Doug Finke: Back to the beginning
Way back in February, Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH unveiled his budget and called for lawmakers to approve a $25 billion capital bill to be paid for largely by leasing the lottery.
Over the next several months, after agonizing negotiations and political maneuvering and whatnot, the capital bill ballooned to $34 billion, and expanded gambling was added to help pay for it all. It went nowhere in the House.
Last week, Blagojevich announced a scaled-back plan – a $25 billion bill paid for largely by leasing the lottery.
Makes all the aggravation of March, April and May seem worthwhile, doesn’t it?
--You can read Blagojevich’s latest announcement in one of three ways.
A) Dedicated public servant that he is, the governor is fighting for a program that he truly believes in and which will be good for the state;
B) Blagojevich is desperate for some kind of political victory this year, especially one that will allow him to dole out billions of dollars in pork in the months leading up to the 2010 elections;
C) It’s another installment of Blame the Speaker because Blagojevich knows that MICHAEL MADIGAN will engineer some way to scuttle the plan.
--There’s a reason the capital bill that passed the Senate in May carried a $34 billion price tag. Essentially, that’s what it took to bring lawmakers on board to vote for the thing.
Lawmaker I: If it had more money for school construction, I could support it. Lawmaker II: Water and sewer projects are important to my district, so I’d need to see more money for those if I’m going to vote for this. Bottom line, $34 billion in spending.
Well, $9 billion of that is gone from the latest plan. There is about zero chance it will come up for a vote, at least any time soon, but it would be fun if it did. Do all of those lawmakers crying for a capital bill still vote for it because it is better than nothing? Or does self-interest take over and votes start dropping off because there isn’t enough pork for this person’s or that person’s pet projects?
--Blagojevich indicated he might sign the ethics bill that cracks down (somewhat) on pay-to-play politics if lawmakers approve the capital bill. Otherwise he might rewrite the bill to “improve” it, thus jeopardizing its chances of ever becoming law.
So an ethics bill becomes a bargaining chip in getting a massive pork projects bill passed. That is so Illinois.
--That hearing by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability on the plan to move state transportation workers to Harrisburg accomplished at least one thing. It laid to rest any notion the move is inspired by cost saving.
Did IDOT look at leasing other office space in Springfield that might have saved money? No, it wants to buy a building. Did IDOT look at buying a building in Springfield? Yes, but it didn’t find any suitable ones. It did not say publicly which buildings it examined.
How about putting the workers in vacant space now owned or leased by the state, which would cost nothing additional? No answer.
All together, it sounded like the decision to move the employees came first, and then the agency had to come up with the justification.
--“We’re (economically) depressed. We’re not stupid. ... We do not deserve the jobs any more than people in Springfield. We do not deserve them any less” -- Harrisburg Mayor VALERIE MITCHELL testifying at the hearing.
--The Illinois State Fair is coming up soon, and fair officials hosted a media preview day last week to show off the new attractions this year.
The promotional materials given to reporters included a small, spiral-bound notebook. It was filled with printed pages listing schedules and contact numbers and descriptions of attractions.
Let’s look at page one. “Welcome to the 2008 Illinois State Fair! Our Press Of ce (sic) is here to assist you in any way possible…” On page two, we find that the notebook contains “attendance gures” (sic). Some buildings are air conditioned for the “bene t” of fairgoers. There is a race for runners who are “physically t.” Of course, the fair is held in Spring eld.
As you probably figured out by now, for some reason the press guide managed to drop “fi” from words. Must be more budget cuts.
Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 or email@example.com.