Four years ago, Rod Blagojevich promised to contain state spending and to oppose any income or sales tax increases. The belief was that state government would act prudently and not spend more than it took in. But it has not. Every year since he became governor, the state's spending has exceeded its revenue. In the next fiscal year, for example, revenue is projected to increase $860 million; a $1.32 billion spending increase is budgeted.
Blagojevich promised one-time revenue shots – remember the plan to sell the Thompson Building in downtown Chicago and to market naming rights to certain state facilities? – that never materialized. He promised not to raise taxes, but he quickly imposed some $700 million in fee increases on Illinois businesses. Rather than cut spending, he deferred bills to future years by paying for some state operations – including much-need Illinois State Police cruisers – with bonds. Rather than funding an expansive health care program honestly – by paying for this year's services out of this year's revenue – Blagojevich deferred Medicaid bills from one fiscal year to the next; this year, some $1.75 billion in health care spending will lapse into the next fiscal year.
First, we should be clear that any of the major Republican candidates for governor – Bill Brady, Ron Gidwitz, Judy Baar Topinka or Jim Oberweis – is preferred over the incumbent, Rod Blagojevich.
That said, our endorsement goes to Bill Brady, a state senator from neighboring McLean County, who we believe would best reflect the traditional conservative values of downstate Illinois and also would be in tune to its needs.
Frustrated that government officials have not even responded to its Freedom of Information Act request, the New York Times is suing the Department of Defense, charging the Pentagon has refused to turn over documents related to the domestic warrantless surveillance program.
The Times had made a voluminous request on Dec. 16, 2005, seeking internal memos, e-mails and legal briefings since Sept. 11, 2001, related to domestic spying. Under law the Pentagon was supposed to respond to the request within 20 business days. That doesn't mean that federal agencies necessarily have to grant such requests within 20 days. But the Pentagon didn't respond at all, showing contempt for a law aimed at making government more transparent.
U.S. Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, who is presiding over the corruption trial of former Gov. George Ryan in Chicago, got angry and then carried away after news that she had dismissed a member of the jury leaked to the news media.
Pallmeyer placed a gag order not only on the lawyers and defendants in the case but on their family members as well. Although the order is not going to be litigated, it appears to be an overly broad prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment right to free speech. What's even worse is that placing a gag on trial participants does little to prevent news leaks, primarily because leakers don't hold press conferences.
It used to be that the anniversary of the opening of the University of Illinois – 138 years ago today – was marked by some sort of ceremony on campus. Fifty years ago, for example, President David Dodds Henry placed a wreath at the grave of John Milton Gregory, the first regent of what was then known as the Illinois Industrial University. "Today at the grave of the first regent," Henry said, "we honor his memory and in this act of commemoration we also honor all of those who had a part in the founding and early growth of the institution, for it can be truly said that the university had not one founder but many, not one builder but a large company."
There apparently are no such ceremonies scheduled on the Urbana campus today, but that doesn't diminish the importance of this date in the history of Champaign and Urbana, the state of Illinois or the United States.
Thanks to the Parkland College board of trustees, the six finalists to succeed Zelema Harris as president at Parkland have been identified and will meet with the public during the next two weeks.
While many other searches for public administrators are held in private so that ordinary citizens play no part in deciding who will head institutions, the Parkland board has let light shine on the process. Beginning next week the public is invited to a series of question-and-answer sessions with each of the candidates.
Yesterday was the last day of climatological winter, although that hardly seems an apt accurate description of weather conditions the last three months.
In Champaign-Urbana, there was only one day below zero degrees, with 23 days above 50 degrees. There were just 10 days when the high temperature was below 29 degrees and a mere 11.8 inches of snow, 11.2 inches of which fell in December.
After more than 22 weeks, the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan is headed toward the end. Lawyers' closing arguments begin Monday, and then the case will go to the jury.
The issue facing the 12 men and women who will decide the fate of Ryan and his co-defendant, millionaire businessman Lawrence Warner, is whether the catalog of horrors described by witnesses is sleazy, noncriminal politics-as-usual or a wide variety of serious criminal acts including racketeering, obstruction of justice and income tax evasion.
Lawmakers concerned about a plan to sell the state's student loan portfolio have introduced legislation to prevent it from happening.
"I'm just still real leery of where we're going on this one," said state Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet. "They have to prove to us that this is the right thing to do and that it's being done in a way that is responsible to current students, former students and future students. And as of last week, they haven't proven that to us."
The Blagojevich administration is looking for votes to pass a bonding program to support a $2.3 billion road construction program. The road construction is part of a larger public works plan that also is to include $500 million for school construction and $425 million for mass transit. Democratic votes alone won't pass the bill; the governor needs Republican votes as well.
Illinois has gone more than three years without a major road construction program, and there is a long list of school districts that want matching state funds for the construction of new school buildings. There is a demonstrable need for Blagojevich's capital development bill.