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Pat Quinn signs Medicaid legislation
Gov. Pat Quinn signs Medicaid reform legislation on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, in Chicago. Quinn said the Medicaid reform efforts are one part of his plan to "stabilize our budget," as Illinois works to plug a deficit that is projected to hit $15 billion in the coming year. Looking on are, from left, Rep. Patricia Bellock, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, Senator Heather Steans, Senator Dale Righter. (AP Photo/Chicago Sun-Times, Al Podgorski)

The Legislature’s passage and Gov. Pat Quinn’s signing of the Medicaid reform bill were good first steps in bringing the budget situation under control in Illinois.

But we’re never going to get anywhere if our state “leaders” can’t even act on what should be easy.

For example, as this editorial was being written, Quinn still hadn’t indicated whether he will sign the bill that would impose a financial-means test on free public transit rides for senior citizens.

This costly perk was created by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich through his amendatory veto without discussion or consideration of its impact. It has hurt revenue for public transit systems and created the ludicrous situation of lawyers, bankers and other well-to-do, still-employed seniors riding computer trains for free.

Free rides would still be provided to those who meet financial-need criteria and those above the threshold would still be eligible for half-price rides.

Yet Quinn has stated previously — personally or through his aides — that rescinding this Blagojevich-imposed mandate isn’t a priority and wouldn’t help the state.

It’s true that it wouldn’t curb state expenses, but it would help other government entities — supported by tax dollars — that are struggling and scaling back service or raising fares.

Meanwhile, the idea of going from two license plates to one, another action that should be easy, is met with hemming and hawing.

When this issue has been raised previously, law enforcement officials have objected because having two plates increases the opportunity for identifying a car that’s been stolen or involved in a crime or accident.

But many other states — including our neighbors in Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky — get along fine with just a rear plate.

The savings are limited — an estimated $800,000 a year. But we have to get away from this mindset that if “only” a little under $1 million is saved, the action is unworthy of attention. Besides, this is an annual savings, not a one-shot deal, like so many budget-related proposals.

Unquestionably, the state needs to tackle some big-ticket items to eliminate the budget deficit.

Reforming the workers’ compensation system — which creates unnecessary costs for private businesses as well as state government — is one area sorely in need of attention.

But government attitudes as well as spending habits need changing — including the idea that something that saves “only” $800,000  a year or “only” helps government units other than the state is somehow not worth the effort.


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