Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s New Ledger Tool Sheds Light On State’s Fiscal Health

Being the chief fiscal officer in Illinois right now is like being one of your obituary writers at the newspaper, because I’ve only got bad news to report all the time. But this is really good news.

-Illinois State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, in a Chicago Tribune piece earlier today

Illinois residents now have a new tool on the Internet to keep a closer eye on their state’s finances. And from the looks of things, it’s something they should do often. From the website of the Illinois Office of the Comptroller:

TOPINKA OPENS THE LEDGER FOR TAXPAYER INSPECTION

Initiative delivers unprecedented fiscal information

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka on Monday unveiled The Ledger, a comprehensive online financial database that sets a new standard for transparency. In fact, the site provides taxpayers with the same up-to-date numbers and information that is used by Topinka’s office in carrying out its Constitutional duties.

Launched Monday, The Ledger allows taxpayers to click their way through everything from the state’s daily receipts and bill backlog numbers to state agency budgets and expenses. The site also provides a state employee database, allowing taxpayers to view all public salaries and recent additions to Illinois’ payroll.

Deciding to give The Ledger a whirl, I headed over to “Fiscal Condition” in the left sidebar, and selected “GAAP Fund Balance.” Here’s what the website said:

GAAP Fund Balance

When measured in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), the General Fund balance is a good indicator of the state’s overall fiscal health. The General Fund is the state’s basic operating fund, and it finances at least a portion of the operating budgets of every major agency. In addition, the General Fund includes the three school accounts and the General Revenue Fund account that administer nearly 40% of the state’s annual expenditures. A review of the history of the fund balance of the General Fund provides a good indication of the state’s overall fiscal health.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

And here’s the state’s GAAP information, from 2000 on:

GAAP Fund Balance History ($ in millions)

General Fund Balance (Deficit)

GAAP Basis

FY 2000 ($572)
FY 2001 ($1,365)
FY 2002 ($2,948)
FY 2003* ($4,181)
FY 2004* ($2,546)
FY 2005* ($3,299)
FY 2006* ($2,970)
FY 2007* ($4,171)
FY 2008* ($4,035)
FY 2009* ($7,682)
FY 2010 ($9,239)

* As restated.

FY 2010 ($9,239).” I think I’ve seen enough for now.

The Ledger can be found on the Illinois Comptroller’s website here.

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Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012 Debt Crisis, Deficits, Fiscal Policy, Government, Spending

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Christopher E. Hill, Editor
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