Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Man in the mirror ...

I wonder what Gov. Pat Quinn thinks when he looks at himself in the mirror. Because his budget “scare tactics,” as one person described them, were shameful.
When Quinn unveiled Illinois’ 2011 budget last week, he hit us where us where he knew it would hurt the hardest, with our children. He held education hostage, and basically said we either support a one percent increase in income tax (which is like a 33 percent increase if the tax goes from a flat tax of 3 percent to 4 percent), or, he lays off as many as 17,000 teachers.
Ouch. That hurts. Especially in a school system already taxed, as Illinois’ is. What Quinn proposed will affect every public school child in Illinois. Yet in his speech, Quinn called the 1 percent increase for education “urgent,” and he challenged the General Assembly “to take immediate action to enact the 1 percent for education initiative.”
“We cannot walk away from teaching our kids,” the governor said. “In America, in Illinois, we adults sacrifice some of our present in order to help our children's future. We are custodians of their future.”
That is one of the biggest crocks of bull I’ve ever heard. And I’m old enough to have heard plenty of it from politicians. Is this the guy I want as governor for the next four years? I really have to wonder.
The interesting thing is, both parties, Democrats and Republicans, are pooh-poohing the budget. Rep. Jack Franks D-Woodstock) said he’s “sick” about it. “It’s an absolute mess,” said Franks, who for the last nine years has voted against the budget. “It’s not valid. It’s not real. The system is broken. It needs to change.”
And Sen Dale Risinger (R-Peoria) said the budget Quinn gave last week was “woefully short on a lot of things.”
“I think the budget he gives us will not be anything like the budget we pass,” said Risinger. “It makes detrimental cuts in education but increases Medicaid. I think the General Assembly will probably pass the tax increase, but we’ll probably go back to the drawing board on what we’ll pass.”
Great idea, Senator. And do me a favor, please, and take the governor with you.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Despite the fact that states nationwide are slashing funds for environmental programs, Illinois is “not flush by any stretch,” yet it’s not feeling the same crunch as others when it comes to the environment.
Although Illinois has a budget deficit of about $13 billion, it is not in as bad shape as some other states, but it has definitely felt the sting of hard economic times. Thankfully, the Illinois EPA’s budget will be the same in 2010 and 2011 as it was for 2009, $300 million. At least that’s what the agency’s director, Doug Scott, told me.
Yet the agency will definitely still feel the pinch this year, as it won’t be receiving any general funds, which are monies from sales and income tax. It now has to rely solely on federal funds and money from fees, air and water permits and fines. The number of EPA employees is also down, Scott said.
Which is unfortunate to me, because the Illinois EPA performs so many functions in the state. It is up to the agency not only to make new rules/regulations important to the environment and public health, but it is also a much-needed watchdog. Heck, if it wasn’t for the EPA’s discovery, the folks in Crestwood, Illinois, might still be drinking chemically-tainted water, as it was during a routine inspection that the EPA that discovered the town was diluting its water with well-water, leading to lawsuits, and some very pissed-off residents.
North Dakota and Montana are the only two states starting off the year with a surplus supposedly, and I’d like to know what they’re doing right when other states are shutting down roadside rest areas, cutting education funding, and requiring employee furloughs.
Because I’m told that environmental issues are considered luxury political issues, that they're not really seen as bread and butter, life and death political issues. Funny, but environmental issues, such as tainted drinking water, can be life or death as far as I’m concerned.
Just ask the people in Crestwood , who have lost loved ones due to unusually high levels of carcinogens, or cancer causing chemicals, in the water they drank for years.