Friday, February 29, 2008

An Insult to Drunken Sailors

As the state’s deficit continues to expand exponentially under Gov. Rod Blagojevich he now adds insult to injury. Wednesday he announced that the state will demolish Cole Hall at Northern Illinois University and replace it with a new building to be named Memorial Hall in honor of the students slain there in the shooting spree on Valentine’s Day this year. Though somewhat dated, nothing is reported to be wrong with Cole Hall other than that it was the site of a great tragedy.

The governor’s office did not initiate this proposal. It was developed by university officials and presented to him. It was like taking the opener to a can of tuna with a cat in the house. The governor gave it his immediate and full attention. He even took a little time off from proposing health care and transit plans he can’t pay for to glom onto this one. You have to give university officials some credit: they may not be particularly concerned with holding tuition costs down, but they sure know how to get the attention of their prime funding source. I wonder how enthused those officials would be for the plan if the money to pay for it had to be deducted from the other funds the state gives them each year. Oops, they might still be quite enthused – just pass it on in tuition increases. What a fitting way to memorialize the slain students; by making it more difficult for new students to afford college at all.

The site of tragedies are always sorrowfully evocative, even painfully so in the near aftermath. In each life there are places where a blow was suffered. We rarely visit them until time, that great palliative, has deadened the pain. But if we begin to go to the huge expense of tearing down sites of transient sorrow and rebuilding, we honor the dead by denying the living. It’s a bad plan and once begun, there will be no end of it.

Meantime the governor’s office has ceased to even bother to try to explain to the legislature how it is going to get the money to pay for Blagojevich’s grandiose schemes. The day before he announced that he would tear down the old and build the new at NIU, representatives of his office had no answer save, “Trust us,” when asked by a legislative committee how they were to get the money to pay for his health care expansion plan. This from a man who is making former Gov. George Ryan look like an archetype of fiscal fidelity.

Illinois does not pay Medicaid bills on time. There is sometimes a six month to a year lag in payments. Some pharmacies in the state ceased to accept Medicaid a few years ago, fearing that it was either that or go out of business. When a state pays its existing obligations by writing IOUs to medical professionals, throwing more IOUs around is not going to improve health care. It is going to reduce the number of medical professionals who will accept patients relying on the state to pay. Their refusal will not be from a lack of compassion, but from a need to survive.

Seniors in Chicago will soon be getting free rides on mass transit, thanks to the governor. And that plan guarantees that the transit funding crisis we dodged this year will be back in a few years. Call it “Son of Mass Transit Funding Crisis – Even Bigger and Scarier than before.”

We are routinely trying to sell the state’s assets; the Thompson Building, the toll roads, the lottery, not to pay for the governor’s plans, but to slow the growth of the exploding deficit. In his entire tenure Blagojevich has behaved like a reckless teenager given his parents’ credit card. Sooner or later, mom and dad will discover he has rung up some multiple of their annual income. We are all mom and dad here. If he keeps merrily charging away the time will come when we have to suffer truly draconian cuts just to pay for his public relations spending spree.

Won’t somebody cut up this governor’s credit card?

Cross-posted on Illinois Review

2 comments:

Anonymous,  11:03 AM  

Meds.

They work.

Take them.

Anonymous,  1:24 PM  

Hmm. A guy with a DUI talks about elected officials as drunken sailors.

Very interesting.

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