Friday, August 24, 2007

You scratch my back ...

“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” might not work in Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s budget game. If his budget vetoes announced Thursday are a political ploy to try to buy support from friends and to punish enemies, then he might lose in the long run.

“He seems to operate on the kind of strategy that it’s all about bringing pressure on the legislature from the outside,” said Kent Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. And by the next election cycle, he said the governor’s key Democratic base, especially the African American population around the Chicago area, might grow wary if projects in their neighborhoods don’t get funded as promised. “I think that over time, he’s wearing out his act. I think that with people reacting to individual projects and the questions being raised about whether he’s actually producing in terms of health care, over time that really hurts his popular support.”

Blagojevich is determined to get his health care plan, which his office says would open the doors for all uninsured women to receive breast and cervical cancer screenings and expand other state-sponsored health insurance to low- and middle-income adults. As noted in Thursday’s press release, the governor’s plan has to go in front of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to change state regulations so he can implement and expand the programs even after the legislature denied him his original health plan. It still has a long way to go.

Another question being raised by state government insiders is why he cut a little more than $4 million in total from the budget of Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office. An AG spokeswoman, Cara Smith, said some of the cuts are significant. Most disappointing to the office is the reduction in money for her inspector general, who is an independent lawyer responsible for investigating complaints of ethical violations. Each constitutional officer has one. Lisa Madigan’s was docked $50,000. But Smith said Lisa Madigan doesn’t have anything to do with her inspector general’s budget. “That budget is [not] controlled by the attorney general. It’s completely controlled by the inspector general. And it’s very disappointing that it would be touched at all. That work is the furthest thing from ‘pork.’”

Spokesman Justin DeJong of the governor’s budget office said all constitutional offices were funded at last year’s levels, but he has to get back to me about the inspector general line item in the attorney general's office.

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