Doug Finke: Budget cuts by suggestion box

Doug Finke

Guess we're in for another round of budget cuts by suggestion box.

Remember a few weeks ago when the Quinn administration set up a Web site where people could send ideas for cutting state spending? It drew thousands and thousands of responses.

Gov. PAT QUINN's chief of staff, JERRY STERMER, appeared at a Senate appropriations committee hearing last week to talk about Quinn's executive office budget. He was asked about budget cuts in general. Stermer referred to the suggestion list and indicated Quinn would be addressing cuts sometime during this coming week. He declined to elaborate.

This could be interesting. A consistent complaint from Republican lawmakers is that Quinn hasn't offered sufficient details of planned budget cuts. Cuts, they say, must be part of any budget solution. A significant part.

Of course, if Quinn has been vague about where he will cut, the Republicans have been equally vague about how big the cuts should be. Although Sen. CHRIS LAUZEN, R-Aurora, put out a figure of $2 billion to $3 billion the other day, Republicans mostly don't talk specific numbers. As long as there is no target, you can always charge that Quinn failed to hit it.


If criminal trials were decided by theatrics, ROD BLAGOJEVICH would already be acquitted.

As you may have heard, Blagojevich's attorneys want to subpoena President BARACK OBAMA to testify in the disgraced former governor's upcoming federal corruption trial. Good luck with that.

At least there's some legal issues involved with that. Not so with yet another bombastic Blagojevich bloviation.

Blagojevich's people put out the word he would be making a significant statement about his case. Just after 5 p.m. Tuesday, (timed to go live in the early evening news) Blagojevich made a roughly two-minute statement attacking federal prosecutors, calling them "cowards and liars."

The best part of the rant was this: "The reason they won't play all those tapes is because they're covering up that big lie that foreseeably led to a chain of events that stole a governor from the people of Illinois and undid the will of the people." Stole a governor?

Hey, Blago, do you hear anyone complaining about the theft?


The big pro-tax hike rally came and went last week. As just about anyone who's seen these things could have predicted, the rally changed nothing.

Perhaps its greatest success was in convincing people this was the biggest rally in the history of the Statehouse. The secretary of state security people estimated the crowd at 15,000, pretty much what the organizers predicted. That would be the biggest assemblage ever.

Those security people have seen a lot of rallies and estimated attendance. But with all due respect to their expertise, the crowd didn't look that much larger than some other rallies the past couple of years that were nowhere near 15,000 people.


A Senate committee last week debated a bill that would have restricted free bus rides for seniors only to those low-income persons who qualify for the state Circuit Breaker program. Other seniors would ride for half price.

Department on Aging Director CHARLES JOHNSON weighed in on the burden the restriction would place on his agency to process an extra 300,000 circuit breaker applications. The cost? Up to $30 million, he said. That comes to a processing cost of about $100 per application. Committee Republicans were dumbfounded.

"There is no way it can cost that," said Sen. JOHN JONES, R-Mount Vernon.

Sen. CAROLE PANKAU, R-Itasca, was blunter. "I don't believe you," she said.

The committee voted down the bill, mainly because it didn't want to end a perk for seniors in an election year.


In 1996, near the end of the legislative session, former Treasurer JUDY BAAR TOPINKA bought a bunch of Eli's cheesecakes and passed out slices to staffers, lawmakers, lobbyists and reporters. It was a nice gesture to people who had to spend grueling hours in the Capitol as the General Assembly wrapped up its business. It's been a tradition ever since.

Treasurer ALEXI GIANNOULIAS passed out cheesecake last week, 1,100 slices worth. He just happened to do it Wednesday, the same day a reported 15,000 people marched on the Capitol in support of a tax hike.

"It went a lot faster than other years," said spokesman SCOTT BURNHAM.

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