By: Mark Glennon*
Prepare to get sick.
Late today, in nine separate press releases, Governor Pat Quinn announced spending totaling $223.7 million from the infamous “Jobs Now” program passed in 2009 that was justified as stimulus for the Illinois economy at the depth of the recession. Today’s press releases are linked here.
While most of the spending under the program has been for legitimate capital projects, Jobs Now has been highly controversial from the start. It was not used as stimulus during the recession, and much of it was spent on projects widely regarded as pork. Earlier spending has included decorative lights for a bridge over the Mississippi, handouts to wealthy universities, and grants to two technology incubators that don’t need the money (which we wrote about in articles linked here and here).
The projects will be paid with money the state does not have — borrowed through a bond offering that was part of the program.
Because the press releases just came out, it’s unclear at this point how much money remains in the program and whether the projects announced today are worthy. It’s safe to assume that much of today’s announced grants are payback to local officials for support they gave during the elections.
Hopefully, Governor-elect Rauner and responsible legislators will demand a halt to all further commitments under the program pending further review. Stop this now.
The oldest trick in the book for politicians hiding something is to make press releases on Friday evenings or evenings before a holiday.
Happy Thanksgiving Eve. Just don’t tell your kids about the bill they were just sent.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints