NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED SINCE BLAGOJEVICH LEFT
Many hoped the former Governor’s removal would make way for positive change in Illinois, but the state continues to suffer from Blagojevich’s poor choices, coupled with fiscal mismanagement and a continued lack of leadership.
Illinois still has staggering debt and a budget crisis that has placed state services in jeopardy. Governor Pat Quinn has come under fire for continuing to employ many of the Blagojevich Administration’s top employees and for retaining and, in some cases expanding, most of the former Governor’s programs, some of which played a role in his removal from office.
TRUE CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
A year after Blagojevich’s removal from office, Republicans are still pushing for true campaign finance reform.
On January 26, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont and House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego advocated for legislation – House Bill 5008 – that will close significant loopholes in the ethics law approved last fall.
The campaign-contribution measure passed by lawmakers in October imposed Illinois’ first-ever limits on contributions, as well as its more stringent transparency and disclosure measures. I supported the law, but it fell short of our goals for true reform because it does not cap contributions limits for legislative leaders and political parties during the general election.
A majority of contribution money is spent during the general elections—not the primary—thus reducing the overall effectiveness of the legislation. House Bill 5008 would extend the contribution limits to the general election.
ILLINOIS FINANCES ON THE BRINK?
Late last week, the Civic Federation – a non-partisan government research organization – released a report, compiled by the organization’s Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability, that highlighted the state’s current fiscal crisis and provided detailed information on how Illinois reached this point.
The Federation confirmed what other respected groups and individuals have advanced: lower than anticipated revenues, coupled with the loss of one-time revenue sources and an increase in state spending, have only exacerbated Illinois’ financial problems.
According to the report, years of fiscal mismanagement led to a “longstanding structural deficit,” as government growth continued to outpace available revenue. As a result, Illinois is in serious financial trouble, with a budget deficit exceeding $10 billion and a multi-billion dollar backlog of bills owed to state vendors, service providers and healthcare providers.
Illinois’ budget mess has been scrutinized by a number of respected organizations over the last few months. The Pew Center for the States ranked Illinois’ budget among the nation’s 10 worst, highlighting the substantial difference between the amount Illinois takes in and the large amount the state spends.
Additionally, all three major credit agencies have now officially cautioned Illinois to get its financial house in order. Fitch Ratings confirmed in late December that Illinois is on “negative watch” relating to its general obligation bonds. Now the state is on “negative outlook” – and ripe for rating downgrades – with all three national credit rating agencies: Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.