Statehouse Insider: There are certain things about government guaranteed to rile the public. One of those is new office furniture for public officials. Compensation for those officials will also do it. None of these is a big-ticket item in the grand scheme of government spending. For PR value, though, how could you lose by grounding some of the aircraft or ordering a moratorium on furniture purchases?


 

The House Republicans thoughtfully provided Gov. PAT QUINN with a list of ideas for getting state spending under control.

There are about 80 items that range from the reasonable and logical to the not so reasonable and logical. For example, they call for consolidation of the comptroller and treasurer's offices plus elimination of the lieutenant governor's office. Makes sense as long as voters approve the change, which they must do.


Republicans recommend a law requiring a super-majority vote in the Legislature to pass a tax increase. That's apparently aimed at stopping the annual tax hikes approved by lawmakers now.


They also recommend reducing overtime costs. That's a laudable goal until you remember that a driving factor for overtime expenses is that places like state prisons are short of manpower. The Republican suggestion list doesn't recommend hiring more people to reduce overtime.


One entry on the list got us wondering. Tucked away on one page is "no state office should be remodeled, no new furniture or carpet." The wonder is why the Quinn administration hasn't jumped on that already. They could take the no-new-furniture recommendation and combine it with some similar low-impact ideas and announce it as a first step in getting a grip on state spending.


There are certain things about government guaranteed to rile the public. One of those is new office furniture for public officials. Compensation for those officials will also do it. In Illinois, state-owned aircraft strikes a chord. 


None of these is a big-ticket item in the grand scheme of government spending. The outrage over them is all out of proportion to their actual financial impact. Eliminate all of them and it would make only the smallest dent in the deficit.


For PR value, though, how could you lose by grounding some of the aircraft or ordering a moratorium on furniture purchases? If you're trying to sell people on a tax hike, it might be worth the try.


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You don't have to hold two primaries with record low turnout before these guys sense a problem holding elections in early February. So back to March it is, meaning Illinois will return to its traditional role of being mostly irrelevant when it comes time to nominate a candidate for president.


"I think most people would rather pass up the opportunity to have attack political commercials on Christmas Eve," Quinn said of the compressed campaign season caused by the early primary.


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"I said I don't think you take a vacation until you take your midterm exam." Quinn explaining why lawmakers should consider working through their upcoming spring break if they haven't addressed his income tax proposal by then.


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"We don't have time to meander. These are big stakes. This isn't a piddly, diddly matter. This is really big." Quinn further explaining the importance of a quick vote on the tax hike.


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"Everybody has seen a car accident where police chase cars, running 100 miles an hour, 80. The windshield blows out and the guy rolls out on the ground. How many of them have you seen killed? We've seen it on TV all of the time. You know what? If that car runs over them or lands on top of them, they can have 10 helmets on and it's not going to help them." Sen. GARY FORBY, D-Benton, explaining his opposition to a bill requiring motorcycle riders under age 18 to wear helmets. The bill was defeated.


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For several years the "Sullivan Caucus" at the Illinois Capitol has staged a St. Patrick's party at a Springfield watering hole. It's attended by lawmakers, lobbyists, Statehouse staffers and who knows who else.


The tradition at the party is pass the hat among the celebrants and donate the proceeds to a charitable cause. One year, memorably, the party went ahead just days after tornadoes swept through Springfield. The party-goers collected hundreds of dollars that went to the Central Illinois Food Bank for relief efforts.


This year, money went to Haitian Hearts, an organization helping with earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. Sen. JOHN SULLIVAN, D-Rushville, said more than $925 has been collected "so far."


"It was a great turnout," he said.


The popular public opinion is that everyone associated with state government acts only out of self-interest. Not everyone, not always.


Contact Doug Finke at doug.finke@sj-r.com.