Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Springfield update

Courtesy of Mark Gordon:

‘Keno For Kids’

By now you’re all aware of the Governor’s media campaign to promote a $3 billion construction program. Governor Blagojevich has a steep hill to climb to win Republican support after three years of broken promises, fiscal mismanagement and ‘Pay to Play’ politics.

The Governor wants to borrow $2.3 billion for road projects, $425 million for mass-transit projects and $500 million for school construction plans, according to media reports, but has offered the Legislature few details or information about the plan. Having already more than doubled state debt, the latest push would make Illinois the second most-indebted state in the nation, behind only California. With the state’s pension liability included, Illinois is in debt to the tune of more than $60 billion.

To pay some of the debt, the Governor reversed an earlier pledge not to expand gambling in Illinois, by unveiling a plan to introduce Keno in Illinois. The Governor’s action prompted the Arlington Heights Daily Herald to comment, “…the governor who once vehemently opposed expansion of gambling has flipped more precisely than a dolphin at a Sea World show …”

In addition to the gambling expansion, published reports say the plan would be paid by taking about $200 million a year from the state's Road Fund and using $35 million generated from unspecified “increased tax revenue.”

Lottery Firm Hired Blagojevich Pal

Adding to the Governor’s problems, the Chicago Tribune reported Jan. 12 that in November “one of his longtime confidants became a lobbyist for the gambling company likely to run the new game.”

John Wyma, who served as a top aide to Governor Blagojevich when he was in Congress, was hired by GTECH Corp., while the company was in the middle of discussions with the Governor’s office about Keno, according to the Tribune story. GTECH already receives about $27 million from the state for operating lottery games.
While Senate Republicans have long supported the idea of a capital improvement program, they have insisted that it must be done in a fiscally sound way, with contracts awarded ethically and with legislators having a fair, equitable, and detailed list of projects.
No Trust in Governor

A key hurdle for the administration is the widespread lack of trust in Blagojevich. The Governor’s latest claim that there is “surplus” money in the state’s road fund left many legislators scratching their heads, since the administration has yet to release funds for numerous projects approved years ago.

State Sen. Christine Radogno told the Illinois State Journal-Register, “If we had extra money in the road fund, we would be doing more road projects. I don’t buy that there’s this extra money just sitting around.”

Her comments were echoed by Illinois House member Bill Mitchell of Forsyth, who told the newspaper, “For three years, he ignored us. Now it’s an election year, and it’s like: Eureka! He’s found downstate this year.”

Governor’s Early Retirement Plan Falls Flat

Like many other Blagojevich Administration programs, an early retirement incentive pushed by Governor Blagojevich in 2004 fell far short of its goal. According to a recent analysis by the bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, the Governor’s early retirement incentive program drew only 542 participants, far fewer than the 3,000 employees who were expected to take advantage of the program.

In reality, even the small number of people who signed up for the program is a misleading figure, because the Commission also estimated that all but 100 would have left state government at the end of that year anyway.

The program contained significant up-front costs – $23.4 million in lump sum payouts – in exchange for the hope that down the road the state will see offsetting savings in reduced pension payments. The pension payout program joins the Administration’s prescription drug program, flu shot program, “phantom” efficiency initiatives and numerous other programs that have promised much but failed to deliver.

What Do Senate Republicans Want?

The Governor’s call for a major new construction program has prompted the question: what will it take to get Senate Republicans on board? (Because new borrowing requires a 60% majority vote, Republicans would have to support any bond program).

Since last spring, Senate Republicans have been consistent in what it will take to win their support for new borrowing for construction projects.

It must be fiscally responsible – which means the money to repay the debt must come from a real source that is identifiable and definable and any borrowing must comply with the state’s Debt Responsibility Act, authored by Senate Republicans. The Governor’s proposal uses non-existent “surplus” road funds. In his first three years he has diverted millions of dollars from the state road fund to pay for the general operation of state government and now is claiming there is a “surplus” in the fund.

It must be done ethically – that means competitive, responsible contracting for the work. The latest revelation of his close ties to a Keno firm’s lobbyist is just one more in the ongoing “pay to play” pattern of the Blagojevich administration.

It must be open – that means legislators need to know before a vote is taken, exactly what projects will be undertaken and when they will be done. The administration has yet to produce a detailed plan of how and where it will spend the money. No responsible legislator can vote for a program without knowing what they are supporting.

It must be fair – That means funds should be distributed based on need, not political expediency. The Governor’s disdain for most of the geography of Illinois is legendary. Not helpful was the Governor’s recent decision to use $1 million in tax dollars to take care of his political base in Chicago by rebuilding a private church – while at the same time repair and construction projects that were approved years ago in other areas of the state sit waiting for funds owed them.

Finally, the Governor must somehow restore the trust that he has squandered over the past three years. Possibly the biggest hurdle to overcome is the simple fact that legislators feel they cannot trust the Governor to ever keep his word. They fear that no matter what commitment

As usual you have nailed it. Gov. Subpoenavich cannot be trusted and has lost any credibility he had even in his party. Does he really think people are so stupid they don't realize what he is doing with TAX money!! A condescending academic with no brains or common sense...very dangerous for us.
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