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Question of the day

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010

* The setup

At noon today, Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget office will post information online about how much the state is receiving in tax dollars and where it’s being spent, and it will invite the public to recommend fixes to a deficit approaching $13 billion.

The Web site - - will include a “suggest a solution” feature through which anyone can submit an idea. It will also be possible to add attachments to send to the governor’s budget staff.

Quinn teased the new Web site as part of “electronic democracy” during a Chicago news conference and said it’s his administration asking the public “What do you think?”

According to Quinn, information on the Web site will show tax revenues for the current budget year and how they’ve been spent so far. Also posted will be projected revenues for the next budget year, which begins July 1, and all the projected program costs, debt payments, pension liabilities and other spending pressures.

* The Question: Go to the new site when it launches at noon and rate it. Also, report back on any suggestions you sent or whatever else you did.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:03 pm:

    12:03 and the site hasn’t launched yet. Hmmm…

  2. - Day Late and 12 billion dollars short - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:03 pm:

    Site is not up….anybody get better results?

  3. - Irish - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:06 pm:

    Couldn’t get it either. Maybe PQ got an extension on the launch LOL

  4. - Niles Township - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:07 pm:

    Site launches should generally be done overnight so you can be late, have issues and not get alot of traffic right away.

  5. - Niles Township - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:07 pm:

    Maybe PQ got an extension on the launch

    Too funny.

  6. - 332bill - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:08 pm:

    Site pulled up fine for me.

  7. - site up - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:10 pm:

    It is working just fine for me. Nice video message from David Vaught.

  8. - Day Late and 12 billion dollars short - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:10 pm:

    Site now up…no new information.

  9. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:10 pm:

    It’s up now. Pretty dense. Not exactly “public” friendly.

  10. - Small Town Liberal - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:11 pm:

    My only complain at the moment is that the comment/suggest a solution doesn’t appear to be working yet, anyone else try to post a comment?

  11. - George - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:15 pm:

    I am sure they are going to “approve” comments before they show up.

  12. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:18 pm:

    Compared to the Board of Elections site, it looks great!

  13. - Niles Township - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:19 pm:

    I like the fact that there are third party plans on the site (i.e. Civic Federation etc.).

  14. - Montrose - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:19 pm:

    I agree that it is incredibly dense. The tables require a lot of familiarity with the state budget. The Budget Basics & FAQs are Quinn talking points. They don’t actually help someone figure out how to read/analyze the budget.

    They need to make it interactive. All people to make changes in line items, and show the domino effect of that change. If they actually want to educate folks on why we need to raise revenue, people need that type of user-friendly interaction.

  15. - Jake from Elwood - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:20 pm:

    How about some details? Most municipalities have far more expenditure details than this. Pretty lame.

  16. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:22 pm:

    Anybody try to leave a comment yet?

  17. - erstwhilesteve - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:29 pm:

    Rich is right - it doesn’t encourage public comment, only policy nerd comment. They need some interactive budget simulations: challenge people to balance a realistic budget using all the tools.

    PS Why does Vaught always lead with more federal money - the item that’s most outside of our control?

  18. - Montrose - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:32 pm:

    Am I reading this right? As of yesterday, the cash balance in the General Revenue Fund was $11.6 million? That’s it? $11.6 million?

  19. - Pelon - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:33 pm:

    I give it a D. Under the “Budget Basics” section, it doesn’t have a chart that shows total State expenditures; only revenues and pension expenses. There is no easy way to see what programs will receive more money and what programs will receive less. There is nothing that will make your average voter think “wow, the State is in real trouble, maybe we DO need a tax increase.”

  20. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:48 pm:

    I don’t see a place where you could test the impact of a solution proposal before you submit it. Since has had such a program up and running for almost a year, they ought to be able to put one on this web site. It would potentially save a lot of time, since they are bound to be hit with “cut this” and “cut that” from people who have no idea how small the impact would be.

  21. - Confused - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:58 pm:

    This site is an embarrassment. To make PDF documents of such complex material without interactivity is less than useless. This is nothing more than a press pop not intended for actual public input.

    And why is there no longer any reference to the cuts which Quinn said were needed even with a tax increase– a year ago? How about a progress report showing actual cuts and savings initiatives with audits to back them up?

  22. - Irish - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:59 pm:

    My take is the site is a token gesture. Which to me reads ” We can take credit for making the attempt but we really don’t want you to understand it or comment intelligently. It is also a real neat campaign website for PQ. It’s HIS message and the site is geared so you only see his take on the budget andf the fix.

    I also like the way they conveniently didn’t explain that the pension debt is so large because they have not been paying into it. The way they have it set up it appears as though the greedy state employees are causing the huge pension debt.

    If they want people to understand it why aren’t “Other Agencies” broken out so we can see those expenditures, also break out each Agency from their general classifications. How do I know which Agency is contributing to a deficit in Economic Development Agencies and which one has a surplus? Maybe certain Agencies in that group could be cut 10% while others could only be cut 5%. How can anyone come up with a suggestion when they do not have all the answers?

    Each agency should be shown, with the special funds that contribute to that agencies assets, then throw in the proposed budgeted amount from the GRF and then show the projected deficit or surplus for that agency.

    Politics as usual.

  23. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:03 pm:

    Hey Look, a Kitty!

  24. - GOP4EVER - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:06 pm:

    Maybe i’m comparing apples to oranges or its the fact i dont have a CPA, but where does it show a $11 billion shortfall when looking at the budget charts?

  25. - Montrose - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:11 pm:

    **Maybe i’m comparing apples to oranges or its the fact i dont have a CPA, but where does it show a $11 billion shortfall when looking at the budget charts?**

    The very bottom line on Table 5 - Preliminary Budget Plan - Accounts Payable. At least I think that is the reference. Again, they have done nothing to make this user friendly.

  26. - Will County Woman - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:11 pm:

    I hate to be a Negative Nelly ….but, oh come on! You guys act like you were actually expecting to see something good in the first place. The Web site transparency scheme was concocted to lower the flame and potential out-cry over the Quinn administration’s lack of readiness/unprofessionalism with respect to the budget, and its failure to deliver the budget on time for an invalid reason.

    This Web site nonesene was a textbook “oh look, a kitty” play.

  27. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:12 pm:

    Oh, goody, a suggestion box!

  28. - 4 Percent - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:17 pm:

    We have to remember that this was foisted upon the Governor by the General Assembly as a trade off for the budget speech extension.

    That being said, watching David Vaught, an extremely nice man, is tantamount to watching paint dry. I think the Governor would have been better served by appearing and speaking in the video.

  29. - LouisXIV - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:28 pm:

    It’s pretty disappointing. Very hard to follow and understand exactly what is going on. It is a sad commentary when the best thing someone can say is that the site is better than the Board of Elections’ site, which is faint praise indeed. The only thing you can say about the Board of Elections’ site is that it is easier to find stuff on it than it is to locate information on the GA’s website.

  30. - Small Town Liberal - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:30 pm:

    - I think the Governor would have been better served by appearing and speaking in the video. -

    I disagree, that would have appeared even more like a PR gimmick. Vaught is the budget director, I think he belongs in the video.

  31. - OneMan - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:34 pm:

    that was useless. The FAQ section wasn’t very helpful and the budget basics, well needed to be much more basic

    Here are some suggestions.

    A better explanation of sources of revenue
    – Sales tax collected (include the retailer holdback)
    – Income taxes on people
    – Income taxes on corporations
    – etc

    Lay out estimated revenues and where they come from by fee/tax/etc

    Create a spreadsheet with the data they use in the one chart with explanations on almost every cell.

  32. - Montrose - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:47 pm:

    What we do know from the documents is this:

    Revenue will be down by $1 billion, primarily due to loss of stimulus dollars.

    They are projecting at $2 billion in cuts, schools seeing $1.3 billion of that and human services another $384 million.

    Even with those cuts, there will be a $5.3 billion dollar hole in the FY11 operating budget and $11.5 billion in unpaid bills.

  33. - in the left lane - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:03 pm:

    Actually, Montrose, looks like we’re down to $10.8 million today.


    I thought it was interesting the site calls out the pensions as much as it does. Obviously there have been huge increases in expenses, but I’d like to see a breakdown of how much of the increase is merely for the purpose of correcting the chronic underfunding over the years.

    Best public comment so far:
    “It won’t save millions of dollars, but is it really necessary to use a new pen, that I’m sure isn’t a ten cent bic pen, every time the governer signs his name on a document.”

  34. - ok - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:09 pm:

    Maybe, Rich, you can see if the folks at Wonkish are willing to do another go-around this year with their budget app?

    That might help things.

  35. - Justice - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:16 pm:

    Got to the site just fine. Scanned the budget, left recommendations to dismantle State and Teachers unions and require those on public assistance to perform community service….after being drug tested. If found using, lose their benefits. Reduce legislative pay back to 2005.

  36. - Cindy Lou - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:28 pm:

    Looks like the comment section for the most part is useless. Do away with state cars except for the Governors? Take pensions away from workers? (Wonder if that submitter at least plans to give back what I’ve paid for 30 plus years plus interest)

    I somehow doubt ‘test test’ and ‘the real world’ was what was meant by having citizens post solutions. Wonder how long this will take before it turns into nothing but a rabid feud between commenters..unless they plan on editing and monitoring it 24/7.

  37. - Reality Check - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:37 pm:

    They shoulda modeled this

  38. - How Ironic - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:50 pm:

    Funniest Suggestion EVER

    John F. Lincoln Park Please do not tax tanning beds.

    What the heck?

  39. - George - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:54 pm:

    Umm… was that a shot at a current State Rep and oft-Cap Fax poster?

  40. - How Ironic - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:59 pm:

    @ George….no, that is an actual ’suggestion’ posted by John F from Lincoln Park on the website.

    Some of them are quite amusing.

  41. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:03 pm:

    This is a campaign site masquerading (not very convincingly) as a “transparency” breakthrough.

    Very disappointing. They had a chance to marshal the resources only they have to lay it down so everyone could pick it up. A bunch of Prof. Kookie graphics and ESPN-like video sob stories doesn’t cut it.

    How about a standard summary of findings to guide the process? I’ve always found Auditor General reports easy to follow.

  42. - George - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:04 pm:

    @ How Ironic :

    I think we are both right.

  43. - Cindy Lou - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:05 pm:

    amusing? One lady thinks I get mega pension, should limit it to $100,000 a year, and blames the unions.

    Don’t think I’ll read much over there, the blood pressure likely will do better without seeing solutions to things that are not true to begin with.

  44. - George - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:07 pm:

    Quinn (or some enterprising Dem state legislator) should try to put each of these suggestions in a separate bill.

    Hey - you give an up or down vote to each of these things and that is a pretty democratic budget process.

    Well… at least the sane ones.

  45. - Stones - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:16 pm:

    Pretty lame….very little detail. I’d say it more of a stunt than anything else.

  46. - Fed Up - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:44 pm:

    I give it a 2 out of 10. No beat and hard to dance to….it’s a real snoozer!

  47. - Will - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 4:01 pm:

    My suggestion:

    Stop the insane subsidies to the coal industry. Stop spending millions on grants for unproven and economically unfeasible carbon capture scams. Stop giving special tax breaks to coal mine and coal plant operators. Stop using DCEO time and resources on promoting clean coal pipe dreams instead of bringing real clean energy jobs to downstate.
    There are less than 4,000 coal mining jobs in Illinois. We can create more jobs with proven technologies like wind and solar. It’s shameful to keep lining the pockets of a powerful industry while those truly in need suffer because of state budget cuts. Show some guts and stand up to you coal industry campaign contributors!

  48. - TwoFeetThick - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 4:09 pm:

    Ummm…perhaps I’m missing something but, anyone else notice at least one of the posted documents - the one entitled “Prelim Online Table Track Table IA 2.24.10″ - keeps changing? It’s now on version 3, and numbers are different then those on earlier versions. If you looked at it earlier, you may want to look again.

  49. - GA Watcher - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 4:24 pm:

    The Senate Republicans have posted a budget survey thru her Capitol Connection newsletter. I guess the Governor’s site isn’t good enough. Check it out here:

  50. - RJW - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 5:42 pm:


    Jeez, you are negative towards the Coal Industry. The problem I have with your comments is that Illinois has a gargantuan amount of coal resources. Nobody is going to give up on that resource if we can find a way to sufficiently scrub it since Illinois coal is so dirty. I don’t have a problem with looking at what is given to the Coal Industry but you don’t just give up on the pile of gold sitting underneath Illinois.

  51. - Some Guy - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 6:09 pm:

    Some of the comments on that site make You Tube’s commenters look like Algonquin Roundtable. I’m sure Quinn will get a lot of great ideas from those folks.

  52. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 8:30 pm:

    Relevant, Understandable Information: D

    Logical, interactive Presentation: F

    Impartial and objective: D-

    Overall Grade: F

    The site mirrors the Quinnies: Big blatherous buildup, then done in a hurry with little forethought, ripe with incomplete, misleading and biased data, FAIL.

    The only transparency here is that of the obvious political motivation.

    Yep, we’ll scrape up $13 billion by eliminating bottled water (didn’t CMS already do that?) pictures on LINK cards, and AA’s personal favorite: a force of “citizen deputies” to run around and aggressively enforce parking and minor traffic violations. I think we have that covered with the red light cameras and the multitudes of police agencies that cover every corner of the State. That idea reminded me of the classic Andy Griffith Show where Barney Fife gives Gomer Pyle a ticket for illegal u-turn and, after writing Pyle’s ticket, drives off and makes a, that’s right, U-Turn. Cut to fade with Gomer running down the street yelling “Citizen’s Arrest! U-Turn, Barney! Citizen’s Arrest!”

    What could have been at least an informative tool for Illinois citizens took a U-turn at the hands of Deputy Barney Quinn. Gomer Pyle would be wise enough to not sign on for four more years of this clown show.

  53. - Macbeth - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 9:07 pm:

    The comments on the budget site remind me why I don’t like most people.

  54. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 9:50 pm:

    AA, if I’m not mistaken, that was Gomer’s cousin Goober who got the ticket.

  55. - Bookworm - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 10:42 pm:

    The most, ahem, “brilliant” suggestion I’ve seen yet: close UIS, turn it into a giant state office complex and use the campus apartments to house legislators during session. Yeah, that’ll save lots of money and be great for the Springfield economy, won’t it?

  56. - steve schnorf - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 10:46 pm:

    Well, its enough to show me ‘11 GRF revenues are going to be about $6B short of covering expenses, even with the proposed cuts.

    Its a start. It tells us (as many of us already knew) that $26B isn’t an affordable GRF approp number for ‘11. and neither is the $24B I have heard circulated as the House D’s target. So we aren’t going to even touch our problem by freezing spending at the ‘10 level without at least 5 or 6 billion in new revenues, and that it would take additional cuts of around $3B to do the freeze..

  57. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Feb 25, 10 @ 12:26 am:

    47th ward said “that was Gomer’s cousin Goober who got the ticket.

    47th, you are absolutely correct. My error. We, especially old AA, need to be this diligent as we discuss the FY11 budget and all its consequences.

    Cheers, AA

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