9.1.09

IT'S FOR YOUR OWN GOOD. The Illinois House voted to impeach Governor Blagojevich and put him on trial in the state senate. It is difficult not to think of Ann Coulter's description of mascots, or perhaps of rhetorical human shields, in contemplating the governor's subsequent statement. The governor presented these individuals, in a parody of a State of the Union address, as examples of people who benefitted by policies he implemented unilaterally, without consent of the legislature. Chicago Tribune editorialists object.

Illinois finances are a disaster. Comptroller Dan Hynes estimates that the state will come up $3 billion short of what it needs to pay its bills by the end of the fiscal year in June. With income and sales taxes—the two biggest sources of operating revenue—tanking, next year's outlook is not rosy either.

This time last year, Hynes reported that Illinois had more than $1.7 billion in bills it couldn't pay, much of it to health and social service providers. At the time, it was the highest total ever at the midpoint of a state fiscal year. Meanwhile, Blagojevich was hyping his self-declared expansion of medical care, drumming up more patients for the health-care providers who weren't getting paid on time for the patients they already had. That's just one example of the sort of antics that poisoned his relationship with lawmakers.

An unfunded mandate is annoying enough when it's enacted under the existing legislative procedures. Stroke of the pen, law of the land, antagonize the legislators, who have an equal role under the Illinois constitution.

With the economy worsening, the state found itself more than $4 billion behind by November. Nursing homes, day-care centers, substance-abuse clinics and programs for disabled people were stretched to their limits, trying to pay their bills while waiting for the state to pay what it owed them. Many of them fear they'll have to close their doors.

The state borrowed $1.4 billion to get payments flowing, and Hynes says it now takes 49 days to pay a bill instead of 71.

But some group homes are four to six months behind in getting paid. Many of them have tapped millions of dollars in credit to make their payments, and some can't get any more credit, says Tony Paulauski, executive director of The Arc of Illinois, which advocates for the disabled.

Providers do not necessarily rely on Illinois for all of their revenues. Remind me again how going to a single payer health care system is going to expand provision of care, more cheaply, with universal access.

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