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Campaign’s “crux” debated

Friday, Sep 29, 2006

The “crux” of the comptroller’s race isn’t really delinquent Medicaid payments, but whether Carole Pankau can even make voters notice that she’s on the ballot. But, this is still an informative piece.

Illinois owes $1.4 billion in delinquent Medicaid payments — and just who should take the blame for it may be the crux of the state comptroller’s race.

State Sen. Carole Pankau of Itasca, the Republican candidate, points the finger at Democratic incumbent Dan Hynes. She says as keeper of the state’s checkbook, Hynes has failed to make prompt payments a priority during his two terms in office.

In contrast, Hynes’ campaign maintains the unpaid bills fall squarely on the shoulders of fiscally irresponsible legislators like Pankau. For years, Hynes’ camp says, she and other members of the General Assembly allowed the state to delay payment of its debts until the next fiscal calendar as a superficial means of balancing the budget.

Both sides agree, though, the delinquent payments threaten the state’s health-care system.

Hynes’ campaign fired back that Pankau has been silent about the issue for years, so it’s nice to see the two finally engaging on something. Pankau started off this race essentially endorsing Hynes.

I’m most curious to see if this campaign can generate more than a handful of comments on an otherwise slow Friday.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - the Other Anonymous - Friday, Sep 29, 06 @ 8:58 am:

    Normally, I wouldn’t make a comment on this post on a slow Friday. But, since Rich made the challenge. . .

    There are only two things that are remotely exciting about this race: 1) will Hynes or Madigan get a bigger margin of victory; and 2) when will Hynes finally have a chance to move up.

    On the GOP side, it’s a sorry state of affairs for the Repubs when a decent politician like Pankau can’t any traction in a statewide race.

    On the other hand, these two are having a debate about something important. That’s more than I can say about the other statewide races.

  2. - Snark - Friday, Sep 29, 06 @ 9:01 am:

    Courtesy reply.

  3. - Shallow Pharnyx - Friday, Sep 29, 06 @ 9:04 am:

    The Comptroller’s hands are tied. You have to have the money in the coffers to make the payments.

  4. - anon - Friday, Sep 29, 06 @ 9:25 am:

    To “Shallow Pharnyx”

    Nice try. Dan Hynes has never said one word about the state being short of cash or worse yet its massive pile-up of DEBT during the last three budget talks. Not one word. Surely he could have stood up and said “I’m sick and tired of not have any cash to pay our bills!” “Its terriable what we are doing to these providers and I want some changes!” No, not one word. He’s too busy worring about stem cell research. What a lap dog.

    Sorry state of affairs we have here in Illinois.

  5. - steve schnorf - Friday, Sep 29, 06 @ 9:26 am:

    Carol Pankau is an excellent legislator, and she has correctly identified a serious problem. But she is wrong about the cause.

    Dan Hynes is an excellent Comptroller. I say that after having worked with many state Comptrollers. He is in no way responsible for delayed Medicaid payments.

    Payments are late for two reasons. One, the legislature and the governor consistently under-appropriate Medicaid. Because of this, even in the Spring when income tax revenues have normally replenished the state’s coffers, Medicaid is frequently out of expenditure authority so payments can’t be made.

    Two, because the state is on such a thin budgetary edge, in the Fall and Winter, traditionally slow revenue times, the state frequently runs out of cash with which to make payments, even though expenditure authority exists.

    It’s hard for me (or any other budget director I know) to criticize under-approping Medicaid (others should feel free to), but normally the state uses good times, when expeditures are able to grow by almost a billion dollars a year, to pay down the Medicaid payment cycle. That hasn’t happened in recent years.

    The other thing I learned the hard way is that the state has not had anywhere near the cash reserves it needs. We worked with Comptroller Hynes to establish the state’s first rainy day fund (his proposal), which can be used for cash-flow relief the way the legislation was structured, but it only has around $200-250 million in it. The state should have at least a billion, and realistically, a billion five in its cash reserves.

  6. - VanillaMan - Friday, Sep 29, 06 @ 9:39 am:

    Pankau’s job is to run a great campaign. I didn’t say a winning one. She can use this to establish herself for future runs.

    Hynes earned re-election. He has been pretty good. Not as great as Loleta Didrickson, who brought the office into the 21st Century, built the training center, (now named after Netch, btw.), and did it all in ONE term. But compared to Blagojevich and his ilk, Hynes looks like a winner.

    Pankau’s job is to get noticed. BTW, her statements about delinquent Medicare payments being somehow Hynes’ fault is bunk.

  7. - Big Al - Friday, Sep 29, 06 @ 9:47 am:

    think of all the poor single chain hospitals, who have to rely on their lobbyist to bring them home emergency funds from the State, because they don’t get their regularly scheduled Medicaid reimbursements from the State of Blago. All Kids is a slap in the face when you look at the Medicaid mess.

  8. - Cassandra - Friday, Sep 29, 06 @ 10:05 am:

    What proportion of Medicaid outlays go to middle and upper middle income elderly who have shifted assets to their kids so they can go on Medicaid should they require nursing home care.

    Most people seem to believe that most Medicaid outlays go to little poor kids. They don’t.
    Little poor kids, like all American kids,
    are generally pretty healthy.

    And of course, there is the coverage going to young adult moms who think the state should pay them to stay home instead of working, in the 21st century no less.

    But the outlays to the stay at home moms are dwarfed by the outlays to the well off elderly. Medicaid, like so many government programs, is middle class and upper middle class welfare. Sort of like state employment…another form of welfare for the connected.

    Reducing welfare outlays to the well off elderly would do far more to solve the so-called Medicaid crisis than weeping about payment delays.

  9. - Karen Silkwood - Friday, Sep 29, 06 @ 10:31 am:

    Well said Cassandra, unfortunately we both know that’ll never happen. Those old folks vote and any hint of someone taking a mere penny from a senior anywhere sends the AARP into a frenzy.

    Want an example: that wonderful glorious tax swap plan Ralph Martire’s been trotting out for eternity originally called for the income tax to be applied to the retirement income of wealthy seniors. No, Illinois does not tax retirement income, no matter how much it is.
    Well, the senior groups got ahold of this, began rattling lawmakers cages and lo and behold, it was stricken from the plan.

    What’s proper and what’s political are rarely on the same page.

    But thanks for at least daring to tell the truth.

  10. - grand old partisan - Friday, Sep 29, 06 @ 10:34 am:

    We’ve come a long way since “the buck stops here,” haven’t we?

    Hynes is right, the Legislature is to blame for him not having the money to make these payments. And just who controls the legislature? Who passed the most recent state budget with NO Republican votes? That would be Hynes’s own party.

    Now, as we have learned from the man at the top of that party’s ticket, Constitutional officers with no responsibility for actually writing or approving the budget can and should be held almost exclusively responsible for the State’s financial condition.

    That all being said, I’d have a lot more sympathy and respect for Hynes if in the course of his denying culpability in the Medicaid situation if he crossed party lines and defended Topinka from Blago’s attempt to make her responsible for deficits passed by GRyan and the Democratically controlled House.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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