aid the state’s “most vulnerable."
“This is such a pivotal time for our state and our country,” Mendoza said. “The choices we make now will impact our lives and our children’s lives for years to come. Do we want a state that meets its obligation to provide services for the poor and the elderly, for people with disabilities, to be the primary funder of education in the state? Or do we want a state that keeps shirking its responsibility to pass a balanced budget?”
Mendoza also pointed to the state’s pressing $10.4 billion bill backlog and pledged to roll over outgoing Comptroller Leslie Munger’s policy that withholds state government paychecks until other bills are paid.
“I’m putting myself in that same queue, not because I want to villainize legislators, I clearly don’t, I think a lot of them work very hard,” she added. “However, we are public servants and in this fiscal crisis we need to make sure that we’re prioritizing the right people first."
A group of Illinois representatives filed a lawsuit on Friday looking to stop that policy. According to the group bringing the suit, the effort looks to “end unwarranted political pressure being brought by Gov. Bruce Rauner and Comptroller Leslie Munger.” On Monday, Rauner urged the lawmakers to drop the lawsuit.
Mendoza noted that she spoke with Rauner after being elected and visited Rome with him last month to watch Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich’s installation as cardinal. However, she claimed she didn’t get much transition help from Munger and her office.
The comptroller also explained that she plans to be a visible figure in Springfield, criticizing Rauner for attempting to include elements of his turnaround agenda, like term limits and workers' compensation, in budget negotiations. During Monday’s news conference, she explained that it’s a “new day in the comptroller’s office.”
“I’ve gotta tell you that I really am very hopeful and I’m optimistic that things will get better in the state of Illinois,” Mendoza said. “We’re going to get out of this and we're going to do it together and Illinois will see brighter days ahead.”