While many lawmakers support the move toward a community care option, the Governor’s announcement has not been universally embraced. Critics say that many of the residents living at the Jacksonville and Tinley Park facilities require the constant care and oversight that those facilities provide. They also expressed concern over what they view to be a lack of planning to transition the residents out of the facilities into community care providers.
Governor Quinn advocated for closure of the two facilities – and five others – last September. Though lawmakers ultimately approved financing to keep all the facilities running through June 30, 2012, the Quinn Administration had made it clear they would continue to pursue closure of state facilities.
COMPTROLLER: UNPAID BILLS AT $8.5 BILLION
Also during the week, Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka reports that one year after Democrat legislative leaders raised personal income taxes by 67 percent, Illinois has a bill backlog of about $8.5 billion.
The Comptroller’s report is the latest in a long list of negative news about Illinois’ financial management. Earlier this month, one major bond rating agency lowered Illinois’ credit rating to the worst in the nation.
According to the Comptroller, more than $5.15 billion in Fiscal Year 2012 funds were swallowed up by bills accumulated in Fiscal Year 2011. Pushing off of costs from one fiscal year to the next, without reducing spending, will contribute to an expected deficit at the end of the current fiscal year.
MORE PENSION REFORMS NEEDED
In other news, the Better Government Association revealed that other private sector lobbyists are also in line to score benefits from Illinois’ public pension systems. This report comes just weeks after lawmakers voted for a pension reform to block highly-paid union executives and lobbyists from cashing in on taxpayer-funded pensions.
An investigation by the Association revealed that private, paid lobbyists for the Township Officials of Illinois, the Illinois Municipal League and the Illinois Association of Park Districts are eligible for taxpayer-paid pensions under little-known state laws. In one case, the government watchdog group revealed that a former lobbyist is now receiving a public pension in excess of $225,000.
WALKING AWAY FROM SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
A Senate Republican decision to stop participating in the Illinois General Assembly Legislative Scholarships Program has drawn editorial support from the Chicago Tribune.
A January 19 Tribune editorial noted: “Republicans in the Illinois Senate are voluntarily suspending their participation in the tuition waiver program that has brought so much dishonor — and so much dishonorable conduct — to the General Assembly.”
The newspaper then chided the Democrat legislative leaders for their refusal to end the program, pointing out that the Senate Republican action “raises an obvious question for Democratic legislators...What, exactly, is your problem? Do you think citizens by the millions haven’t learned what a rip-off you’re perpetuating?”
Many of my Senate Republican colleagues and I have also sponsored legislation to end the program. The legislative tuition waivers are awarded to students at public universities in Illinois, but there are no academic standards or requirements that the scholarships be based on need. The scholarships are not paid for by the Legislature and the universities receive no financial support for the program, so the costs are passed on to other students.
In the past, the program has been plagued by reports that some legislators have awarded the waivers to relatives, political allies and campaign contributors. Many legislators did take steps individually to avoid conflicts, such as handing over the awarding of scholarships to independent committees.
KUDOS/AROUND THE DISTRICT
Kudos to Normal community leaders for initiating an Electric Vehicle Charging Station Grant Program.
Businesses and organizations that have been selected to receive free EV charging stations on their properties are Shoppes at College Hills, Veterans Parkway; Commerce Bank, SE corner of Towanda and E. College; Constitution Trail Center, NE corner of Raab and N. Main; Advocate BroMenn, 1304 Franklin; Holiday Inn Express, 1715 Parkway Plaza; and Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, Uptown Normal.
Under the program guidelines, recipients of the charging stations must make the stations available free of charge for at least five years.
The grant program is supported by funds provided by the United States Department of Energy under its Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program.