The Illinois House of Representatives has the opportunity to back up the state Senate on a bill abolishing a scholarship program that enabled legislators to provide free tuition to select students. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, called it a “political scholarship program.”
Judging by reports in the Chicago Sun-Times, “political scholarship” is a euphemism. The Better Government Association (Illinois), a group that worked with the paper to investigate the program, called it a “scholarship scam.”
Tuition waivers were awarded by legislators to children of donors, political heavyweights and the child of at least one alleged organized crime figure. Some went to children of employees of legislators.
The Illinois State Board of Education even enlisted the help of the FBI to investigate awards that were reportedly given illegally to students outside legislators’ districts.
Adding insult to injury, the state Inspector General admitted there had not been “a single investigation related to legislative scholarships until last fall,” said BGA. Another corruption enabler stemmed from the statute of limitations on investigating the scholarships—“allegations of wrongdoing that occurred more than a year before the complaint is filed, unless there’s a cover-up involved.”
The scholarships weren’t modest. The Sun Times said:
“[I]n January, the Sun-Times and BGA reported on a $37,000 tuition waiver state Rep. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) awarded to the daughter of Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), a close political ally who endorsed Rita for the statehouse and whose wife is employed by Rita as a $400-a-month staffer.”
Legislative scholarships aren’t the first scandalized item the state government has dealt with in recent times. In 2011, The US Report featured a story about the state’s troubled pre-paid college tuition plan after The Chicago Tribune reported the program was plagued by “slow sales, an arguably risky investment strategy and a $300 million shortfall.”
Recent tax hikes poured salt on taxpayers’ open wounds, not to mention Illinois residents whose children weren’t in the political class.
Quinn pushed through his tax hikes in January, 2011—a whopping 67 percent increase. The Illinois Policy Institute noted workers would have to put in a full extra week of work to pay for the hikes, about $1,594 on average. By September, the state admitted the tax increase wasn’t going to stop Illinois from ending the year with a whopping $8 billion deficit.
Taxpayers couldn’t have been happy about that deficit either, because they soon learned where their $8 billion went. IPI said:
“Most of the extra money is going to making the state’s growing pension payment.”
In contrast, in Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker made modest adjustments in benefits for state workers and Democrats mounted a recall election that included importing union workers from other states.
Republicans, take note—if a governor does something the Left protests against, Democrats have now set a precedent for recalling him based on pressure from both residents and out-of-staters. Dems certainly opened a door of opportunity for their counterpart.
Related at The US Report
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/May 3, 2012)
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