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Rezin: Time to end programs that waste taxpayer dollars

Published: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 9:07 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 9:12 p.m. CDT
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Sue Rezin

In February, the Illinois Auditor General released an audit of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative that revealed a shameful waste of taxpayers’ money and potential criminal activity. Several Illinois House and Senate Republicans urged the Illinois Auditor General to refer the findings to the Executive Inspector General and to the U.S. Attorney for further review – and he did.

At the beginning of May, the state Comptroller’s office confirmed that they had been contacted and provided information to the U.S. Department of Justice. The revelation of the federal investigation created an unfortunate feeling of déjà vu in Springfield. Gov. Pat Quinn is now the third Illinois governor in a row to be under federal investigation.

In all, Gov. Quinn’s NRI program is the subject of three individual and independent investigations – the U.S. Department of Justice, the Cook County State’s Attorney, and the Illinois Executive Inspector General. That list is likely to grow as the Legislative Audit Commission voted on May 6 to grant a request to issue a subpoena which would allow the commission an opportunity to more deeply investigate the program.

The Auditor General stated the $54.55 million NRI program – an initiative created by Gov. Quinn shortly before the 2010 gubernatorial election – was “hastily implemented” with “pervasive deficiencies in Illinois Violence Prevention Authority’s planning, implementation, and management.”

The audit also found that Gov. Quinn appeared to have broken state law when he shuffled funds among various accounts in order to circumvent the legislature’s authority to annually appropriate General Fund dollars. In effect, the governor was able to create a non-appropriated slush fund of $91 million that he could use in future fiscal years without having to request that the General Assembly re-appropriate those dollars.

Ironically enough, the NRI program was the subject of a CNN “Anderson Cooper 360” investigation in 2012. Two years ago and just months after Republican lawmakers called for an audit of the program that was spending millions of state dollars without apparent oversight, the CNN investigation determined that taxpayer funds were indeed misused by Gov. Quinn’s NRI.

The time is long overdue for us to permanently end programs like this that shamefully waste taxpayer funds and give Illinois all the more reason to be called one of the most – if not the most – corrupt state in the country.

It is regrettable that state leaders continue to misuse their power and taxpayer money so easily, with no regard for the trust instilled in them by the electorate or the enormous responsibility they have been granted. It must stop. It is time to put leaders in office that will not abuse state resources or use taxpayer money to create a personal political slush fund that will launch yet another federal investigation. I’d rather not experience any more of this déjà vu.

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