Illinois Senate Republicans suggest the governor is putting on NRI redux. They are calling attention to $5 million which they say was defunded from social service programs around the state and given instead to programs tied to providers tainted in the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, an anti-crime program Quinn introduced late in his first campaign. “We saw what happened four years ago: this very, very thing,” said State Sen. Darin LaHood (R-Peoria).
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“Obviously, nothing has deterred the Quinn administration from continuing to engage in this practice of trying to buy votes in Chicago.” The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was criticized by the auditor general as poorly run; Republicans have characterized it as a political slush fund. “Where does the money go? We can tell you where it’s coming from: communities like mine,” said State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington). “We’re not going to have the services available for our troubled youth, because they’ve taken the money away from the providers for them, and they’ve given it to some of the agencies that were identified in the NRI audit.”
The Quinn administration calls the charges false and ridiculous, adding the appearance that the money is being paid out now is merely a bookkeeping matter in the comptroller’s office. And even though the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative has been dismantled, relationships and contracts remain with some of the recipient programs, including the Chicago Area Project, which a top Quinn aide said has a decades-long relationship with the state.
Barickman co-chairs the Legislative Audit Commission, which resumes hearings into NRI next week.