Drama queen Quinn spreads the blame
RICH MILLER email@example.com September 9, 2011 1:28AM
Updated: November 22, 2011 11:12AM
Our state’s reigning drama queen has struck yet again.
As you know by now, Gov. Pat Quinn held a news conference Thursday to blame the General Assembly for forcing him to close seven state facilities and lay off almost 2,000 employees.
The Legislature, Quinn said, had passed a budget that didn’t provide enough funding for operations. So, he said, he had no choice but to close down three mental health centers, two centers for people with developmental disabilities, a prison and a youth correctional camp.
The governor is right about the budget. The Legislature did, indeed, not provide enough money to run those agencies.
But Quinn took himself out of the budget process early this year by irresponsibly proposing to spend $2 billion more than the state had.
Legislators decided that he could no longer be taken seriously, so he was essentially cut out of the process. He could’ve easily made himself relevant again by facing reality, but he wouldn’t do it.
Instead, he blasted the proposed budget as “radical” and “extreme” and vowed in a series of drama-filled public appearances to stand strong against it. But in the end, he signed that “radical” budget into law while cutting an additional $376 million from an already underfunded bill during yet another drama-packed news conference.
Quinn’s latest pronouncement will free up less than $55 million this fiscal year.
To give you an idea of how small these cuts are in the big picture, his new plan is less than 0.2 percent of the entire state budget.
That’s what is known in the parlance as a budgetary “rounding error.”
Actually, it’s more like a rounding error on a rounding error.
But instead of treating this small change for what it is, he proposed things such as slashing 350 workers from the Department of Corrections by closing Downstate Lincoln’s prison. That will save just $9.2 million this year and, as a result, cram even more inmates into the state’s remaining and terribly overcrowded prisons.
For crying out loud, he could’ve almost found $9.2 million in couch cushions.
OK, that’s an exaggeration. But the governor could’ve proposed canceling cable TV for inmates, streamlining management and eliminating education and job programs for inmates sentenced to life or near-life terms.
But sensible, reasonable, moderate reductions like those wouldn’t have gotten his face on Chicago TV and on the front page of every newspaper in the state. He also could have sat down and talked with legislative leaders about the changes he needed in the budget.
He could’ve asked individual legislators whose facilities were targeted to help him find the votes to patch the budget’s holes. Instead, he decided to hold a news conference and his office directed angry phone calls to those same legislators’ office.
“Quinn is just like Rod Blagojevich without the criminality,” is a phrase I’ve heard for a while.
That’s not fair. Blagojevich’s battles with the General Assembly were long, exhausting wars that wound up putting the state deep into a gaping fiscal hole. As bad as things are in Illinois, we’re now in infinitely better fiscal shape. Also, Quinn has a real heart, not Blagojevich’s cynical proclamations of universal love.
Even so, Quinn’s behavior is scarily reminiscent. Never admit fault and always blame the Legislature when something goes wrong. Hold big, splashy Chicago news conferences rather than do the actual hard work of quiet governance.
And, no matter what, try to get yourself on Chicago TV as much as humanly possible.
We are so screwed.