NEWS

Editorial: Blagojevich ignores process of government

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Maybe we should have taken it more seriously in February 2005 when then-Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk let us know that his boss, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, didn't care that much for doing things by the book.

"Rod is not great at process, but I think he's pretty good at results," a Chicago Tribune editorial quoted Tusk as saying. "You look at (Comptroller Dan) Hynes, who's a total process guy. That's probably a good characteristic, but it's a clash of cultures."

At the time, Tusk's comment appeared to be a slap at Hynes for criticizing the governor for his ill-fated, $2.6 million plan to obtain flu shots from overseas. As it turned out, the shots could not be used here or even in Pakistan, where they were eventually destroyed.

Yet possibly this was really a quiet warning from Tusk, who now works in the private sector in New York City, that Blagojevich would not allow a little thing like the constitution or law to stand in the way of his priorities.

Blagojevich has made it clear that, in his mind, there are things more important than the law -- things like his agenda.

In 2005, the governor was fighting with Hynes because the comptroller was refusing to have the state pay the $2.6 million for those flu vaccines, which the federal Food and Drug Administration never approved for importation to Illinois. In that case, Blagojevich flouted federal law.

Much more recently he fought with Hynes over his flouting of state law -- urging Hynes to issue millions of dollars in paychecks to state employees even though there was no budget in place to provide spending authority and no court order telling Hynes to do so.

An agreed court order put an end to that controversy for the time being, and we thought that might be as loose as the governor would play it this year. Wrong.

On Tuesday, Blagojevich announced that it didn't really matter that the General Assembly had not approved his call to expand health care programs. He would do it anyway. He will cut $500 million from the budget sent to him by the General Assembly, and will increase spending by about that amount on expanding health care.

"In short, I am cutting pork and special-interest spending, and in its place, I'm using the legal authority that I have to expand health care to more than 500,000 people," Blagojevich said in brief remarks in front of his Statehouse office. "I believe that's the right thing to do."

The Blagojevich administration has deluded itself into thinking that as long as a high-minded press release can be written on a topic, it is OK to proceed regardless of whether it is legal or constitutional. "If we can win the PR battle, we win," they seem to think.

After all, who can possibly argue against expanding health care? For example, the governor says his changes to the budget will fund breast and cervical cancer screening and treatment for 261,000 uninsured women. That is a great priority to set.

However, an effective leader could have made cervical and breast cancer screening/treatment a part of this budget without tossing the constitution out the window. Budget by fiat is dangerous. It ignores the process of government. Process isn't something to be sneered at; it exists to protect us from those too vain, impatient or lazy to follow it properly.

State Journal-Register