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Guv claims he isn’t leasing tolls to keep Meeks out

Thursday, Apr 27, 2006

I’m not sure this is believable.

The governor insisted he is not considering the tollway-leasing idea as a way of keeping state Sen. James Meeks, a Chicago independent, from making a run for governor.

Meeks, who is also the pastor of Chicago’s 22,000-member Salem Baptist Church, continues to eye a bid, saying he is disappointed Blagojevich is not putting more money into schools and social programs. Meeks has said he wants a pledge from the governor to devote billions more to education during a second term, although Blagojevich has again taken a pledge not to raise the income or sales taxes.

Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, the Republican candidate for governor, said the state needs to be careful about leasing the toll highway system.

“If we are selling it to keep Sen. Meeks out of an election, if that’s indeed the reason it would be done, that would be probably the most awful, opportunistic reason for doing something like that,” Topinka said. “You can always look and see if there is some merit to any of this, but it seems the reasoning behind this is purely political, and ultimately the state would be without an asset.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wndycty - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 6:45 am:

    The Governor has been very supportive of public/private partnerships so its fair to believe the tollway action was NOT a reaction to Meeks. However we know the cynics will not see it that way. But as I have said before, when it comes to Rod his critics will not let the facts get in the way of good bash.

  2. - DOWNSTATE - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 7:12 am:

    Rich in your first sentence take out the “not” and put in the “un” and then you will have it.

  3. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 7:21 am:

    wndy- You forgot to add - “and the timing is pure coincidence, too.”

  4. - wndycty - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 7:29 am:

    Six Degrees, are there budget negotiations going on right now? So what better time to consider the issue. Yeah, from a cynical point a view you can make a sarcastic comment like “and the timing is pure coincidence, too,” which is perfectly acceptable to further your anti-Rod agenda, you can spin it any way you want to. However the city of Chicago has done it with the Skyway and the state of Indiana (with a GOP Governor) has done, so should Rod not consider it? When you are a politician people will always question your timing motivation, which is their right. But at the end of the day the voters will ask did he meet our needs without raising taxes? If he does this and funds education the answer will be yes.

    Its not like making up evidence of WMD’s to start a war in advance of election now, is it?

  5. - angry and outraged - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 7:40 am:

    Who is kidding who as a lifetime Illinois resident and long time state employee we have never seen a more opportunistic governor and that is not bashing that is a fact. I don’t even know how Rod can consider leasing something that he has taken so much credit for even for the purpose of eliminating Meeks. He has used the Tollway in every cheap method he could to plaster his face and name. how about his name over the toll plazas, the Bobby Rahal fiasco at the Touhy ave toll plaza opening, and the best yet cleaning up the corruption at the Tollway. Anyone and everyone who works for the Tollway knows that this is the most corrupt administration we have ever seen and even the people that has been brought in by this administration would agree to that! With “no bid” contracts going out to anyone who will pay, more consultants than God needs that none us can tell what purpose they serve, the never ending hiring of high priced no talent hacks-what in God’s name would he do if the Tollway was leased to a private investor? Maybe he thinks if he leases the Tollway all the corruption going on won’t come back to bite in the butt! Hey what would Central Management Services do, surely a private investor wouldn’t have to put up with the worse procurement services on the planet earth. Under this administration CMS has gotten bigger, cockier, and even less accountable for their actions. I don’t put anything past Rod and yes I can see the forest through the trees. And sorry Sen. Schoenberg you are wrong he did threaten to sell the Central Authority Building (alias the Taj Mahal) up to and including the threat of putting up a sign outside the main entrance!

  6. - Nickname - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 7:58 am:

    What are examples of public/private partnerships that Rod initiated that have benefitted Illinois residents?

    For the free market to work there needs to be competition. A single road tollway being privatized does not equate to better service and lower prices just because a group of foreigners buy our roads. There is no competition. Most likely privatization will result in higher tolls.

    To the economist out there you know there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone pays. I think privatization of state resources and assets is delaying the inevitable.

    The bottom line is you need to cut spending or raise taxes. If your constituent are not willing to pay more taxes to expand government services than they REALLY don’t support the services.

    Rod is the epitomy of the cancer in politics today. Elected officials lack courage to do what is right by instead taking the easy choice which usually makes a future generation pay the consquences.

  7. - the Patriot - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 8:26 am:

    No secret Rod has been a spend, more get less governor. We are spending more then ever in history. If the budget doesn’t set a record this year it will be close. He has spread money to his social programs sucking existing programs, while still underfunding the poorly thought out new programs. The fact is, we are paying more and getting less accross the board. If any of his social programs worked like his ad campaigns launching them do Il would be a Utopia of bliss and happyness.

  8. - The original Bill - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 8:40 am:

    If any of you have proof of corruption on the part of the administration isn’t it your duty as state employees to report it to the proper authorities or is the extent of your responsibility to whine, complain and make false accusations and false assumptions about mythical investigations and indictments on this blog under the cover of anonymity or pseudo names.
    The governor has CUT the size of gov’t so that the funds that the state does expend move more directly to provide services to the people. I suppose that since the number of state employees is now lower, those of you that are left have to do some more work. Deal with it! Remember, there is always the private sector where you will be judged by the quality and quantity of your work not by your longevity and civil service protection. Rather than obstruct and criticize, get to work and help the governor make the state work for the people instead of the other way around.

  9. - Nickname - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 8:43 am:

    It is not about the size of government that matters but how effective it works.

  10. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 9:31 am:

    Bill, there is nothing ‘mythical’ about the investigations currently underw’A’. Nor will there be about the indictments to follow.

  11. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 10:20 am:

    Generally, there is nothing unusual about each year’s new budget setting a “record” for size. It’s very unusual for next year’s budget to be lower than this year’s. As far as GRF is concerned, I think George Ryan is the only Governor to do it in many years.

    I don’t think new record spending is something to hold against any Governor. What the money is spent for and how it’s paid for are legitimate questions, and every Governor stands accountable at each election for the decisions he or she makes in that regard.

  12. - Anon - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 10:48 am:

    A temporary increase in education spending using proceeds from leasing the tollways? Not a good idea.

  13. - Sen. Jeff Schoenberg - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 1:10 pm:

    Two of the nation’s top experts on toll roads who have been invaluable resources in my work are Peter Samuel, publisher and editor of, and Robert Poole, director of transportation at the Reason Foundation.

    Samuel is a former economics professor who now writes for World Highways, Intelligent Transportation Systems International and other journals. He published Toll Roads Newsletter from 1995 to 2002 before moving the publication to the Web.

    Poole has advised the last four presidential administrations on transportation issues and testified before the House and Senate on several occasions. Poole served on the Bush-Cheney transition team in 2000-01. I’ve known him since I first sought out his help when I sponsored the bill to privatize the Chicago Skyway nearly 15 years ago. At that time, the Skyway’s bonds were in default and its tolls were being set by a judge.

    For those interested in getting past the hyperventilation and hearing what the top experts are saying on this emerging trend, check out this link:

    Finally, one correction from yesterday’s post: Indiana set aside $270 million of the $3.85 billion to freeze toll rates, not $150 million as I originally indicated. The number subsequently went up to help close the deal.

  14. - PalosParkBob - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 1:11 pm:

    It’s pretty clear that the Right Reverend Senator is for sale. He’s taking a page from Jesse Jackson’s playbook; make a political or public relations threat and you’ll be paid off, generally with someone elses money.

    The Right Reverend Senator has been strangely silent about real education reform in Illinois, limiting public employee pensions to the mininmum allowable by the constitution by preventing huge “end of career” raises, ending the early retirement option, requiring school boards to have a secure funding source before approving unaffordable labor contracts, and extending the prohibition of teacher strikes from Chicago to the rest of the state to allow school boards to say “no” to unions. He could also support the “funding the child, not the system” initiative which would provide for children to receive academic achievement scholarships from public funds to give them a lower cost, higher quality education outside the public system.

    Of course,he would only address these issues if he cared about the children more than the vote and financial contributions from wealthy unions.

    Since children don’t vote or make huge donations, the Right Reverend Senator can shaft them for the IEA, IFT and AFCSME with impunity.

    So he sets a “win-win” situation with Blago. The Guv gives a “sweatheart” deal to a politically connected vendor to lease the Tollways, he gives money to the schools, which is immediately sucked up by the unions without providing any better service to the children, and he and the Guv get a whole lotta love (and money) from the public employee unions.

    The only ones who will lose are the children, the taxpayers (when they have to pay to fund the education raise inflation after the tollway lease funds are spent), and the commuters who will almost certainly pay higher tolls.

    Ain’t politics grand?

  15. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 1:48 pm:

    What kind of leverage will the state have to make sure the roads are appropriately maintained by a company that is paying the state?

    When this private vendor gets near the end of the lease and decides not to repair potholes so as to, you know, minimize losses, does that mean the state will pay to have them fixed?

  16. - The original Bill - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 1:48 pm:

    Hey Bob,
    Can you think of any more lies, half-truths, innuendoes, and just plain bs? Oh yeah, it is all the unions’ fault along with all those kids not rich enough to live in Palos Park.
    If you can’t afford higher tools take LaGrange Road.

  17. - PalosParkBob - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 2:53 pm:

    Not too “original” Bill. I don’t blame the kids. I’ve worked in some of the schools with the most economically disadvantaged kids you could imagine, and the problem isn’t them. It’s the cancerous bureaucracy that subsidizes, and promotes, failing staff and administrations rather than delivering the services the children and their communities deserve.

    The facts are these, “original”:

    About 80% of school expenditures are for salaries and benefits for staff in Illinois. That’s where the rising cost and deficits originate.

    Illinois instructional staff had the highest average raises of any state in the union last year (about 5.5%)-These aren’t my numbers, they’re from the NEAs 2005 rankings. Look it up. No system can afford these kinds of raises without dramatically improving productivity and quality. Public education in Illinois hasn’t done either.

    Illinois is one of only nine states that allow teacher strikes. If you want to know why costs are skyrocketing in Illinois, extortion by the unions, without any responsible recourse by school boards, is the cause. It’s no coincidence that the nine “strike” states are the highest spending and deficit ridden states in the union.

    Illinois instructional staff had the third highest average salary of any state last year. Same NEA source, “original”.

    Illinois spent the ninth highest amount per pupil among the states last year per the NEA. That’s about 20% above the national average.

    Apologists for tax increases keep telling us our schools are “underfunded”. Overall, that’s about the biggest lie that’s out there acoording to the NEA data and school report cards in Illinois. These report cards show that average K-12 spending per pupil in Illinois is over $8,700, about 36% above the EFAB recommended foundation level.

    If you want to see what massive increases in school funding will accomplish for the children, just take a look at Washington DC. They spend the highest amount per student on education, and they have arguably the worst urban public school system in the nation. Yes, they’ve actually surpassed Chicago for providing the poorest value for the highest cost.

    Of course, the educrats running the system have the highest salaries and best benefits in the nation.

    When the choice comes between the educrats’ pocket books and giving the children the tutoring, after hours “safe haven”, and summer programs to give them an alternative to gangs and the streets, guess who wins?

    It sure ain’t the kids.

  18. - Bob - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 3:21 pm:

    Original Bill is nailed by Palos Park Bob. Film at 11:00.

  19. - The original Bill - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 3:53 pm:

    Using “averages” to lie about the sorry state of school funding is an old right wing trick that will only fool readers like Bob. The real truth is that Illinois ranks next to last in state funding for public schools while being the sixth richest in terms of gross state product.
    In property rich disticts like yours students probably want for very little educationally. That is certainly not true in poorer areas where there is absolutely no money for the type of good programs that you describe.
    If salaries of “educrats” in your district are too high that is the fault of the local Board members that you and your neighbors elect. Instead of blaming the people who do the real work in the schools and their unions, place the blame on your elected officials who pay those bloated “educrats’”salaries.
    You claim to have taught the “most disadvantaged…”. If that were true you would be well aware of the inequities that exist between districts in Illinois.
    The tired old voucher rhetoric about money following the student is merely advocating a tax break for the wealthy who can afford to send their students for exclusionary, elitist private institutions.
    Spare us the reactionary rhetoric and get geared up to vote no on your area’s next referendum and don’t spend that pension all in one place!

  20. - Anon - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 6:58 pm:

    “The original Bill - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 8:40 am:

    If any of you have proof of corruption on the part of the administration isn’t it your duty as state employees to report it to the proper authorities or is the extent of your responsibility to whine, complain and make false accusations and false assumptions about mythical investigations and indictments on this blog under the cover of anonymity or pseudo names”

    By the way Bill - some of us whiny, complaining employees of the state have exercised our responsibility to report abuses over and over and have been repeatedly told that those involved are untouchable.

  21. - Nickname - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 7:38 pm:

    Senator Schoenberg,

    There is no doubt you are sincere in your belief that privatizing the tollways is the right thing to do. How many of your constituents use the tollway and might be directly harmed finanicially by a rise in tolls due to privatization?

    You cite Reason as a source. I know they promote many libertarian ideals. What does Reason have to say about your vote for AllKids? What does reason have to say about public education which you are trying to help? What would reason say about all public highways in general?

    I hope tollway privatization is not one of many first steps that is happening in Illinois which will lead to the privatization of all medical services, education, and roads.

    What should happen is for the gas tax to be slightly increased and tolls get abolished completely. If we truly support a public benefit (highways) we should all pay for it.

    Same goes for other public benefits. If your constituents truly support public education, healthcare for all, and public safety they should be willing to pay for it. If they are not don’t implement the ideas into policy.

  22. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 7:42 pm:

    wndy 7:29:

    Sorry to touch a nerve. And if you read some of my other posts, you’ll find I’m not opposed to a tollway sale or lease at all, as long as the terms are favorable to the state and its taxpayers, and the money is reinvested in long term goals rather than used as a one time band-aid. Just was amused at the timing. I’m rather Meek, if you know me.

    And no need to throw in the bit about Bush and the WMD’s. What makes you think I’m a supporter? You partisans on either side might need the votes of some independents this time around, and it’s easier to catch flies (and votes) with honey than with vinegar, according to some.

  23. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 7:45 pm:


    Tut, tut. Try selling your gas tax increase south of I-80 and west of IL 47, so that tollway users would benefit. Might start a secession movement.

  24. - Papa Legba - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 10:00 pm:

    Is it legal to sell or lease something the state doesn’t own? Last time I checked the “owners” of the tollways are the bond holders. What would be the net revenue be for Illinois after all bond service is retired? Wasn’t it a situation similar that sunk the sale of the JRTC?

  25. - Peaches - Thursday, Apr 27, 06 @ 11:24 pm:

    Unfortunately, Original Bill, state employees that have proof, and actually turn it over to the proper authorities (other than Mr. Fitzgerald) will have that proof disappear, along with their employment. Haven’t you seen what happened to whistleblowers in the Hired Truck Affair?
    And don’t say “just like Ryan”. The current governor said he was going to be squeaky clean and ethical - so much better than the last administration. Only it has been so much better at being corrupt and pay-to-play.

  26. - Nickname - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 8:17 am:

    Six Degrees,

    Like how people above I-80 pay for downstate interstates? Right now 294, 355, and 88 users not only pay for their own roads but they also pay a gas tax that pays for everyone elses road.

  27. - Six Degrees of Separation - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 4:47 pm:

    The people above *AND* below I-80 are paying for the Dan Ryan reconstruction and paid for the Stevenson and Kennedy reconstructions (all high $$$ projects), as well as the other non-tollway state routes in the Chicago metro area, as well as the downstate routes. Most of the fed gas tax money that goes to public transit finds its way to the Chicago area. All I’m saying is that an increase in the gas tax to spring the tolls off the tollways will be extremely unpopular downstate, unless there’s something in it for them, too. And no one held a gun to the head of anyone who uses the tollway; it’s there for a price if you want it, doesn’t cost you a dime if you don’t use it. The trend nationwide is for more, not less, tolling in general.

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