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February 27, 2003

Blagojevich pushes reforms of state’s boards and commissions

Governor to slash number of panels, members & pay for savings of about $5 million

Salaries to be paid only to members of four “full-time” boards

SPRINGFIELD -- In another step to save taxpayer dollars and dramatically reform the way state government operates, Gov. Rod Blagojevich unveiled sweeping changes Thursday aimed at streamlining the number of the state’s boards and commissions, reducing substantially the roster of members who serve on them and slashing the amount of resources spent on them.

If implemented, Blagojevich’s reforms would amount to approximately $5 million in annual savings.

“Today, I am announcing proposals to dramatically transform the composition of the state’s boards and commissions-- to save the people of Illinois money and restore some measure of their faith in government,” he said, unveiling a set of changes that would be accomplished through the combination of an executive order and legislation to be introduced in the General Assembly.

If enacted, Blagojevich said, the reforms would result in “a line-up of boards and commissions that reflects my commitment to streamlined government-- and my commitment to do away with waste and inefficiency.”

The governor’s proposals call for several notable changes. Among the most significant:

Paid compensation would now be limited to the members of four boards-- rather than the 15 boards or commissions that currently provide a salary to members.

Salaries will only be paid to members of four panels that the governor considers to be “full-time” boards. They are: the Illinois Commerce Commission, the Pollution Control Board, the Industrial Commission and the Prisoner Review Board.

As a condition of serving on the full-time boards, members would be prohibited from holding other employment while they receive a salary from the state.

  • Far fewer members will serve on the boards that remain in place. Through legislation, Blagojevich will seek to eliminate a total of 120 seats from the line-up of boards and commissions.

    Several panels—including the Illinois Toll Highway Authority, the Capital Development Board, the Health Facilities Authority, the Historic Preservation Agency’s Board of Trustees, the Liquor Control Commission, and the Pollution Control Board—would see their ranks reduced by two members each.

  • Across all panels, payments currently made to members— such as stipends or per diems—will be virtually eliminated, with exceptions only for those who can demonstrate economic hardship as a result of their service.

    This will mark a significant reform from current practices. Under current rules, members of certain boards are eligible for per diems of as much as $150 or even $300.

    Under Blagojevich’s proposal, any expenses for which board members seek reimbursement will be governed by rules set by the Governor’s Travel Control Board, which establishes criteria for all state employees.

    The board members will be authorized to allow small stipends-- of around $50-- to be awarded only to those individuals who can prove that they would be unable to serve on a board without the support. Blagojevich said the “hardship” allowance would help achieve economic diversity by ensuring that lower- and moderate-income people have the opportunity to serve on state boards and commissions.

    Savings associated with the cuts in salaries and expenses would amount to approximately $5 million—a reduction of approximately 60 percent from what is currently spent to support members.

  • Blagojevich announced that he will eliminate altogether 11 boards that his administration has found to be unnecessary or whose functions are redundant. Among them are: the Superconductivity Coordinating Council, the Furniture Fire Safety Advisory Board, the Necropsy Service to Coroners Advisory Board, the Governor’s Economic Policy Council and others. He said that he would sign an executive order Thursday to abolish those panels.

  • Further reductions in the number of boards would be accomplished by consolidating those panels that address similar issues or have similar functions. Under the legislation, the Mining Board and the Miners Examining Board—currently two separate boards— would be combined into one entity. Likewise, the Educational Labor Relations Board would be merged with the Illinois Labor Relations Board.

  • The Governor will require all members appointed to boards and commissions to take part in ethics training programs. Similarly, Blagojevich signed an executive order last month requiring all state employees to take part in ethics courses.

In addition, Blagojevich said that he is asking the directors of each state department or agency to review the various boards within their departments and determine whether elimination or consolidation is possible among those panels. For example, the Department of Professional Regulation has dozens of boards-- including the Board of Acupuncture, the Athletic Training Board, and the Landscape Architect Board-- under its purview.

Blagojevich said that his announcement regarding boards and commissions was in keeping with other initiatives he has promoted during his first six weeks in office that are aimed at instituting reforms in state government while adopting a fiscally responsible approach.

“Opportunities for reform— changing the way business is done in state government— go hand in hand with our need to safeguard the taxpayers’ dollars,” he said.

Until legislative action is taken to implement such changes, Blagojevich will continue to make appointments when necessary to fill vacancies and enable existing boards to function smoothly.

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