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Gov. OKs eliminating dozens of boards, commissions

Published: Saturday, March 9, 2013 2:15 a.m. CDT

CHICAGO (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn eliminated dozens of state boards and commissions on Friday that he said were redundant or obsolete, arguing that the move will make state government more efficient. But questions remain on whether his decision will result in significant savings to taxpayers.

Quinn's executive order lists 75 panels that have been dormant, redundant or have completed their original missions.

"While there are many essential boards and commissions that perform important duties for our taxpayers, there are also many which are no longer needed," Quinn said in a statement after he issued the order.

He first announced his decision to fold or, in the case of three river-oversight councils, consolidate the committees during his budget address Wednesday to legislators.

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said the governor's order will "save taxpayers thousands of dollars annually in staff time, expenses and reimbursements." She said the savings will vary per board.

There remain 317 boards and commissions under Quinn's authority. Of those, members of eight receive full-time salaries and eight receive part-time compensation or per diem for meetings. Unpaid, volunteer boards comprise the remainder.

Among the panels whose work was deemed as redundant or dormant by Quinn's office were the Illinois Local and Organic Food and Farm Task Force created by the General Assembly in 2007. The group was instructed to submit a report by late 2008 that addressed expansion of farmers' and roadside markets across the state, as well as the creation of year-round public markets in Chicago and other large communities.

Another group was the Task Force on Eliminating Racial Bias in Suspensions and Expulsions, formed after an Associated Press report in 2009 that showed a gaping divide in the number of black students suspended and expelled from school, compared with whites. The group studied the problem in the spring of 2010 and presented a report. None of the members of this commission were compensated, according to the legislative measure that created it in 2010.

Lawmakers for years have tried to consolidate the number of boards and commissions, which some see as a repository of patronage from the governor.

"People sit on these boards and commissions based on who they know, but not on what they know," said Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat. "This isn't merit based, it's based on clout."

Franks sees the governor's action as symbolic, not cost-conscious. He says more could be done to review commissions — especially ones that pay salaries — for their validity and benefit to the state.

"Some of these people don't even have requirements to show up," he said. "This has gotten out of control."

Quinn's directive calls for only one consolidation. The Democratic governor folded three panels overseeing issues affecting the Illinois River, Mississippi River, and Wabash and Ohio rivers into the Illinois Rivers Council.

Thirty-one of the eliminated boards and commissions have completed their mission, according to a list provided by Quinn's office. Those include the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial and Ronald Reagan Centennial commissions — the late presidents from Illinois were born in 1809 and 1911, respectively — and the Pension System Modernization Task Force.

The latter was charged in 2009 with recommending changes to modernize state pension benefit systems. According to the group's final report, the members couldn't reach a consensus in what to recommend to the governor and lawmakers. Today, the state has the worst-in-the-nation pension crisis with an unfunded liability that nears $100 billion.

Some of the groups will disappear immediately and others will be eliminated in 60 days provided that the General Assembly does not object Quinn's decision.

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Online

Quinn's executive order: http://tinyurl.com/a4tcrh4

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Contact Regina Garcia Cano at https://www.twitter.com/reginagarciaKNO

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