Monday, July 31, 2006

Best Wishes

State Representative Larry McKeon, my colleague for a decade and the Representative for the district adjoining mine, today announced that he will be retiring from the Legislature at the end of his current term.

As both a legislator and a person, Larry proved himself to be a tireless fighter, triumphing over legislative issues as well as personal health issues. Not surprisingly, Larry has indicated that he intends to continue working on many of the issues which he holds dear.

Please join me in wishing him the best in his future endeavors.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Can't We All Just Get Along?

So although I've been continuing my light summer blogging schedule, I've got a couple good topics in mind that I hope to post up here in the next week or so. In the interim, I just happened to catch a press release that didnt' pop up in any stories that I saw today.

Apparently, the Governor today appointed Judge Abner Mikva to head the Human Rights Commission to replace outgoing Chair J.B. Pritzker.

Now I have nothing but admiration for Judge Mikva, and think that he is a fine choice for appointment to most any position, but I can't help but think that this announcement will inevitably rekindle discussion about the whole controversy regarding Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad and the Governor’s Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes. Granted, one has nothing to do with the other, but it's a relatively short line from one to the other.

It is difficult to think that the administration would not anticipate this linkage. But on the other hand, maybe they figure that it's better than the press that they've been getting lately.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dan's on the Money

For several years now, Comptroller Dan Hynes has provided an accurate analysis of the state's budget situation. And I think that the latest story in the State Journal-Register continues this trend:
Significant problems are bubbling just below the surface of the state budget as officials delay paying billions of dollars owed to doctors, pharmacists and more, according to a recent analysis.

Despite Gov. Rod Blagojevich's claims that the state's financial problems have largely been solved, the budget deficit grew by $500 million in fiscal 2005, topping $3 billion, according to the state comptroller. (Emphasis added)

That's largely because the state simply didn't pay more than $2.9 billion in medical bills that year. In essence, those expenses were pushed off to future years so the 2005 budget could be declared balanced.

"It is a problem, and it is growing," Comptroller Daniel Hynes said. "It's not harmless. Medicaid providers are the ones who suffer when we do this."

What I find more interesting though is a quote at the end of the article from John Filan, the Governor's Budget Director:

"I think year-to-year we're doing a better and better job, but we have to still correct the long-term structural deficit that's been here for more than 20 years," Filan said. (Emphasis added)
If your own budget director is publicly acknowledging what others have said for years, namely that there is a structural decifit in our state, one would think that this would be a major priority.

It is difficult to understand why so many people continue to put their heads in the sand on this issue. If people didn't like House Bill 750 (the tax swap bill proposed by Sen. Meeks), which among other things, addressed the structural deficit, fine. But then put another idea on the table for debate.

I had always maintained that I was open to other ideas of tackling these issues and envisioned HB750 being, at a minimum, a good device by which to foster debate and ideally a solution to a number of our critical issues. But instead, there were a whole lot of criticisms of the plan...and not much else. If there was another bill filed to directly deal with the structural deficit, I must have missed it. I don't think that I did.

If the energy that has been expended dealing with all of the nonsense that has been going on in this state for the last several years had been put toward fixing some of these very real problems, we would all be much better off for it.

I think the right transitional slogan would be to go from Illinois First to Illinoisans First.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

All Kinda Stuff

Where to start...

...the Lasik surgery went well, thanks to everybody who sent e-mails. My eyes are still pretty dry, but for now my eyesight is 20/15, pretty amazing given that before the procedure, I couldn't read a newspaper from a foot away. (But as good as my vision is now, I still can't see the logic behind the 'sell the Lottery for the schools' idea.)

...Spent a couple of days visiting some friends in Michigan. It's amazing how relaxing 48 hours of hanging out, surfing on the Lake (it's early in the season, but still doable), and not checking your e-mails can be. A person could get used to that. Oh well, it was good while it lasted.

...You could have seen the latest verdicts coming down the tracks like a locomotive. If you're going to put on a Nuremberg-type defense, you need to put your client, or somebody, on the stand to say who was giving the orders that got you into trouble. Otherwise, you are just rolling the dice that the jury is just going to say that the defendants are just fall guys and we're not going to convict them. Those days are over.

...On a related note, while I understand that people are trying to paint Joe Cini as the fall guy in the latest investigation, I don't feel good about it at all, and based upon what I know, I'm not buying it. Joe is a good person and I don't like seeing good people thrown under a bus. I hope that he comes out of all of this okay. As others have alluded to, or straight out said, I believe that there is a LOT of stuff still to come, and it will be fascinating to see how it plays out.

...I also think that a lot of this may have come out sooner but for the black box that is the Executive Inspector General's office. I am not blaming any person in particular, but rather, the system itself which has a KGB-like secrecy about it. Joined by Cyndy Canary, Sen. Kirk Dillard, and Ethics Director Scott Turow, this past Spring, we called for more openness in the process of reviewing complaints and on their disposition. Otherwise, you can't help but wonder what is going on.

I always was puzzled by Z. Scott's sudden and silent departure, and think that there will be more to come out about this in the future. It also makes one wonder about the departure of the Governor's former counsel Susan Lichtenstein; but that's part of the problem that has been created. Everybody has become cynical about everything that they are hearing now. It has to create an untenable climate in which to govern, let alone campaign.

...The whole Stroger thing - without even getting into the merits or the individuals involved in this theater, does anybody come out looking good in this thing? Could Democrats in Chicago, Cook County or Illinois be doing anything more to alienate our base? Something's gonna give, and sooner rather than later.

My apologies for the rather informal and somewhat superficial presentation of my thoughts, but it's late and I'm tired. Feel free to comment any of the above or, as usual, anything else that you feel like.