Editing | Secret spending plan an affront to an open, honest government | editorial


Pulling swiftly has been a long-standing but unfortunate practice in the Illinois legislative process.

There’s a reason the governor and lawmakers like to put massive last-minute proposals to state lawmakers and then ask for a quick vote.

The point is to maintain the secrecy necessary to prevent full discussion, debate and deliberation on key laws such as the proposed $ 42 billion state budget that went into effect July 1st.

If secrecy is not respected, all legislators and the public will learn what is really on the table and may have the opportunity to resist. When cared for, dirty little secrets aren’t revealed until months later, when it’s too late to do anything about it.

The Chicago Tribune recently unveiled a prime example of this kind of legislative game spirit – approximately $ 2 billion in federal aid paid into a special fund spent solely at the discretion of Governor JB Pritzker.

Somehow, Pritzker and the Legislature purposely failed to mention anything about the $ 2 billion fund. Of course they should have, but they didn’t.

Here’s why: All legislators would have rightly wanted to influence how the money is spent. As an independent and equal branch of government, the General Assembly plays a crucial role in the governance of this state. This also includes the authority – this is called appropriation power – over how money is spent.

It doesn’t take a hopeless cynic to wonder why the governor wanted unilateral control of the $ 2 billion fund or why the Democratic legislators gave it to him. Circumstances support the suspicion that a private agreement has been reached on where and how the money will be spent.

A Pritzker spokeswoman defended this unique approach. She said the governor’s control over the fund was a plus as it gave the governor the “flexibility” needed to adapt to changing federal regulations about how the money was used.

Well, there is no such thing as flexibility like total flexibility.

The problem is that Pritzker was elected governor, not dictator. There are certainly formalities and obstacles to the efficiency of the democratic process. The give and take between the executive and legislative branches of spending is one of them.

Since this is Illinois, the lack of a formal legislative review is hardly the end of the world. Over the years, members of the state parliament and the Senate have made a significant contribution to driving this state into ruin, especially on fiscal issues.

Nonetheless, the legislature is the legislature, whether collectively incompetent or not.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans were dissatisfied with superiority when they heard about the then-secret Pritzker Fund.

State Representative Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, not only complained about the fund, but also proposed laws that would limit Pritzker’s valued flexibility. He calls for a legislative statement that Pritzker will inform legislative leaders of his proposed spending plans and obtain legislative approval for them.

It is a reasonable suggestion. But it won’t go anywhere.

Republicans are irrelevant in Springfield, their main purpose being to serve as targets for the ridicule and contempt of the Democrats.

The bottom line is that it goes as usual. The $ 42 billion budget, suspended at the last minute, passed with no time for serious review. The disclosure of the secret fund came months later, when it was a fait accompli.

After the deed is done, advocates of doing things the Illinois Way win again.


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