SPRINGFIELD - Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Thursday named David Chicoine, vice president for economic development and corporate relations for the University of Illinois, to his council of economic advisers.
Blagojevich said the five-person, volunteer council of economic advisers ?will play an unprecedented role? in his administration.
Chicoine joins the governor's inner circle at a time when the current budget has a $1.2 billion hole, with a $3.6 billion shortfall projected for the year beginning July 1.
?Having the University of Illinois represented on a very important council like that is really a plus,? said UI President James Stukel. ?I think it will be helpful because David understands higher education and he understands the impact of higher education on the state's economy and its potential and long-term economic impact.?
His appointment is a plus for the university and for the state as a whole, Stukel said.
Chicoine is an agricultural economist with a doctorate from the UI. He is the university's senior economic development officer, overseeing the UI's intellectual property offices, research parks and incubating facilities and helping turn university research into marketable processes and products. His main office is in Urbana, but he works with all of the campuses.
?We're delighted that David has been selected,? said Rick Shoell, director of governmental relations for the UI. ?It's a real tribute to him and the university, and I think his role will be to really help and work with the governor in offering good counsel and advice relative to this budget challenge.?
While Chicoine has ?been clearly a great advocate? for the UI, his role on the council will be more than just higher education, but will be about taking a wider look at the budget situation, Schoell said.
?It's always good to have anybody from the University of Illinois serving volunteer positions in state government or presenting or advising, but we don't necessarily look for a direct return on that,? said UI spokeswoman Lex Tate. ?It's part of what we do, is to serve, and it is good for the university that David is there.?
Chicoine has a long history at the UI, having served as dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences from August 1995 to July 2001. He has also had a joint appointment to the UI Institute of Government and Public Affairs since 1984.
He has served as an adviser to the General Assembly, other governmental agencies, and various organizations on issues such as farmland property tax assessments, and he accompanied Gov. George Ryan on his historic trip to Cuba.
Chicoine was not available for comment Thursday.
Blagojevich also named Paula Wolff as a co-chair of the council of economic advisers. Wolff is a senior executive at Chicago Metropolis 2020 and was a one-time candidate for chancellor of the University of Illinois-Chicago. She has served as president of Governor's State University, was director of policy and planning for Gov. Jim Thompson and headed Gov. Jim Edgar's transition team.
Other council members include co-chair James Annable, president of FRG, a financial consulting firm; Ralph Muller, former president and chief executive officer of University of Chicago Hospitals and Health System; and John Rogers, chief executive officer of Ariel Capital Management, an institutional money management firm. All but Chicoine live in the Chicago area.
State Rep. Julie Curry, D-Mount Zion, was named deputy chief of staff for economy and labor. She said her appointment was a signal to downstate residents they will not be forgotten.
John Filan was named Blagojevich's new budget director.
Filan, managing partner of FPT&W, a consulting and accounting firm, has been an adjunct professor of governmental accounting at the UI Chicago campus and St. Xavier's College. He said there has been too much of a focus on the state's general fund, and that he will be looking at the dozens of smaller special funds for ways to cut spending.
?In total (those funds) represent more than half the budget,? Filan said.
Filan said the top spending priorities of the new administration will be education, health care and public protection, and that everything else is potentially on the chopping block.
?Some things we can no longer afford, even if they are good ideas,? he said.
Blagojevich admitted Thursday what many have been saying all along: It is not likely that he will be able to address the state's budget deficit solely by cutting spending.
?We are going to do everything humanly possible to address this on the expenditure side,? he said, adding that that alone was ?not likely? to eliminate the nearly $5 billion budget deficit.
Blagojevich said he was reviewing a range of possible revenue options.
?Everything is on the table for revenue, with the exception of an income tax or sales tax increase,? he said.
The new governor refused to get into specifics, but alluded to the possibility of closing certain ?tax loopholes? and allowing the dormant 10th riverboat gambling license to be used.