Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar

Latest Post | Last 10 Posts | Archives

Previous Post: I’m just not buying it
Next Post: *** UPDATED x1 *** This just in… Fitzgerald to step down

Quinn mugs for the cameras as Medicaid plan goes off the rails

Posted in:

* As I told you yesterday, Gov. Pat Quinn spent part of Tuesday speaking to a class of 8th Graders. From that appearance

During his hour long talk, Quinn told students that with little more than a week to go before the spring Legislative session is scheduled to adjourn, it was time for lawmakers to get cranking.

“They’re like you, they’ve got to get their homework done,” he said.

Yes, they do. No quarrel with that. But so does the governor. And taking questions like this doesn’t move the ball forward

At one point, an eighth-grader asked, “What’s a pension?”

* What a total waste of time, unless the governor’s intent was to get his mug on Chicago TV again while continuing his way-too-early victory lap at the very moment that things were falling apart in Springfield

Legislation restructuring Illinois’ Medicaid system was put on ice Tuesday as legislative leaders attempted to figure out what pieces of the package to pass first and whether to tax tobacco products other than cigarettes.

Great moment to abandon ship, governor.

* More

Feigenholtz said a portion of the legislation that would clear the way for Cook County to take on more Medicaid patients might be removed. The provision would roll back a state mandate against Medicaid growth to allow Cook County to add to the Medicaid rolls 100,000 people who would become eligible in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act. The move to add more enrollees would let Cook County receive federal matching funds for patients who are currently getting free treatment at county hospitals. The measure would not be paid for with tax dollars from outside of the county.

* The reason for removing that provision, which costs state government nothing, is because the Right wing is getting all worked up over it

Gov. Rick Perry in Texas and Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey supported similar waivers in their states, and here Tom Cross expressed his support, which of course sent off alarms among the national Republican mullahs.

“The Republican leader of the Illinois state house is on the verge of voting to speed up the implementation of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in the state nearly two years early,” the National Review gasped.

* From Dan Proft

“Illinois Liberty PAC will be monitoring the votes of Republican lawmakers. Republican legislators who vote to raise taxes, increase spending, grow the Medicaid rolls and—incredibly—implement Obamacare when Republicans across the rest of the nation are smartly resisting the siren song of federal largesse, will be targeted for replacement in the 2014 primary election season.”

* The Tribune rebuts…

Now, about the Cook County provision. Some conservatives argue that it will expand Medicaid coverage, costing the state money. Reality: It will allow Cook County to capture federal dollars for care that county taxpayers provide now. It will save local taxpayers a lot of money. Republican leaders negotiating the deal are confident that this won’t create new costs or obligations for the state. Proponents point to a similar program crafted last year by Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.

A Medicaid package could come to a vote in the next few days, if there is a final agreement. Pension reform is still the most essential element to saving the state from fiscal ruin. Anyone who has been around Springfield knows how easily the whole grand bargain could collapse.

Yes, it could collapse, and the governor really needs to be here in town, not gallivanting around the state on a media tour.

* But there are more troubles than just right wing pressure on Republicans

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, a House sponsor of Senate Bill 2840, said there is more work to do on the legislation, while state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, the bill’s Senate sponsor, said there was talk about whether to broaden a $1-per-pack cigarette tax increase and hike taxes on all tobacco products, including pipe tobacco.

Doing so could bring in $825 million instead of the estimated $725 million take from a higher tax on cigarettes only. That revenue is from both tax revenue and federal matching funds. Gov. Pat Quinn has called for the legislature to cut Medicaid spending or find new money to cover some of a projected $2.7 billion increase in program expenses for fiscal year 2013, which starts July 1.

The dynamics of changing the massive program, which provides health care for the poor and is paid for by state and federal funds, are difficult.


* Related and a roundup…

* Our view: Illinois General Assembly must act now on fiscal reform

* Editorial: GOP should back cigarette tax

* Layoff notices anger local leaders

* Dwight prison guards get layoff notices

* Plummer: Politicians and Bureaucrats Must End Assault on Southern Illinois Workers

* Suburban mayors: Don’t take our income tax share

* Parents, child care advocates breathe short sigh of relief

* Quinn Pressured To Create Health Insurance Marketplace

* Safety Net Hospitals Cautiously Support New Medicaid Plan

* Ultimately, the goal for Illinois should be shorter Medicaid rolls

* Editorial: Crunch time

* Ted Dabrowski: Quinn plan for pensions inadequate

* John Kindt: State’s best bet would be to phase out gambling

posted by Rich Miller
Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 10:50 am


  1. Time to get back to Springfield Governor. Remember that place where you keep your underwear and where the work is taking place right now to fix the mess.

    Comment by Cassiopeia Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 11:03 am

  2. In Quinn’s defense:

    1) Research shows that fewer than half of Illinois voters understand the very basics of the state budget: where revenue comes from, what we spend it on. 1 in 4 think the corporate income tax is our primary source of revenue, for example.

    2) The lack of basic knowledge about our budget — combined with constant GOP rhetoric claiming we can painlessly balance the budget by targeting “Waste”, “Fraud”, “Corruption” or “Inefficiencies” creates a briar patch of obstructions to real budget solutions.

    3) Even Quinn’s Nobel Prize winning Budgeting for Results Commission member has publicly acknowledged the need for greater public education and engagement about the budget.

    That said, sending Quinn around to school gymnasiums around the state is probably not the most efficient way to address the problem.

    Here’s my suggestions:

    1) Amend the current State Board requirements for Illinois Government to include state budget literacy, and develop a model curriculum for integrating state budget issues into core coursework such as math, reading, and social studies;

    2) Develop an online interactive tool through the state’s website to give Illinois voters meaningful, hands-on experience with the state budget, and to allow them to see in real time how various legislative proposals would affect the budget this year, next year, and five and ten years out;

    3) Hold the press accountable for failing to educate the public. Go back and look at news coverage of the budget over the last six months. Most focuses on partisan arguments and political leaders; little puts any of the budget discussion into any sort of framework for voters. Frankly, the press ought to be EMBARRASSED that half of Illinois voters don’t know that Medicaid is our largest expense, that the sales tax is our largest source of revenue, or the roots of our pension problems (hint: they stretch back over decades, and aren’t the fault of employees);

    4) The press, and government watchdogs, need to be held accountable for holding the pharisees accountable. Just because Senator So-and-so says the budget can be balanced by eliminating “waste” doesn’t mean you need to print it. If it is printed, advocates need to rip him a new one. And by advocates, I mean groups like the BGA who are supposed to be promoting honest government. Trust me, all the damage done by corrupt contracting pales in comparison to the damage done by a corrupted debate.

    My good friends in the press have done such a fantastic job of focusing on the 1% of bad actors in politics that nobody trusts the other 99%. So now, when the Republicans make some outlandish budget claims, it has to fall on the media to debunk them.

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 11:17 am

  3. Hypocrisy takes all forms and both sides are exceptionally guilty of it, but with that said, I have to say that I’m getting a little tired of the schtick here in Illinois. I’m with Dan Proft, there are a bunch I’d like to target for replacement, just in the general, not the primary. The Cook provision alleviates a burden on taxpayers in Cook County. Republicans are against that? Democrats control Cook County. Coincidence? Pretty unlikely. Their the original group that’s for something before they’re against it.

    Comment by Thoughts... Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 11:20 am

  4. I am fairly confident Gov. Quinn’s middle name is Nero.

    Comment by Cincinnatus Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 11:26 am

  5. – What a total waste of time, unless the governor’s intent was to get his mug on Chicago TV again …–

    I don’t think he got it, or not much anyway. That’s my daughter’s school and she was flipping around last night for coverage and didn’t find any.

    Comment by wordslinger Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 11:31 am

  6. I will not be surprised if there is a move to enhance the state curriculum by requiring every school child to spend 5 minutes a day being reminded how the state constitution says you can’t touch any benefit of a state worker.

    Comment by OneMan Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 11:36 am

  7. @Thoughts -

    Republicans have long been among the biggest supporters of the Cook County health system, which:

    1) Treats poor people from the Collar counties so they don’t have to;

    2) Employs a lot of doctors;

    3) Spends a lot of money on pharmacies.

    I for one hope Feigenholtz and Democrats don’t back down. Tell Proft to stick it. These patients predate Obama.

    Tell House Republicans that if they don’t want to put votes on the bill, we’ll put more Democratic votes on the bill by restoring cuts in patient care and cutting doctors reimbursement rates.

    Screw the cigarette tax…take that hole chunk out of the reimbursement to doctors.

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 11:37 am

  8. @OneMan

    “But Illinois’ response to our problems has addressed only half of the political equation. In a representative democracy, citizens exercise power indirectly by choosing their leaders at the polls. Democracy cannot work without informed and engaged citizens who select the right leaders and hold them accountable. Outside of academia and civic groups, scant attention has been paid by state government to the transformative role of civic education.

    Thomas Jefferson expressed the need for an educated citizenry when he said, “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.”

    Many of the Founding Fathers believed in the civic mission of our nation’s schools. Like many others in Illinois, I am firmly convinced that if we are to instill in our future citizens the importance of government and their indispensable role in preserving the quality of our democracy, we must begin in the classroom”

    - Jim Ryan, Daily Herald Op-Ed, April 9, 2012

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 11:46 am

  9. Is the thought that those on the far right would be reassured by Quinn being present for all negotiations? Somehow I doubt it.

    Comment by Small Town Liberal Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 11:49 am

  10. YDD,

    I’m afraid that the “waste, fraud and abuse” statements are just lazy. What we are really talking about (at least I am) is the proper role of government in our lives.

    As a thought experiment:

    Was Illinois adequately taking care of business in the early 1990’s (or ’80s or whenever). At that time, was the budget balanced or out of whack? Since I don’t remember such huge percentages of deficit, assume the budget was either closer to balanced or indeed balanced. Not comes the critical question: What changed?

    Whatever those changes are, I suspect that we are getting a small return on the investment of our tax dollars for the increase in deficit.

    Government programs have no concrete goals other than idealistic wishes, no measurement parameters that we can use to track the efficacy of a program, few milestones of completion (everything is open ended), little transparency, vague accountability, and no built-in way to kill a program without inciting the ire of some special interest.

    Any wonder why things are so f***ed up?

    Comment by Cincinnatus Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 11:50 am

  11. –Was Illinois adequately taking care of business in the early 1990’s (or ’80s or whenever). At that time, was the budget balanced or out of whack?–

    Like now, they were seriously out of whack following revenue drops during recessions and from continuing pressure of increased Medicaid costs. Taxes were raised.

    Same as it ever was.

    Comment by wordslinger Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 11:55 am

  12. At one point, an eighth-grader asked, “What’s a pension?”

    HAHAHAHA! Wipes away tears. Hilarity!

    Comment by Anonymous Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 12:00 pm

  13. @Cincinnatus -

    In the early 90’s, and in the 80’s, we “balanced” the budget by skipping pension payments and pushing off paying our operating expenses into the next fiscal year.

    What’s changed is that we no longer allow these Fiscal Gimmicks. And, thanks to George Bush, we have yet to recover from the worst recession in our lifetimes, so demands for government services are way up while revenues are stagnant.

    Just to give you an idea: Chronic unemployment (jobless 26 weeks or longer) is up 700 percent.

    As for government having no “concrete goals” or no “measurement parameters”, you’re half right.

    A new study found Illinois has absolutely no process for evaluating corporate tax expenditures, aka “Loopholes”, and assessing the claim that they create jobs. That’s $1.5 billion of complete and total unaccountability.

    There’s a fair argument to be made that both our nursing home system and are prison systems are grossly inefficient. Quinn is trying to do something about it. Republicans are standing in the way. Again.

    On the other hand, thanks to changes under Democrats in 2003, Illinois is a national leader in breaking the cycle of child abuse. The foster care system has shrunk dramatically, adoptions are way up, and I just saw a report that child abuse rates are down 20% from a decade ago. Part of this success is thanks to the thoughtful implementation of performance-based contracts designed in partnership by nonprofit service providers and government.

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 12:02 pm

  14. “State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, a House sponsor of Senate Bill 2840, said there is more work to do on the legislation” — sounds like code words for we don’t have the votes yet!

    Which might have something to do with the oversized union lobbying, the past 2 days, helping the on the fence legislators remember who helped get them there.

    Give the Unions a seat at the bargaining table
    & quit trying to ram thru another “Illinois Quick Fix”!!

    Comment by WhoKnew Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 12:05 pm

  15. ===Which might have something to do with the oversized union lobbying, the past 2 days==

    Um, dude, she’s talking Medicaid, not pensions.

    Comment by Rich Miller Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 12:08 pm

  16. More of the knee-jerk reaction of the extreme right wing of the Republican party to oppose anything to do with healthcare and try to relate all of it to Obamacare. The Republican party is being hijacked by these crazies like Proft.

    Comment by Demoralized Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 12:10 pm

  17. I FEEL AN ALL-CAPS RANT COMING ON!!! Sorry, but the idea that we would block legislation that would bring Illinois tax dollars back to Illinois, and that would provide healthcare for thousands of people who desperately need it, at no cost to Illinois taxpayers — geez louise, if you can’t support that, what can you support?

    Comment by soccermom Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 12:10 pm

  18. You sure know how to pour water on a good tirade!

    Comment by WhoKnew Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 12:13 pm

  19. lol

    Comment by Rich Miller Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 12:14 pm

  20. And here is the thing, you stupid obstructionist idiots — If poor people cannot access care at County (No, I’m not calling it Stroger), they most likely will not shrug their shoulders and say, “Eh, I’ve lived long enough and I don’t want to be a burden on society.” More likely, they are going to show up in the ERs of hospitals all around Cook County and the collars. Those hospitals will wind up providing uncompensated care that will reduce the number of dollars available to pay for nurses.
    So when your mom goes in for her fairly routine surgery, there won’t be anybody in the recovery room when she starts to regain consciousness - which means she might get confused, roll off the table and break her hip, as happened in Connecticut last week. But gosh, I guess that’s better than supporting something that might be viewed in some rarefied circles as a pro-Obama piece of legislation.

    Look here — when we pay our state and federal tax dollars, part of that money is designated for healthcare for poor people who don’t have coverage. If we don’t take the steps to bring those dollars back here to help Illinois people, they wind up going out of state.

    So we Illinois taxpayers end up paying twice for poor people’s care — once when we foolishly send our tax dollars to pay for other states’ poor people, and once when the hospital that ultimately provides uncompensated care makes up for it by charging our health insurers $70 for a single Tylenol — and the insurers, of course pass that expense right along to you, the policyholder/employer, in the form of higher premiums.

    But hey — wouldn’t every right-wing nutjob prefer paying double for healthcare instead of supporting something that provides value to Illinois taxpayers?

    Would someone please bring soccermom a calming glass of sherry?

    Comment by soccermom Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 12:17 pm

  21. He was in Marseilles a day or two before, and in Chicago for a bridge re-opening ceremony a day or two before that. Normally that’s fine, but right now?

    It appeared he was beginning to really “get it” this year.

    Taking a sober tone in his budget address, talking up Medicaid and pension reform, appearing to move towards compromise on certain issues. All cause for hope he was about to step up.

    Then he reverts to his old patterns. Discovering money for programs just after they become tragic news stories, failing still to develop a feasible transition plan for most of the patients facility closures will hit, disappearing during crunch time to…. posture for half a day from many miles away?

    The good Governor has had the benefit of our doubt, at least from me, for too long. He’s just not sincere, focused, credible or effective.

    He’s spastic, selfish and utterly lacking in vision or will.

    Kudos to Madigan, Cullerton, Cross, Radogno, Feigenholtz, et. al. who are rolling up their sleeves for another year to try and make some headway in addressing some very serious problems.

    Governor Quinn can try distancing himself from the pain about to emerge from Springfield, but it’s not working. Spouting sound bites during recess simply reminds voters of the other kids hard at work inside the classroom half a state away.

    Disappointing to throw in the towel on him during such serious times, but this session seals the verdict. Any progress Springfield makes on Medicaid, pensions, etc. will largely be in spite of, not because of, him.

    He sure enjoys playing Governor, though, doesn’t he?

    Comment by Freeman Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 12:43 pm

  22. ==“They’re like you, they’ve got to get their homework done,” he said.==

    But, unlike you, they don’t have to pass a constitution test.

    Comment by anonymice Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 1:18 pm

  23. anonymice - I don’t know where you went, but I certainly had to pass a constitution test to graduate Jr. High.

    Comment by Small Town Liberal Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 2:06 pm

  24. Kid: “What’s a pension?”

    Gov on truth serum: “A pension, son, is what your teachers have instead of Social Security, and which I want to take away from them.”

    Comment by Reality Check Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 2:23 pm

  25. Please, a show of hands from everyone who thinks the budget negotiations would go much better if Quinn were actually, physically in the room.

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 2:44 pm

  26. this makes probably the 5th time Proft has threatened to run someone against Cross in the primary…wonder why nobody ever does??

    Comment by Lance Stevens Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 5:53 pm

  27. I think you’re all being a little rough on Quinn. The real bleep won’t hit the fan until this weekend and nobody will get much rest after the holiday. So if he is not actually at his desk for an hour or two, that’s not a big deal as far as I’m concerned.

    My guess is that a ton of Medicaid cuts will get through, along with some form of cigarette tax. It won’t be a $2.7 billion package but it will be large, especially since some of the estimated Medicaid savings will be vapor.

    I don’t see a way for a big pension deal to pass. The opposition is too strong and there’s no real savings for the FY13 budget no matter what they do. Not sure what an in-between position might look like, maybe a change to the Rule of 85 so that it can’t kick in until age 60.

    On another note- in our high school if you passed civics class you didn’t need to take the constitution test. I don’t know if that was common elsewhere.

    Comment by DuPage Dave Wednesday, May 23, 12 @ 7:18 pm

  28. @DuPageDan -

    I doubt that any Medicaid cuts are gonna pass unless they total $2.7 billion (minus cigarette taxes where applicable).

    I wouldn’t bet against a pension bill. Its easier to put together because they don’t have a target number. Much easier to kick a field goal when you can move the goal posts as close as you’d like.

    Otherwise, that’s gonna throw off the entire House and Senate budget, because Democrats will HAVE to reduce costs elsewhere, and they’ll have to do them across the board.

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Thursday, May 24, 12 @ 12:46 am

  29. @soccermom-

    Excellent analysis.

    I should add that while I don’t have a problem with Quinn talking to 8th Graders, I do have a problem with Quinn comparing lawmakers to 8th graders.

    Governor, that’s not helpful at all. Everything you do to undermine the public’s faith in lawmakers ultimately undermines the public’s faith in State Government–and in you.

    You might feel like the only grown-up in the room at times. But you have to act like a grown-up all the time. Please, no more cheap shots. Model the behavior you want
    Others to emulate.

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Thursday, May 24, 12 @ 7:56 am

  30. It’s unfortunate that the Governor and state legislators want to balance the budget on the backs on frail low-income older adults. Among the proposed cuts are provisions that would place into jeopardy the Supportive Living program, which saves the State money.

    Comment by Rick Banas Thursday, May 24, 12 @ 2:11 pm

Add a comment

Sorry, comments are closed at this time.

Previous Post: I’m just not buying it
Next Post: *** UPDATED x1 *** This just in… Fitzgerald to step down

Last 10 posts:

more Posts (Archives)

WordPress Mobile Edition available at

powered by WordPress.