Senate panel votes down reorganization plan

Doug Finke

Just a day after the Blagojevich administration proposed a reorganization of nearly two dozen state agencies and authorities, the Senate Executive Committee decisively turned thumbs-down on the idea.

By a 10-3 vote, the committee Wednesday told the administration no. The full Senate must also reject the plan, but the committee vote indicates the idea has little support, even among Democrats.

“You cannot guarantee there won’t be a bureaucratic mess,” said Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago.  “I’m concerned about the loss of jobs, the loss of services. I have a lot of problems with this.”

“The instrument has yet to be invented that can measure how little faith there is in the management ability of this administration,” said Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued an executive order saying he wants to combine administrative functions of state agencies into three “shared services centers” that would handle human resources, accounting, payroll and other administrative services for agencies that perform similar work. For instance, the departments of Healthcare and Family Services, Veterans Affairs and Public Health would share those administrative services because they all deal with health-care issues.

“There are over 100 human resources and accounting systems. As they age, it is expensive to keep them up,” said Greg Wass, chief information officer for Blagojevich. “We can no longer afford staff for 46 separate agencies.”

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees opposes the plan, saying there are no protections for the 200 employees who would be affected by the order. Wass said earlier that the administration would not cut employees because of the order, but acknowledged that if jobs became vacant because employees leave, they probably would not be filled.

The union also is skeptical that the complicated plan will work.

“We don’t want to create more problems than we solve,” said John Cameron, AFSCME’s director of political relations.

Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, said the opponents of the reorganization are actually anti-Blagojevich.

“It blows my mind the bipartisan hatred of the governor comes before the good of the state,” Hendon said.

After the vote, the Blagojevich administration issued a written statement saying it will continue trying to convince senators that the reorganization plan is a good idea.

The House also may weigh in on the plan, where Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, is sponsoring a resolution to block it. Franks said he thinks the administration will use the reorganization plan as an excuse to award consulting contracts to the governor’s allies.

Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.