In 2010, just weeks before re-election, former Gov. Pat Quinn unveiled a $55 million program supposedly aimed at curbing violence in Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods. But due to widespread mismanagement, a lack of oversight, and a rush to spend the money ahead of Election Day, the program served as little more than a political slush fund, catching the eye of multiple criminal investigations and a scathing state audit.
This week, Senate Republicans pushed legislation to prevent scandals like NRI from ever happening again. The reform measure, Senate Bill 1058, does the following:
· Bans the promotion of new state programs and grants in the two months ahead of an election – Gov. Quinn made 61 such announcements in the final two months of the 2014 election.
· Closes the accounting loophole that allowed Gov. Quinn to bypass the budget process and take $55 million for NRI, a practice slammed in the 2014 audit;
· Updates the Grant Accountability and Transparency Act with stricter oversight and new disclosures to root out conflicts of interest.
The NRI scandal was a low moment for Illinois, and another black eye on the state’s still-damaged reputation. This bill can go a long way in improving public trust and ensuring that such a scandal can never happen again – an important step on the road to fiscal recovery.