* One of the takeaways from the State Budget Crisis Task Force Report on Illinois was how bad the Blagojevich years were for the state. For instance:
These things happened for political reasons. While in Illinois, as elsewhere, the desire to please constituents by expanding government services without increasing taxes is a given, the origins of the structural gap between spending growth and sustainable revenues can be traced to the 1990s. Governor Rod Blagojevich (Illinois’ first Democratic governor since 1976) was elected in 2002 with an agenda to expand programs for children, seniors, and the poor. However, conflict between Blagojevich and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan (both Democrats) meant that tax increases became virtually impossible as the two “checkmated one another.… The governor declared he would veto any general tax increase…. Madigan blocked all the revenue initiatives proposed by the governor.”
Kristen Schorch reports on a new audit of one of those programs, All Kids, and its flaws:
For example, HFS incorrectly classified more than 11,000 children as undocumented immigrants, even though they had Social Security numbers, the report says. As a result, the department did not seek reimbursement for their medical care from the federal government, which does not fund coverage for undocumented immigrants.
By not properly classifying the recipients, the state is potentially missing out on an unspecified amount of funding, according to the report, which identifies the mistakes as a “continued problem.”
The total number of undocumented immigrants treated by All Kids in FY11, according to the audit (PDF), was 51,669 (53,607 in FY10), so it's a substantial error. The other problems are considerably smaller, and the audit's a mindbending tour of the complexities of government ("Specifically, auditors identified one provider that billed multiple frames for 41 recipients. These 41 recipients had 180 frames ordered through ICI and had 186 fittings during FY10").
* From Cate Long at MuniLand, who's great to read if you're into that sort of thing:
There is, in fact, another option for short-term borrowing that could save California, Illinois, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and other states in interest costs. The Federal Reserve open market operations offer short-term borrowing.
It must be easier for a state treasurer to call JPMorgan and secure execution of a multi-billion dollar loan in a of couple days. But that convenience costs taxpayers a lot of money. It also provides less transparency for taxpayers than if it was done through the Federal Reserve.
* Pensions are going to be the next big fight, and Michael Madigan says he's ready to throw down:
Photograph: Jason Dunnivant (CC by 2.0)