In the crazy world in which we live, a blog looking to make sense of it all.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Blagojevich's Blues

It’s been a while, but I’m back from a long vacation out of state. I'm beginning to think it might have been better to stay where I was.

In the past couple of weeks, the Peoria Journal Star has reported some serious complications for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The first, as reported by Doug Finke and Molly Parker, state that federal prosecutors are investigating Blagojevich’s hiring practices, in which it is alleged that there is hiring fraud at “multiple state agencies” in the governor’s administration. Earlier, I posted an entry from an AP story about Blagojevich’s ties to hiring an unqualified pilot that was the son-in-law of a fellow Democrat.

According to a letter to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan from US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald whom is heading up the investigation, claimed to have produced a number of credible witnesses of “endemic hiring fraud.” Mostly, Blagojevich refuses to answer questions regarding the investigation to the press, but says his office is cooperating with investigators. Hmmmm, privileged hiring and preferences to friends, campaign coffers and cronies. Maybe I’m wrong, but wasn’t that one of the things former Gov. George Ryan was accused and convicted of??

While on vacation, I was speaking to some others about our state governments. I mentioned that in Illinois, our governor was being investigated for these practices. One of the people in the conversation made a good point that this could become very serious for Illinois. This practice usually lands these new hires in mid-level positions, who they in turn hire people for positions under them; usually affiliated with the same party or circle of influence. Expect more corruption and bureaucracy.

Then in the July 11, 2006 issue of the Journal Star, Christopher Wills of the Associated Press reported significant problems with the budget of the state of Illinois. It appears that Illinois is deferring billions in Medicaid payments. While Gov. Blagojevich reaffirms that there are no problems with the states financial position, the AP reported that Illinois’ budget deficit has grown by $500 million in fiscal 2005, reaching to $3 billion. This is mostly from the non-payment of $2.9 billion in medical bills. A simple smoke and mirror trick; push back the expenses to make one particular year (2005) look balanced.

This is, in my opinion, irresponsible. And Illinois comptroller Dan Hynes agrees. Hynes stated “It’s not harmless. Medicaid providers are the ones who suffer when we do this.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the referendum on Belwood Nursing Home in 2003 about a cutoff of Medicaid funding, in which the county then needed to raise property taxes to fund this short fall? Thanks to this practice of pushing back expenses, we run this risk again.

And lest we forget that Blagojevich fixed a budget hole by “borrowing” money from the teacher’s pension funds and claimed the budget was balanced. More smoke and mirrors; instead of conventional financing means, he merely robbed Peter to pay Paul. And the beauty of it to Blagojevich is that it doesn’t affect the teachers from the Chicago area.

And then in today’s Journal Star, Doug Finke reports another lawsuit against the governor, this time over the firing of an individual because he wouldn’t “play ball” with the governor. But the saga continues.

Common Sense of it All: From my point of view, Blagojevich has been a disappointment to the Democratic party and for Illinois. After over 20 years of Republican rule in the governor’s mansion, Blagojevich had the opportunity to display a sharp contrast for the better with a Democratic governor. Blagojevich has floundered that opportunity. Though he stated in his election campaign in 2002 that he would govern as a reformer, he has proved that Illinois will get more of the same.