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Governor, stop giving our money away
Daily Herald Editorial Board
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Published: 2/29/2008 12:06 AM

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In January, Gov. Rod Blagojevich gave away free bus rides to senior citizens. Transit officials estimated it would cost $15 million a year in lost fares. It, and the rest of the mass transit bailout, cost Cook County taxpayers an added 25 cents on every $100, and 50 cents more for every $100 for taxpayers in the collar counties.

Then, last week the governor proposed a $1.2 billion giveaway in tax cuts to families and certain businesses. He hopes to raise the funds to pay for the business cut and $300 checks for families with minor children by, essentially, selling to investors the rights to our future tobacco settlement proceeds.

This week, Blagojevich said he's proceeding with plans to pay for more families to have health care coverage.

And, this week, Blagojevich said he wants to spend $40 million to tear down Cole Hall and construct a new building at Northern Illinois University. Tearing down that building might be a sensitive thing to do, but we sense a trend starting here:

Either the governor thinks he's running for some future office again or he's working on burnishing a legacy tarnished by pay-to-play corruption allegations and the coming trial of his prolific fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko.

Governor, your legacy would be much improved if you would stop handing out our money quite so easily.

We know you understand we're all struggling right now. You acknowledged it as justification for adding onto the federal economic stimulus/tax rebate package. But handing families $300 checks on top of that is more gimmick than gift that will cost us all too much.

We're facing at least a $750 million deficit and revenues are likely to continue to sink. The state's pension plans, as you rightly have recognized, are woefully underfunded. The state's citizens are facing tax increases from county and local governments. Your budget plan calls for spending $11 million less on our public universities. And funding is dropping at our community colleges.

As a result, Illinois Board of Higher Education officials are weighing higher tuition and fees. Harper College and College of Lake County trustees both this week raised tuition $5 per credit hour.

Governor, we, the people, don't have our own fundraisers. All of this is coming from us.

Yes, you're planning to trim state workers. You need to trim deeper and more dramatically. You need, governor, to mold yourself more after one of your predecessors, Republican Jim Edgar. He remains well-regarded not for announcing populist giveaway after giveaway, but for making the tough decisions to cut spending deeply when last we faced such a financial crisis.

That is what beaten-down, overburdened taxpayers would love right now. A little less politicking and a lot more tough governing, please.