OPINION: It’s Time for Hearings, Audits, and Answers

It has been nearly 100 days and 40 Executive Orders since Governor Pritzker issued the first stay home order. The initial intention of the order – to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep hospitals from being overwhelmed – was a goal we all shared. Many sacrifices were made. All of this was done with the assurance that once we did our part to flatten the curve, we could slowly and safely reopen.

Somewhere along the line, the Governor changed the goal. Without consulting the legislature or the Illinois public, the Governor decided that complete eradication of COVID-19 was the goal, and it would occur at any cost. We are now in Phase 4 of Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan, a phase that is still extremely restrictive and treats the entire state as the same rather than respecting regional differences. We’re told that we’ll be in this phase until a successful vaccine is created or until the virus is eliminated through other means. That could be many months or even years. We cannot allow the Governor to rule by executive order for years. 

The Governor rejects any question of his administration’s handling of the COVID-19 response. When questioned on the lack of input from others or the lack of common sense in the policies, he just points to proprietary “science and data.” However, these responses from the Governor don’t diminish the important questions that remain and it is clear that simply asking for answers via letter and press conference are not enough. 

After news broke that Governor Pritzker had released thousands of inmates from DOC facilities in the name of slowing COVID-19, we asked questions and received no answers. When we asked for names, DOC took the list of released inmates down from their website. When we found out these released inmates were not actually released due to COVID-19, and were not non-violent offenders, we asked more questions. Still no answers. It’s time for hearings. 

In May, the Democratic-controlled General Assembly abdicated its responsibility to tell the Governor how billions of taxpayer dollars must be spent on Coronavirus relief programs. By the time this is over, the Governor will have unilaterally decided how Billions of taxpayer dollars were spent. Recent news reports show that the Governor deserves more, not less, scrutiny on his spending. The State spent over $64 million to treat 29 patients at the McCormick Place field hospital in Chicago including almost a half a million dollars on 800 iPhones. The Pritzker administration spent over $17 million on faulty face masks from China. To date, zero committee hearings have been held on how to spend this money or to investigate if it was spent appropriately. Again, it’s time for hearings. 

The biggest failure over the past three months has been with the Department of Employment Security. With a stroke of the Governor’s pen, 1.2 million Illinoisans were forced out of work and into a horribly broken unemployment insurance system. One constituent reported calling 157 times in one day to reach a representative at IDES. Our office alone has worked with over 200 constituents who have been unable to get their IDES issues resolved. Never has a government agency been less communicative with me as a legislator trying to help my constituents. What’s worse is that in an effort to fix IDES, Pritzker issued a multi-million no-bid contract to a consulting group, which created a system that completely failed self-employed workers and led to a massive data breach of more than 32,000 Illinoisans’ names, addresses and social security numbers.  It is time for the legislature to pass the resolution I am co-sponsoring to audit IDES.  

Our repeated requests for information, transparency, input, and legislative oversight have been ignored. Our calls for an audit into the repeated failings of IDES and the no-bid contract with Deloitte Consulting have fallen on deaf ears. The Governor’s refusal to be held accountable for his decisions must stop. We need explanations and opportunities for input. The people of Illinois are sick and tired of the lack of transparency and oversight. It’s time for hearings. It’s time for audits. It’s time for answers.