Introducing: Task force to study wimpiness
Kristen McQueary firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-5972 February 16, 2011 6:56PM
Gov. Pat Quinn (right) is greeted by Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and Treasurer Dan Rutherford before Quinn delivered his State of the Budget address to a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011, on the House floor at
Updated: November 24, 2011 3:34AM
To address the state’s budget problems, I am announcing today the creation of a new task force aimed at exploring WARD, or Wimps Avoiding Real Decisions, the syndrome known to transform well-intended politicians into zombies incapable of reform.
The Commission on Wimps Avoiding Real Decisions, or COWARD, will explore the tendencies of Illinois’ elected officials to cave to outside pressures and prolong tough decision-making. The highly contagious disease is blamed for the state budget mess, which remains wildly unbalanced and may require heavy borrowing in addition to the 67 percent income tax hike approved last month.
Gov. Pat Quinn, who has been rumored to suffer from bouts of WARD, detailed the state’s budget woes during a speech Wednesday. He produced no new ideas to overhaul state government, prompting the in-house Capitol nurse to speculate WARD may be to blame.
Symptoms of WARD include weak knees, sweaty brows and nausea whenever the words “cut” or “deficit” or “budget” are introduced in conversation.
Other symptoms may include an inability to say “no,” sore joints from flip-flopping and loss of clear vision. Some sufferers have reported cases of chills and forgetfulness.
Subjects suffering from the disease often have two faces, one for constituents back home and one for day-to-day business in Springfield.
They may appear fully functioning and capable of tough decision-making, but lose those skills upon joining their comrades in Springfield.
COWARD will explore whether geographic factors play into the disease; some scientists describe “WARD clusters” in certain ZIP codes, including 62706 where the governor’s office is located. Prolonged exposure to the state Capitol seems to deepen the illness.
The good news, however, is the disease appears to be treatable with doses of tough medicine. Proper treatment may include an immediate reduction in lobbyist dinner companions and fewer free drinks at Springfield taverns.
COWARD will operate separately from the four other task forces Quinn proposed during the budget address.
Quinn announced he would form a committee on school consolidation, even though a half-dozen reports on the benefits of district consolidation already exist.
Quinn also wants to create the Illinois Innovation Council and the Illinois Revenue Reform Commission. The panels will develop new business initiatives and recommend changes to the state’s regressive tax code, both subject areas previously studied by state committees and policy groups.
The governor also is working with state Rep. Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights) on a commission that will search for additional cuts to the budget, which lawmakers must approve by the end of May.
DeLuca, who does not yet show signs of WARD, insisted his taxpayer commission will produce results.
“I am someone who follows through,” DeLuca said. “I don’t shy away from difficult decisions. I am not going to do something that is just going to collect dust.”
Two other task forces similar to DeLuca’s — the Senate Deficit Reduction Commission of 2009 and Quinn’s own Taxpayer Action Board — looked for efficiencies in state government, along with recommendations from The Civic Federation and Illinois Policy Institute. Those reports have, in fact, offered budget-tightening suggestions, many of which have not been enacted.
The proliferation of state government task forces — another indication of WARD onset — led Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) to lament their existence.
“No more task forces,” she said during a Monday afternoon speech to the Southland Chamber of Commerce at the Tinley Park Convention Center. While they appear cost-free, task forces require the time and attention of state staff.
“We have had budget reduction commissions that have been bipartisan and bicameral,” she said Wednesday. “For those who want to have another, more power to you and we would certainly participate. But finding inefficiencies is not the problem. It’s following through. It’s restructuring government.”
Radogno said the state needs to look at retired state employee health care plans. Most retirees pay nothing toward their health care premiums. The state picks up the cost. She also mentioned further pension contributions from current state workers.
Quinn didn’t raise either issue during his speech.
Members of the COWARD task force will be paid a stipend, along with customary travel and parking reimbusements and lunch from Corner Bakery. They will be eligible for state health insurance coverage, a pension plan, a low-digit license plate, freedom to drive 95 mph on Interstate 55 and box seats to this year’s Crosstown Classic.
That way, they can be relied upon to change absolutely nothing.