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JBT outlines $3.7 billion in cuts over 4 years

Thursday, Aug 17, 2006

Topinka starts rolling out details. From a press release:

Republican nominee for Governor Judy Baar Topinka today outlined a series of dramatic budget cutting measures that will save state taxpayers more than $3.7 Billion over the next four years.

Illinois has an enormous budget problem. A recent independent report analyzing all 50 states concluded that Illinois has the worst fiscal health in the nation – with a deficit of $3 billion dollars. Even State Comptroller Dan Hynes – a Democrat — says Illinois’ backlog of unpaid bills is at an all-time high. Illinois is in that bad of fiscal shape, even though Blagojevich raided more than $2.2 billion from pension funds and borrowed more money than any Governor in Illinois history. […]

Cutting Political Jobs and Contracts with Blagojevich Campaign Contributors […]

A new report this week in the State Journal Register showed Illinois political jobs have doubled under Rod Blagojevich. The number has increased from 396 to 745. By cutting back those jobs to at least the pre-Rod Blagojevich levels, Illinois state taxpayers can save $25 million a year or $100 million over four years.

Political contributors to Rod Blagojevich have received $3 billion in no-bid contracts after contributing a total of $5 million to Blagojevich’s campaign. We will wring out a 10% percent savings on that number by eliminating unnecessary contracts and those that are simply bloated. This will save us $75 million per year or $300 million over four years.

Slowing the Skyrocketing Costs to Taxpayers through Medicaid Reform

For the first time this year, Illinois will spend more on Medicaid than on Education.

At this pace, in two decades Medicaid will eat up 80% of the state budget. The state must slow the growth of the program that is eating up taxpayers dollars, but we must do it through better management.

Federal Block Grant for Medicaid

Topinka’s Medicaid reform Plan will better control taxpayer costs by pursuing a Federal Block Grant for Medicaid. It will eliminate incentives to spend more tax dollars while increasing flexibility and providing a stable revenue stream.

The costs of this program are growing so quickly that significant taxpayer dollars will be saved – just by curbing the growth of the program.

New “Healthy Babies” Campaign

Using technology to merge the Women, Infants and Children program with the State’s Medicaid program will introduce Medicaid eligible women to WIC services that can prevent unhealthy births. The state should focus like a laser on this issue. […]

Unfortunately, the State of Illinois is relying on outdated technology that does not merge the Women, Infants and Children Program data system with the state’s Medicaid data system. This is unconscionable in today’s society. Many unhealthy births – and their exorbitant emotional and financial toll – can be avoided through an upgrade of the state’s technology in these areas.

Judy Baar Topinka will take the appropriate action to stop unhealthy births by upgrading this technology through a new “Healthy Babies” Campaign.

Topinka’s plan also provides for:

* Paying providers on a timely schedule.
* Tightening up guidelines to ensure resources are available for those who are eligible.
* Encouraging personal responsibility through reasonable co-payments.
* Establishing a Medicaid Reform Task Force on her first day in office to determine how to precisely restructure our Medicaid plan.
* Follow in the footsteps of Florida—a state that is making their Medicaid system look more like private insurance than a government program.

Overall, this approach will slow the astronomical growth of Medicaid costs and will save taxpayers $2.9 Billion – with a B – over four years. […]

Every individual who is currently eligible for Illinois’ Medicaid Program will remain eligible under the Topinka Plan – with the one exception of those whose financial assets are too large to qualify under an established asset test for Medicaid eligibility. Illinois lags other states that have already established asset tests for Medicaid eligibility. […]

Topinka has proposed a constitutional amendment called “Seven Days of Sunshine” that would require the state budget be available to the media and the public for seven days prior to being passed to the Governor. It’s the taxpayers money – they deserve to see how it’s spent.

Topinka said she will not approve a budget that doesn’t line item how projects will be spent, and will end massive lump sum appropriations that are huge blocks of money with no strings attached.

Estimates of pork in the budget range from $100 million to $500 million. I am taking the most conservative estimate and estimating $100 million in savings per year or $400 million over four years.

In total, Topinka’s Common Sense Budget Cuts will save Illinois taxpayers $3.7 billion over four years.

Hack away.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

65 Comments
  1. - Jeff - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 10:53 am:

    WOW! This sure does sound good on paper and would likely make a pretty good campaign AD… will it be done, we’ll see!


  2. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 10:56 am:

    Hmmmmm…..how do you cut $2.9 billion from Medicaid without reducing eligiblity?

    A) Reduce benefits
    B) Increase co-payments
    C) Create a taskforce to reduce benefits and increase co-payments
    D) All of the above

    If you said “D”, you could’ve written the Topinka Plan. You can bet that’s what Rod’s t.v. ads will say:

    “With over 1 million Illinoisians struggling to find health care insurance, Judy Baar Topinka wants to reduce insurance coverage, increase co-payments, and make it tougher for folks to qualify for coverage for families and seniors through the state of Illinois. Judy Baar Topinka wants to rollback health care coverage for thousands — what is she thinking?”


  3. - DOWNSTATE - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:04 am:

    HOMERUN HOMERUN HOMERUN WOW YOU GO GIRL.Well at least she has a plan that does not say borrow.


  4. - HANKSTER - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:05 am:

    To really cut state medicaid costs, it seems that, among other things, you have to address the cost of healthcare. The more and more that people can’t afford healthcare the more and more money government must spend on it.


  5. - ANON - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:07 am:

    Who gets medicaid - the old or poor. I say we drastically cut all welfare programs in the state.


  6. - Reddbyrd - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:08 am:

    Looks more like a foul ball from this perch
    Numbers do not add up
    Starting an expensive, high tech to control medical costs ….hmm looks the MSI guys are back in biz.
    Wonder if the AccordionGal noticed the contributor/contractors were doing biz with the state before GRod.
    When is the education plan coming??????


  7. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:11 am:

    Downstate -

    I agree with you that it’s great that her plan doesn’t say borrow. But 78% of her “savings” come from cuts to health care. Cutting vital programs is not such a good idea.

    What we need is a candidate who says: “Here are the vital programs for the state, here’s a responsible way to fund them.”


  8. - just watching - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:19 am:

    Redbyrd, at what point has any of Blago’s numbers added up? thats right they dont have to add up. All we have to do is borrow more and more and my children and grandchildren can pay off his re-election programs.

    That sure sounds like a better plan (yeah right)


  9. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:19 am:

    ANON 11:07 — Cut all welfare programs? How about we start with the Illinois Department of Corrections, which seems to exist to provide paychecks for people that nobody else wants to employ. No offense, they aren’t bad people, but nobody wants to build an auto plant in BFE.

    If memory serves, the last time we had a capital development budget, we spent more money building prisons than building schools.

    We now incarcerate 40,000 people just so 30,000 other people can have jobs. 14,000 of those folks are in jail for mere drug possession.

    Reforming our drug laws and fining people for drug possession and requiring drug treatment instead of incarcerating them would save about $2 billion over four years.

    There’s my budget balancing act.


  10. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:19 am:

    Looks like the usually stuff from 25 year old campaign policy folks who really don’t understand the programs they’re analyzing, filtered through the older, wiser spinmeisters who know how to make nothing sound like something. E.g., co-payments may make sense for/to middle class folks, but increasing co-pays for poverty level people leads to 2 things - (1) people avoiding needed care until it’s more expensive, emergency care & (2) hospitals and doctors being stiffed by patients who don’t pay their bills.


  11. - just watching - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:20 am:

    YDD,

    at least your true to your handle, just like a democrat lets just raise taxes again and again until everybody gets everything free


  12. - Rosy - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:20 am:

    It’s about time. This is a great plan. Realistic in scope and financially conservative. A fine start that is long overdue.


  13. - Moi - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:22 am:

    Yes, but the Bush administration is pushing for price transparency and these wonderful HSA’s that will enable so many small businesses, as well as the self-employed, to obtain affordable coverage by linking the HSA accounts to High Deductible Health Plans that cover “catastrophic” health issues while consumers take on more of the responsibility to pay for routine doctor visits, and that type of thing, all up to a certain deductible level.

    They probably won’t be the official magic bullet that fixes the whole mess of a healthcare system overnight, but they are very attractive to many (I love the idea of being FREE from being chained to the mercy of what health insurance plan an employer can/cannot offer and being able to just have total control over it myself). We can still have a debate over how to deal with the rising #’s of the uninsured, but much of it comes from these hard-working people who work for businesses that just do not offer benefits. They probably think they can’t afford coverage, and if you look at the premium rates for traditional individual insurance going back through time, they probably CAN’T afford it. With HSA’s, though, there’s an affordable option there.

    So, Topinka probably has in mind that the GOP as a whole, at the national level, has a solution (at least in large part) to many many problems related to healthcare costs spiraling out of control. She knows there’s help on the way that doesn’t involve some type of Hillarycare solution or forcing employers to offer insurance coverage to all, which would only mean that many employers would just discriminate more, hire less, and overwork those few employees that they do want to cover. And that’s no solution!

    Judy is off to a good start while Blagojevich has shown that he’s just wasting money by blowing his campaign war chest on those attack ads that have been running left and right. Hey Rod, how about waiting until closer to the election when it matters instead of just shooting your campaign cash was because it is there? Just because it is there doesn’t mean you just blow it left and right.

    GRod is wasteful with his money. But hey, at least he has nice hair. Just what we need, right? A guy who spends as much on his coif as he spends taxpayer money.


  14. - Wumpus - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:23 am:

    Good call just watching. We will see a school plan when the new lottery game is introduced. Where is Blago’s school plan, it fizzeled once the deadline for Meeks to file passed. Seems like the only plan they ahd was to lower standards. I am not sure how great or even good JBT’s plan is, but it is a plan and that is what I have been axing for.


  15. - annoyed all the time - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:24 am:

    the smart people realize no matter whom this comes from it’s an electon year, a game, a what can I say to get the buy-in from the voters - he fact that she is a constitutional officer and has been for years and hasn’t brought out these discussions until now? campaign year? where was her plans for all this years ago? if she cares for the state why wasn’t she working on these issues years ago? knowing she wasn’t campaigning for Governor then still - makes me think it’s self-serving and once again playing into the game of gettnig coverage, making herself look good and campaigning - not that our current Governor doesn’t do the same thing - truth is people, read between all the lines, make sound judgment, don’t go on just the basics that you read or that get presented to you


  16. - FORMER STATE EMPLOYEE - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:28 am:

    WOW I SAY, “YOU GO GIRL!”


  17. - HANKSTER - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:32 am:

    Just Watching:

    Am I worng or isn’t the republcian, Topinka, the only one not to take a pledge that he/she would not raise taxes if elected?


  18. - zatoichi - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:38 am:

    Determing what is a “vital program” is the essence of what is to come. As long as my program is in the “vital” category, life is good and the correct decision was made. If my program is not “vital”, it is a cut that will do horrible harm to everyone it serves. Read the stuff coming from DC. If the Feds put the caps on Medicaid that are being discussed something has to give. Expenses can’t continue exceeding revenue. Raise taxes, cut programs, and eliminate pork. Yeah, that will make everyone happy, but the time for tough choices is coming. Control those health care costs with liabilty and health insurance changes but a knee replacement will still cost over $10,000. Tough choices are coming that simply cannot be avoided More borrowing is not a budget balancer.

    JBT commercial: My doctor no longer accepts Medicaid because the State has not paid it’s bills. Now I need a new doctor. What was Blagojevich thinking?


  19. - just watching - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:47 am:

    Hank you are not wrong, but id rather someone admit that this state is a fiscal nightmare than just plan on borrowing and bonding pensions systems out acting like they aren’t bankrupting this state. Even NCSL says this state is in the absolute worst fiscal condition of the 50 states.

    Sticking your head in the sand and bonding out pension systems for new programs and screaming from the rooftops “hey I pledge not to raise taxes” doesn’t help the long-term fiscal condition of this state at all. but the long-term condition of Illinois is not even on the radar for Blago the guy vould care less


  20. - values matter - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 12:00 pm:

    Yeah, right, the Queen of the GOP bureaucracy announcing a cut in the political bureaucracy.
    What sheer hypocrisy.


  21. - Little Egypt - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 12:00 pm:

    YDD, I* know a lady who applied for a medical card because her monthly income was $700 and her prescription medication cost her over $800 IF she took it like she was supposed to, which she didn’t because she couldn’t afford it. Guess what? In her county, she was told there was no more money because the illegal immigrants had taken it all. That’s where a big savings can be made for Medicaid. JBT said “Tightening up guidelines to ensure resources are available for those who are eligible”. Good for her. I think even you would agree that there are savings to be made in this program by double checking to make sure those who are truly in need are getting help. But Medicaid in this state and Medicare on a national level are giant cess pools for corruption. And Dog, this “what’s she thinking” crap is getting old with GoverNOT Hairdo. Don’t you start it too. For every “What’s SHE thinking” there are plenty of “What was HE thinking”.


  22. - Squideshi - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 12:05 pm:

    We need a Millionaire Tax in Illinois. It’s time to replace our regressive 3% flat state income tax rate with a progressive, bracketed tax system including a slighly higher rate for the extremely wealthy. We also need to stop relying on local property taxes. Not only would we then be able to fully fund valuable government services, like education; but we would completely eliminate the structural defecit, and as many as 95% of taxpayers would be able to pay the same or LESS than they are currently paying now.

    Rich Whitney is the only candidate with a plan that even comes close to a solution like this.


  23. - Gus Frerotte's Clipboard - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 12:11 pm:

    Three basic lines of attack here: no-bid contracts, Medicaid, and pork. Clearly the correct three lines for her to go after, politically.

    1) On contracts, expect a squabble for at least a week about the definition of “no-bid.” The Governor’s people will point to her contracting practices, and nobody will understand it. More to the point, even if there are savings to be found in no-bid contracts, she’s painting herself into the same “clean up the system” box that the Governor painted himself into four years ago. If she wins, she’s going to have to dole out some pinstripe patronage or the Republican establishment (such as it is) will bail out on her (to the extent it hasn’t already), and then the Speaker and Senate President will eat her lunch. In the short-term, though, this $3 billion number will get picked to death until nobody believes it any more and her credibility on numbers with the press starts to sink toward the level of … well, you-know-who’s.

    2) While she’s clearly right that Medicaid costs are a significant pressure, I have no idea if this is a solution.

    3) Anyone who thinks a Topinka governorship will *reduce* pork is deluding themselves — pork would only increase. The Democrats will still control both chambers, and those members have gotten used to the taste of pork; they’re not going to go vegetarian all of a sudden. But Topinka would be under tremendous pressure from Republican members to guarantee some pork in the budget for them. She’s going to need a coalition and some votes, and that means projects. No other way around it.

    All in all, it’s probably better than you would have expected — she got the issues right, even if the answers are purely fantasy-based.


  24. - Jeff - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 12:16 pm:

    If you look at it, don’t we tax the rich enough already? Let’s take a look:

    Huge houses in fancy neighborhoods = higher property taxes

    Likely more than one luxury car = more gas taxes

    When they shop, they likely spend more = more sales taxes

    Children don’t get as much (if any) financial aid = more out of pocket

    No All Kids = More out of pocket

    No Medicare = More out of pocket

    No Gov’t provided housing = gotta buy their own house

    Sounds like the rich already pay their share!!


  25. - HANKSTER - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 12:24 pm:

    Jeff: Yes I feel bad for those poor people with money. I would much rather be someone struggling paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet. That way I wont have to buy my fancy car and pay for more gas and I wont have to pay higher property taxes by living in a huge house.


  26. - Nice Suit - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 12:27 pm:

    Illinois is way behind in the state tax game. It can well use a tax reform initiative, even bumping up EVERYONE’s taxes by a point. Then the poor rich folks that Jeff is weeping for can’t say that they are unfairly taxed.

    And seriously, 4% instead of 3%? It still puts IL near the bottom of state income taxes.


  27. - Squideshi - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 12:35 pm:

    You’re looking at actual dollars, Jeff, and that’s completely out of context. Let’s look at dollars in terms of a percentage of income. Let’s look at dollars in terms of remaining disposable income. It seems to me that the extremely wealthy would still be FAR better off with a mere 1 or 2% tax increase. They owe this to a society that has created an environment in which they can so prosper. It’s unlikely that they would have been as successful without schools, roads, police, and universal telephone and postal services. They’ve obviously benefitted MORE from these services than have most people. They’re still keeping a significantly large portion of the reward. Besides, one dollar is worth more to a person living beneath the poverty live than it is to a millionaire. Taking a dollar from the poor has a much bigger impact than taking a dollar from a millionaire. Besides, if 95% of the population aren’t millionaires, doesn’t the majority rule?


  28. - Anon - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 12:58 pm:

    Squideshi: How is 3% flat tax regressive. I guess the same tax for all does not seem fair?

    How “vital” is defined is the issue. If it it to get elected and pork for all contributors, I guess everything is “vital”

    Define “Poor”? cell-phone and cigarettes but no money to pay a $5 co-pay?


  29. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 1:17 pm:

    Little Egypt — I agree that there is plenty of room for cracking down on Medicare fraud. Most of it is being committed by doctors and hospitals — not patients — and that’s the federal government’s job. They just took a bite out of crime in Central Illinois with federal suits against area hospitals.

    On the other hand, Medicaid fraud rates are pretty darn low, and Illinois’ administrative overhead is the lowest in the country. My grandfather used to be a fraud investigator with the Department of Public Aid, and I can assure you that since the state has moved to electronic record keeping and started employing the same data-mining technology used by the CIA to look for statistical anomolies in billing patterns, it’s become next to impossible to rip-off the system.

    The Republicans on this site need to chill. I’m no cheerleader for the Blagojevich administration, and I’ve been a FREQUENT critic of Rod on this blog.

    However, I’ve also seen the polling. I’d like to recommend once again that everybody take a look at NIU’s most recent public policy poll, an in-depth survey of nearly 1,200 Illinoisians.

    63% of Illinoisians support increased state spending for health care.

    Notable crosstabs of support:

    61% of Southern Illinoisians
    57% of Republicans and 60% of Independents
    70% of individuals w/ incomes of $35K to $56K

    I’m not being partisan here, I’m just suggesting that proposing cuts of $2.9 billion to an area of spending 63% of people say we should be spending more on is not a good campaign strategy. Especially when your opponent has the vast resources necessary to frame the debate.

    BTW, the survey shows that the lowest level of support for increased health care spending by the state is in Central Illinois, at 47%. I think there is probably a strong disconnect between people who live in Springfield and folks who live in the rest of the state when it comes to these spending issues. Anyone who relies too heavily on folks from Springfield for political advice is likely to get some biased perspectives.


  30. - Sound Reasoning - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 1:19 pm:

    The whole point of this debate should be the simple fact that at least Topinka is proposing a plan whether one agrees with it or not.

    The current governor has shown no plan in his almost 4 years in office for cutting the debt. Even quite the opposite he has been on a constant path of increasing our state’s debt in the last almost 4 years to the point that we are now number one of all fifty states as a debtor state. The governor has had 4 years to attempt to turn things around but instead has allowed the state’s debts to go unpaid while he continually creates new programs for which he knows there are no sources of funding. He has been quite masterful at this shell game to the many unsuspecting that have fallen for his fictitious numbers.

    Whether you agree with Topinka’s plan or not at least it is a plan and will hopefully spur our current governor to at least think about the pitiful shape our state’s finances are in.


  31. - Dem Voting R - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 1:33 pm:

    And so the real debate has begun at last. What a relief. Whatever the merits of the Topinka plan, we are now talking plans, and we can stop with the nonsense. Personally, I know we have to better manage healthcare but I respond coolly to the notion that the budget should be balanced on the backs of the poor and elderly. I think we need a few more details on the plan so we can all talk sensibly about it (yeah, right!). But here’s a big difference in this election — what is Blago’s record on balancing the budget and what are his plans for getting us out of debt? This is Judy’s strong suit - what she believes in most passionately — it’s why she’s running: out of a real sense of disgust at the way money is handled by the Current Occupant. Whether that is enough to get elected or not, only time will tell. Americans traditionally want all their benefits AND low taxes, defying reality. Blago’s good at that game, whereas Judy wants to be realistic. Is Realistic a good campaign or just good governance? Ah, the end of summer and the true campaign begins.


  32. - Sound Reasoning - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 1:35 pm:

    It appears YDD didn’t do enough studying of the very report that he offers up as proof of his views.

    One only has to look at page 3 or the report to view the following conclusions:
    “In 2003, 60% of respondents favored reducing spending and 35% favored
    increasing taxes. In 2004, 56% favored reducing spending while 37%
    favored increasing taxes to maintain service levels. In 2005, 53% and 39%
    respectively favored these alternatives.”

    While the ‘reduce spending’ group’s numbers have gone down slightly over the last 3 years they are still a significant majority according to this poll. These numbers definitely show broad ranging support for the state to reduce its spending.


  33. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 1:39 pm:

    Sound Reasoning — my point is that Topinka’s plan is one that 63% of voters are likely to oppose. Whether or not it is workable as public policy is a fine debate — although one I don’t think Topinka could win — but as an election strategy it’s horrific.

    If you’re going to propose unpopular ideas, it makes more sense to atleast be sure they are 100% defensible as sound public policy. I think my proposal to stop treating drug addiction as a criminal problem and start treating it as a public health problem — saving taxpayers $2 billion in four years — certainly meets that test.

    In short, I’ll match the YDD Plan up against the Topinka Plan any day.


  34. - Sound Reasoning - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 1:44 pm:

    At least YDD you’re coming up with ideas and that is commendable whether I agree with your decriminalization of drug offenses or not.

    Our current governor hasn’t even proposed a plan and he’s the head of our state.


  35. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 1:51 pm:

    No, Sound Reasoning, I’ve read the survey. Yes, if you ask voters generally whether they’d rather balance the budget by cutting spending or raising taxes, most say “cut spending”.

    It’s when you get around to making those specific spending cuts that you realize that voters are just as schizophrenic as the governor. They don’t want their taxes to go up, but they want the state to spend more on almost every program across the board, especially education, health care and job training for the unemployed.

    I call it the Credit Card Culture. People want to consume more, but they don’t want to pay for it. Look at all of the credit card debt Illinoisians have and you’ll realize that the Blagojevich policies are very much in line with how people live their everyday lives.

    If you go back to the study, you’ll see that while education, health care and job creation are the three most popular items for spending increases, road repairs, road construction, and prisons are the spending areas with the least support, along with job training for the already employed, an area that the state spends a pittance on.

    Given the public attitudes, if you’re going to propose spending cuts, education, health care, and job training for the unemployed are clearly not the right targets.

    So, why didn’t Topinka crack down on spending for roads and prisons? If you said “Bill Dugan and AFSCME,” you are correct.


  36. - HANKSTER - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 2:02 pm:

    YDD is right. A push poll or a bad pollster can influence results simply on how the question(s) is asked. If you ask people would you rather balance the budget by cutting taxes or cutting spending obviosuly people will say cut spending. If you ask would you rather balance the budget by raising taxes x percent on those making over x dollars or by cutting healthcare benifits, most people will say raise the taxes. This is why a good pollster and reading cross tabs are very important.


  37. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 2:03 pm:

    Sound Reasoning — I have to admit, I stole the YDD Plan from Maryland, who stole it from 25 other states that have already taken dramatic steps to overhaul their drug laws. Here’s what the Baltimore Sun had to say about a similar plan, enacted by a Republican Governor in Texas:

    In July, Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation passed by the state’s GOP-controlled legislature diverting low-end drug offenders from prison into treatment. That law is expected to redirect 2,500 inmates from Texas prisons into treatment and save $115 million over the next five years.

    If Republicans in Texas have figured out how to do it, it clearly can’t be rocket science.

    BTW, I’m proposing that the savings from the YDD Plan be redirected to provide job training for the unemployed in communities impacted by prison closings, balance the pension deficit, and help close the $600 million per year deficit in foundation level funding for downstate schools.

    That ought to go over big in downstate Illinois.


  38. - one of the 35 - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 3:21 pm:

    All taxpayers want increased services and lower taxes, but it can’t happen in the real world. It always comes down to the question of who’s ox is being gored.

    This JBT plan, however makes more conceptual sense than her previous economic development plan. I think taxpayers will tend to favor a plan to actually cut expenses instead of just deferring them to our great grandchildren as the governor has chosen to do. I submit that this massive deferral of expenses is an abdication of leadership by the gov.


  39. - anonymous - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 3:52 pm:

    It’s about time someone reigned in the Medicaid program.
    First, hire adequate staff and give them do-able workloads so they can determine/redetermine eligibility on time and thoroughly. Then, develop proficiency testing for staff, if they aren’t proficient they don’t deserve their jobs(no matter how they came to get them).
    Next, do away with giving contracts to other private agencies to do the work that DPA/DHS should be doing. For instance, not all women who are pregnant, illegal immigrants are eligible for Medicaid. Get rid of these bleeding heart contractors who find everyone eligible no matter the income or composition of the household. As policy stands now, if the contractor signs off on these applications declaring they’re eligible, no matter what DPA/DHS may know of the family, they are required to believe what the other agency says and issue a medical card immediately. Investigate and prosecute those contractors who lie on behalf of every pregnant worman. The government claims it wants to deport illegals if they could only find them, but in the next breathe, all they need is a name and mailing address to give away the store to these poor people. And it’s not only the illegals, I don’t know a welfare client who doesn’t have money for cigarettes and beer, just not for co-pays. I know this sounds like a cliche, but it’s largely true. We all set our own priorities in life.
    Re-institute an asset limit for the welfare programs.
    And lastly, hire enough investigators to catch the cheaters, and then really prosecute.


  40. - Greedo - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 4:50 pm:

    So we are going to make seniors have to chose between buying medicine and being food, huh?

    I thought we were past that. Sad to see Illinois going backwards.


  41. - Just Wanderin" - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 5:18 pm:

    Wow! JBT has a plan, and the bloggers have weighed in on it at the program level. Not wanting to rehash what’s already been said, I thought I’d expand on what Reddbyrd alluded to - technology…

    “New “Healthy Babies” Campaign:
    Using technology to merge the Women, Infants and Children program with the State’s Medicaid program will introduce Medicaid eligible women to WIC services that can prevent unhealthy births. The state should focus like a laser on this issue. Unfortunately, the State of Illinois is relying on outdated technology that does not merge the Women, Infants and Children Program data system with the state’s Medicaid data system. This is unconscionable in today’s society. Many unhealthy births – and their exorbitant emotional and financial toll – can be avoided through an upgrade of the state’s technology in these areas.”
    Judy Baar Topinka will take the appropriate action to stop unhealthy births by upgrading this technology through a new “Healthy Babies” Campaign.

    This should be one of the many red-flags to be more carefully thought through in this plan. Although the G-Rod bunch honed it to a fine art, every administration comes in and immediately wants to replace “technology” usually before they know why it exists as it does. The reasons vary, but usually distill down to: 1) in my previous life we did it the other way; 2) a consultant that I know and love recommends it; 3) it wears the previous administration’s label, 4) I read about it in a magazine, or 5) let’s use something that will take our agency out from under CMS’ control. These one-liners about merging systems and agencies end up taking years to implement, cost millions of dollars, introduce new technology that doesn’t integrate well with other existing systems, requires ongoing consultant/vendor support because there is no State staff available or trained to deal with this new technology, and may be abandoned when the next administration comes into power..

    And, what does JBT mean by “outdated technology”? Is she saying that the State uses hardware/software that is not the currently supported version; or, that it is not the “bleeding-edge” technology advertised in the trade magazines? How does she know that the existing technology can’t be merged, and will it cost more to merge existing technology or implement new technology and system? Outdated technology versus state-of-the-art technology is a catch-22 situation for the State. The State suffers from a retirement/attrition brain-drain regarding legacy systems (e.g. IMS, COBOL, CICS, etc.) that younger technologists view as “ancient history” that they aren’t interest in pursuing, However, the technology pool for new technology (e.g. JAVA developers) is sparse - causing the State to use expensive contracted resources.

    I certainly hope that JBT is not relying on her experiences with the technology in a small shop such as hers when talking about upgrading outdated technology and application systems in the many-times larger human services agencies.


  42. - Disgusted - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 5:38 pm:

    Dem voting R: You are right, the healthcare system needs to be streamlined and fixed. With all the “Cares” we have many duplicates in forms, with only a different logo at the top. Why can’t we have our own health insurance (Illini-Care?) that covers all, at a variable rate based on income. Keep the forms and the procedures simple (and keep any governor’s name off all forms altogether to save printing costs) and let the doctors and hospital be a part of the planning so that they can have their input on what can be offered for the lowest costs without compromising care. Politicians planning healthcare is ridiculous - they are trying to be all things to all people instead of trying to find the best, most cost-efficient healthcare available.


  43. - Check the numbers - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 7:47 pm:

    The “new” technology investment to consolidate and coordinate social service functions is already being implemented in a number of states, such as Michigan, Indiana, Washington, and Missouri. So it’s not a new idea, but it’s the smart, progressive way to manage social services, and if bundled under the Medicaid umbrella, the federal government will pick up 75-90% of the design and development costs. The current Medicaid system in Illinois was purchased in 1978 and maintenance costs are unbelievable. This idea is long overdue.


  44. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 8:46 pm:

    Her plan ???? I don’t know about it, but I was at the Fair today and there were less than 400 people/Repubs at the rally? With tongue in cheek, I think she is having trouble energizing her base. Probable something about the old saying…don’t back any losers?


  45. - Frank Booth - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 9:19 pm:

    What’s with the timing? She had the state’s political reporting crews converged on the State Fairgrounds and she decides to throw a curve and unveil her budget plan, essentially ensuring that neither her message at the fair nor her plan get full coverage. That’s some media smarts.


  46. - Chalkline - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 9:23 pm:

    Man, It’s time to straighten you folks out. It is time for national health care. Aside from that, one of you dudes says they will save 115 million over 5 years in Texas by treating drug offenders. Great. If Illinois does that let’s add it up. 50 billion x 5 years = 250 billion. Of that the state will save 115 million. Boys, that’s a pittance compared to how much the state spends. All the cost cutting programs Blago and Topink come up with are drops in the state bucket. One of needs to grow some “kahunas” and just say it. Raise the doggone taxes. Keep the crooks behind bars and give the state the services it has grown accustomed to. We’re not stupid. We know state services cost money.


  47. - SI - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 10:26 pm:

    Hey Rich,

    Sounds like more support than hacks. Maybe Judy is on to something here. Sure, reality is probably somewhere below the $3.7B number, but just having someone TALK about lowering expenses instead of fees here, handout there, pork EVERYWHERE is refreshing.

    YDD can spout polls all it wants, but down here in the south, this message rings alot truer than an an unoccupied baseball stadium. The only poll that matters is in November, and Judy is getting my vote.


  48. - unclesam - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 10:37 pm:

    First, to Squideshi and all others that believe that there should be a higher tax on the wealthy (which I am not by any means), it cannot happen in Illinois unless the IL Constitution is amended. Granted, there may be a constitutional convention in the next couple of years, but don’t count on the flat tax rate ever being changed. Won’t ever happen on the constitutional level.

    Secondly, in terms of Judy’s budget plan: who better to know where the wasteful spending within IL’s budget than the Treasurer (and Comptroller). Due to the GAAP reporting they are required to submit every year to federal and national entities, I will always trust their numbers before anyone within the current Administration. It was HILARIOUS to watch Filan hold a press conference to call Topinka’s plan “nonsense.” The only true “nonsense” have been the “balanced budgets” under Filan and Blago.

    Lastly, in terms of her “healthy babies” campaign, I’m all for finding ways to help expecting parents find every resource to make sure their child will be healthy. I will wait to see more details, but after the birth of my son (who was healthy due to the excellent care he got in the neo-natal intesive care unit) I am more attuned to these types of issues (such as not raiding the funding for metobolic screening tests for infants; just one of many vital funds raided by this unethical, uncaring Governor).


  49. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 10:54 pm:

    Dog, I read it this way-no one who is currently eligible for Medicaid will lose services, ergo, people who are currently not eligible and receiving services will lose services. I don’t think that’s a bad plan.


  50. - Anon - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 10:57 pm:

    If Topinka really cared about saving taxpayers money she would have shut down the Treasurer’s Office long ago and moved what little it does over to the Comptroller.

    Being able to campaign was obviously more important.


  51. - anon - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:03 pm:

    Yellow Dog,
    Just a reminder, there’s a whole lot more to Central Illinois than Springfield. Perhaps you’ve heard of Peoria or Bloomington-Normal, Decatur or Champaign-Urbana.


  52. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:11 pm:

    Though I’m not sure,I believe Topinka has been a consistent supporter of combining the offices of Treasurer and Comptroller.


  53. - SilverBackDemocrat - Thursday, Aug 17, 06 @ 11:58 pm:

    It is nice to see that Ms. Topinka has finally put a plan out into the public for processing. Nevertheless, she is still going to lose the election. Every Democrat that I talk to says they are voting for the “team.” We even discuss all the goofy stuff that is being thrown at the Governor, and every Democrat says the same thing, over and over again. Them hypocrites! They (Republicans) are the very ones who say that Bill Clinton was a terrible President-and just look at Bush, etc., etc (you know what I’m talkin’ bout). As a partisan Democrat, I will say that I am glad to see Topinka put out a plan. There are a couple of good ideas in all of that propoganda, but she is going after the most vulnerable population in the state, the poor who rely on that program. Go figure. If there is a way to make any program run more efficient and better, I’m all for it, but I think her intent goes deeper than what meets the eye. I believe she is trying to rally up all of the Coock’s who hate programs that help people, especially the vulnerable. It kind of reminds me of 1996 or 97 when the Republicans went after the mentally retarded and handicapped (cut money for eye and ear care) in this state. Furthermore, I think Topinka is trying to use a “code” word for going after Mexicans in Illinois who receive medicaid assistance. Just my hunch. At least Republicans in Illinois are a little bit more covert than Republicans in other states, like Washington where the Republicans want to change the state constitution to make babies born in this country by illegal imigrants “un-citizens.”
    There is only one way to fix health care in this country and it is Universal Health Care. Having served honorably in the US Military (which functions as Universal Health Care), I can tell you first hand, it works. Is it perfect, no, but it is better than what exists today. I look forward to seeing the editorials and analysis from the Illinois newspapers in the coming days about Ms. Topinka’s plans. Let’s see if they are “Fair and Balanced.” Bet they are, just like Fox News.


  54. - Nostradamus - Friday, Aug 18, 06 @ 12:10 am:

    First, I would like to address anonymous 8:46
    commenting on the crowd at JBT’s picnic. There was
    a lot more than 400 people. i was also there. Now
    let’s talk about saving this state from bankruptcy. As long as the agencies are forced to
    spend all their budget or be penalized in the next
    years budget by cutting their overall amount they
    will receive. I previously worked for the state
    in DHS procurement. As the end of the FY approached, we were instructed to order equipment,
    furniture, supplies and whatever to avoid having
    a surplus of $$$$ come June 30th. Were not talking hundreds or thousands of $$$$’s. We’re
    talking millions, but we had to spend it or be
    cut next fy. There’s not a business or company that could operate under those premises and exist.
    Sort of like telling your spouse or children to
    go spend all the money they have in their possession. Another way the state would generate
    enormous amount of $$$$’s is- I’ll tell you later
    Right now i would like to ask everyone on this
    site if they can tell me one item in a grocery
    store that there is NO sales tax on? 99% of the
    public have no clue on this.


  55. - Nostradamus - Friday, Aug 18, 06 @ 12:16 am:

    Sorry, forgot to tell anonymous 8:46pm. JBT DIDN’T
    have to bring busloads of people and pay them
    $25.00 each just to have a crowd like Little Rod
    did. The man is either sick or just plain stupid.


  56. - Anonymous - Friday, Aug 18, 06 @ 12:58 am:

    It’s nice to know the left-wing liberals are reading this blog. Progressive soak-the-rich taxes, socialized medicine, legalization of drugs. I’m shocked! No one’s mentioned yet growing hemp for environmentally-conscious bio-fuels.

    Judy is absolutely correct to target out-of-control medical costs. That and pensions are eating up the budget that provides the services the state is supposed to provide.

    Want to cut down on Medicaid babies, how about making the unmarried fathers and their families foot the bill. Too many teen fathers from middle-class families are getting their girlfriends pregnant, but not getting married until the baby is born so the taxpayers can foot the bill for the birth.

    The first responsibility belongs to the families, not the taxpayers.

    While we need to cut spending in state government (whether real cuts or simply slowing the rate of growth), we also have to focus on the revenue side, and the best way to raise revenue is not to raise taxes, but to grow the economy.

    There are 49 other states for businesses and individuals to choose for their place of residence. Raise taxes and we can say good-bye to a large number of them.

    Cut taxes and say “Hello!”

    We’ve got to reform workman’s comp. We need malpractice reform, judicial reform. We need to lower barriers for folks to go into business, not raise them.

    Thousands of Illinoisans retire each year, sell their home and look somewhere else for retirement. We do a few things right like not slap an income tax on social security income, but there are a few additional things we can do. First, eliminate the estate tax.

    You want a better economy. You want more jobs. You want more revenue for state government, then let’s focus on building more wealth inside the state lines.

    If not eliminate the state’s estate tax, then at least couple the rates back to the federal rates.

    Judy’s plan is a start, and at least it’s pointing in the right direction.


  57. - Jonsey - Friday, Aug 18, 06 @ 6:35 am:

    Hey anonymous @12:58 am, so making sure the most vulerable amongst us have access to medical facilities is socialized medicine?

    Why do you hate the children so much?


  58. - Truthful James - Friday, Aug 18, 06 @ 8:18 am:

    Hey, Rich –

    Thanks for throwing a bowling ball among us pins. But on a Friday yet. Keep your wires open over the weekend.

    As always the comments range from — why didn’t she reform the State when she was Treasurer to an intelligent discussion of the matters at hand.

    I hope to see more discussion on why her particulars will reach incorrect results and less on why the commentator is so brilliant. To do that, respondents will have to indicate what the results are estimated to be — and what the true dollar and social costs are. I guess votes are a social cost.

    To me, the biggest problem is the absolute kowtowing of Blago and his cohort to illegal aliens. Given limited money available the system is distorted More prisoners, more welfare for that group, and continued welfare for our own citizens and immigrants (legal aliens.) There are beaucoup savings there.


  59. - Reddbyrd - Friday, Aug 18, 06 @ 8:29 am:

    So the bottom line is big tech cost
    People lose coverage and cost rise because docs hospitals, nursing homes and Rx guys keep stuffing records profits in the pockets

    Meanwhile the crowds was closer to 250 and they did not need buses because they all drove their state cars to the event.

    Go Cards !!!


  60. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Aug 18, 06 @ 8:46 am:

    Steve -

    I guess you can read it that way, but please, tell me: where are the myriads of people who aren’t eligible for Medicaid but are receiving benefits?

    If Topinka is talking code for illegal immigrants, she needs to be a little more explicit.

    Anon 11:03 - thanks for the geography lesson. Yes, I know Central Illinois is more than Springfield. But Central Illinois also has a disproportionate number of state workers (don’t forget U of I, ISU), and disproportionate coverage of insider news of state government, and that includes t.v. news. Fer Pete’s sake, we’ve got a political columnist who routinely covers changes in job titles, hirings, firings & retirements, even people’s salaries — how much more insider can you get?!

    My point is that Central Illinois voters have a different perspective than voters in other parts of the state, and that has to have an impact on how political pundits in Central Illinois view state government and politics. We all carry our own biases, I think it’s important for a good analyst to be aware of them.


  61. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Aug 18, 06 @ 8:51 am:

    And, as I predicted, here is the Gov’s response to the Topinka plan, from the Sun-Times:

    Meanwhile, Topinka pledged to slice $3.7 billion from the state budget over four years by controlling Medicaid costs, cutting pork-barrel spending and eliminating what she claims are political jobs created by Blagojevich.

    Most of the Republican treasurer’s cuts — $2.9 billion — would come in controlling skyrocketing costs associated with Medicaid, which provides health care to the poor.

    Blagojevich said Topinka’s plan would ‘’take health care away from kids, kick senior citizens out of nursing homes. It’s a devastating plan that undermines health care in Illinois.'’

    The best way for Blagojevich to win an election where 44% of voters consider themselves Democrats is to encourage partisan behavior. The best way to do that is focus the debate on partisan issues. Topinka just handed Blagojevich a fat one: cutting funding for health care for the poor.


  62. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Aug 18, 06 @ 9:01 am:

    Truthful James - Maybe Topinka’s just talking in a code I can’t understand, but I didn’t hear her say one word about “illegal immigrants.”

    If Topinka is claiming that the main reason that the state budget is out of whack is “illegal immigrants”, I really want to see her numbers. And where she got them from. Jim Oberweis?


  63. - Truthful James - Friday, Aug 18, 06 @ 9:19 am:

    YDD –

    Let’s be precise with our terms, even though you prefer to use quotation marks.

    Our population is divided into two sets: Citizens and Aliens. The second has two sub-sets: Legal Aliens and Illegal Aliens. The first of these can also be divided into Immigrants and Other Visitors with different Visas. The latter become Illegal Aliens after their Visa expires.

    Immigrants are those who have been vetted by established procedures, have declared their intentions to live permanantly in the United States. Congress in its infinite wisdom [:-)]has set quotas depending on the country of origin. Hopefully their decisions relate to the intrinsic value which the Immigrants bring to the country.

    Illegal Immigrants is an oxymoron. I submit it is used to lure others including Immigrants to a cause and expand the size of an interest group. Elected officials use it to increase their presumed political power.

    Newspapers use it to create sympathy and sell papers.

    But that does not make the phrase correct.


  64. - Little Egypt - Friday, Aug 18, 06 @ 9:23 am:

    Yellow Dog, just give us the link - not the entire tirade. I think we are all intelligent enough to know how to go to a website if we choose rather than you putting it out there for us to read. How desperate can you get?


  65. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 18, 06 @ 9:23 am:

    Let’s move this conversation to Friday’s post, shall we?


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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