The disturbing revelations that continue to surface with respect to Gov. Pat Quinn’s $55 million, failed “anti-violence” Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI) draw attention to the importance of budget transparency, scrutiny and accountability.
The subject of a highly-critical state audit in early 2014, the NRI continues to make headlines. Not only have we learned that the program is the subject of at least two investigations, more recently the General Assembly’s Legislative Audit Commission agreed there was compelling evidence necessitating further review of the beleaguered program. The bipartisan Commission overwhelmingly voted to pursue subpoena power that will allow the lawmakers to request documents and records, and to call witnesses to testify before the General Assembly.
Unfortunately, we have been down this road before. The audit findings suggest that, at minimum, there were ethical violations, mismanagement, and the exertion of political influence in directing the expenditure of state tax dollars. Only time will tell if there have been criminal actions in the handling and management of tax dollars. Knowing this, is it any surprise that a recent Gallup survey found that Illinoisans have less trust in their government than those living in any other state? Seventy percent of Illinoisans surveyed said they had “not very much” or no trust “at all” in their state government. Reading this, I felt sadness, disappointment – and understanding.
This cynicism is the byproduct of years of mismanagement, fraud and abuse of power at the hands of state leaders. To learn that millions in taxpayer dollars were dedicated to a program hurriedly created under questionable circumstances, and then ineffectively implemented and mismanaged, only validates the public’s distrust of – and disgust for – state government. Even worse, the state’s Democrat leadership is again pushing for a tax increase to pay for it.
It is my hope that my colleagues will take a lesson from the NRI controversy and a budget is passed that clearly delineates how every taxpayer dollar will be spent. The public deserves to know details on every entity that receives state tax dollars, how those dollars are to be spent, who will receive and administer those dollars, and what, if any, affiliation they may have to political supporters and campaign contributors. If the legislature fails to do this, then the Governor has a responsibility to lay this information before the public before he spends a single dime of next year’s budget.
State Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, represents Illinois’ 41st Senate District and the Illinois Senate Republican Leader.