HomeBudget & Tax NewsIllinois House Republicans Decry ‘Pork’ Spending as ‘Corrupt’ Practice

Illinois House Republicans Decry ‘Pork’ Spending as ‘Corrupt’ Practice

(The Center Square) – For the third year in a row, Illinois is the third most corrupt state in a University of Illinois at Chicago annual report. House Republicans say the way Democrats craft budgets can feed into the problem.

Despite a decline in corruption cases nationwide, the UIC report “Corruption Continues Through the COVID-19 Pandemic” shows Illinois on a per capita basis remains the third most corrupt state while Chicago is the most corrupt jurisdiction.

“After scores of federal prosecutions in recent decades, the general public is beginning to demand that their elected officials pass effective reforms,” said UIC political science professor Dick Simpson, a former Chicago alderman. “Voters too are more willing to consider the impact and cost of corruption when they vote. And, it is likely that allegations of corruption and which candidates have the strongest and most credible anti-corruption campaign pledges will affect the upcoming elections.”

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said Thursday it’s no wonder Illinois is among the most corrupt.

“You just have to look and see what the corruption tax has done and how it has played out in the past two years,” Durkin said. “We have approximately nine former Democrat senators and representatives who are either defendants or have pled guilty in the federal court to various corruption and also violations of the tax code.”

The highest profile corruption case in Illinois is that of former House Speaker Michael Madigan. He’s pleaded not guilty to 22 federal corruption counts alleging he used his elected position for personal gain. Madigan has pleaded not guilty and the case is pending in federal court.

Durkin said one thing that feeds the corruption is budgets that taxpayers don’t get to see before it’s too late.

“These backroom deals and secrecy drives fiscal chaos in this state and also breeds corruption,” Durkin said.

Democrats stand by the budget, despite being approved along party lines just hours after the final version was revealed in the early morning hours on the last day of session last month.

“They claim to be about fiscal responsibility and public safety, but Republicans voted no on our budget that supports education and affordable housing, provides nearly a half-billion dollars for public safety and pays down $4 billion of unpaid bills,” House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said.

The budget starts July 1. Coming in at $46.3 billion, it’s the largest spending plan in state history. The final plan wasn’t revealed until just before a vote in the early morning hours of April 9.

Durkin said $3 billion in projects for only districts with Democratic lawmakers is wrong, and a reminder of how Madigan ran things for decades as House Speaker.

In a section of the nearly 3,500 page budget where spending from the federal American Rescue Plan Act is spelled out, Republicans offered some examples.

Spending in that section includes $8 million for Navy Pier, $15 million for the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, and $300,000 to both the Katherine Dunham Museum House of Miles Davis Museum both in East St. Louis.

Other examples include $10 million to the group United Power, which says on its website it’s “composed of 40 religious congregations, not-for-profit groups, hospitals, health centers and civic organizations from across Cook County.” There’s also $100,000 to the East Bluff Community Center “for operational expenses” and another $100,000 to the South Side Mission “for operational expenses.”

An appropriation of $2.5 million is set aside for “Youth Guidance for all costs associated with Becoming a Man Program.” Another $2.3 million goes to “Working on Womanhood.”

State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said there are “hundreds” of examples of spending for projects from Democrat-only legislators.

“That simply say ‘to go to this organization for operations,’ whatever that means,” Demmer said. “The state has no ability now to tie that to any performance metric, to try to reach any specific goal with it. It just says ‘to operations.” There is no oversight, there is no check and there is no balance.”

For capital projects, there are “pork” examples Republicans provided with hundreds of thousands of dollars each for various cities from Villa Park to Hickory Hills. The village of Winnetka gets a combined $28 million for stormwater management improvements. Lake County will get $122 million “for costs associated with regional stormwater management projects.”

Harris responded saying their budget is responsible and recent credit upgrades for the state prove that.

Demmer said there’s a heavy reliance on federal COVID-19 relief dollars that will soon dry up.

“Democrats in Illinois, like they have in the last several years, will have no choice but to come back to taxpayers and say ‘we need yet another income tax increase,’” Demmer said.

Demmer said the federal dollars would have been better spent to pay off the remaining unemployment trust fund debt, which if not paid off will lead to tax increases on businesses and benefit reductions for the unemployed.

“We negotiated with business and labor to take strong, responsible action on the unemployment insurance fund and pension obligations – bringing needed stability that will result in more than $1 billion in savings for taxpayers,” said state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea. “While Republicans were at the table, they refused to put forward any real solutions. Despite their talk, they repeatedly voted against fiscal responsibility, paying debt early and interest savings.”

Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.

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Greg Bishop
Greg Bishop
Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.

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