Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH is talking about creating jobs again, and he’s using numbers. This worries me.

Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH is talking about creating jobs again, and he’s using numbers. This worries me.

That’s because it has become clear to anyone who carefully listens to Blagojevich tout a new program or a pet idea that he will say pretty much anything as long as it sounds good, and things represented as facts may not be what they seem.

Part of what brought me to this conclusion was an examination of Blagojevich’s claims in early 2006 that a $3 billion state construction plan he was pushing at the time, coupled with local and federal money, would “create more than 230,000 jobs statewide.”

Because of the legislature’s lack of trust in Blagojevich, his ineptness at selling the plan, or both, that program was never passed. But my examination back then found that economists who use multipliers for job estimates say it’s better to talk about supporting jobs, not creating them, because some people who will work on those projects already have jobs. And job totals can’t be limited to a single state, because materials bought for projects can come from other states or countries. The governor also talked about “good-paying” jobs, but economists said low-wage spin-off jobs are included in their estimates.

Some of my facts came from JACK WELLS, chief economist for the U.S. Department of Transportation, which used a road-construction multiplier of 47,500 jobs per $1 billion spent. I had called Wells at the urging of a Blagojevich spokesman, but when I wrote that the evidence showed the administration was misspeaking, the rhetoric of the governor and his news releases did not change.

Now, Blagojevich says the gambling expansion he currently supports will fund something 700,000 to 725,000 jobs.

I thought maybe the administration had taken some baby steps toward the truth when I saw a printed statement from Blagojevich that described the projects that could be funded by casino expansion. (The plan calls for three new casinos, one in Chicago, and expansion of Illinois’ nine existing riverboats. Revenue from those ventures, plus federal and local matches, would finance a $25 billion state construction plan, the administration says.)

“These projects are expected to support as many as 725,000 good-paying jobs across our state.”

Ah, well, at least the word “support” was used.

But that’s not what the governor has been saying in public appearances. On Chicago radio station WBBM-AM’s “At Issue” show Sept. 30, Blagojevich described the proposal as a “public works program that will create 700,000 good-paying jobs. …” Later in the show, taking a shot at House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago, Blagojevich said, “I can’t imagine why he would oppose a publicly owned Chicago casino that would do all of these things, like build schools and create 700,000 jobs.”

Even I don’t think the governor meant to say one casino would do all that. But he was saying the casino expansion plan would do that, and he shouldn’t be using the term “create.”

On Fox TV in Chicago, Blagojevich said being for casino expansion is better than “raising taxes on people,” his shorthand for an increase in the sales tax, “if it means building schools … creating 700,000 jobs and repairing bridges.”

I asked JUSTIN DeJONG, Blagojevich’s current budget spokesman, if the governor was misspeaking.

“The capital bill will serve as a catalyst for job creation at every level,” DeJong said via email. “The bottom line is this will create jobs and we won't know the full impact until the Illinois House finally passes a capital bill and projects get underway, but the jobs number is based on best estimates by economists.”

DeJong did provide me a list showing where the big job numbers were generated – using a 40,000 jobs per $1 billion multiplier for road construction and 7 jobs per $1 million spent on other construction projects.

The casino plan projects road spending of $15.625 billion, and the multiplier of that gets to 625,000 jobs.

Blagojevich’s casual relationship with the facts doesn’t stop with job claims.

For instance, he tries to lump together Cook County Board President TODD STROGER’s recent proposal for a 2 percent sales tax increase there, designed to support county government, with a much more modest proposal (a sales tax hike of one-quarter to one-half of 1 percent) to shore up mass transit agencies in the Chicago area. A wide range of organizations support the mass transit proposal. So does Madigan. Blagojevich opposes it because it includes a sales tax increase.

“If … Todd Stroger and Mike Madigan have their way,” Blagojevich said on the radio, sales taxes in Chicago would go up 2 1/4 percent.

STEVE BROWN, spokesman for Madigan, said Madigan supports the transit plan, but Brown is not aware that the speaker has taken a position on the county 2 percent proposal.

“The only contribution the governor has made to the transit funding crisis is to offer to veto the regional sales tax bill,” Brown said, adding that he thinks Blagojevich’s “rambling” on the radio program suggests that “he is under increasing pressure.”

Meanwhile, the lock the governor’s office seems to have on publicity produced by any state agency under Blagojevich’s control seems to me to have seeped into monthly reporting of labor statistics by the Illinois Department of Employment Security. For example, in a Sept. 27 news release, a table shows that seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rose to 5.4 percent in August, up from 4.4 percent in August 2006. The headline? “Jobs up nearly 47,000 over the year in Illinois.”

J. FRED GIERTZ, a University of Illinois professor of economics, said it’s usual for an administration to put a good face on numbers, but “I haven’t seen any situation where they go to the same lengths (as the Blagojevich administration) to make things appear positive.” If employment is down, he said, they will go back far enough to find some month where it was lower so they can talk of job growth.

He also said the rise in unemployment is “clearly a cause for concern,” even though he thinks national trends are what counts there, not state governments. He adds, however, that he does think the Blagojevich administration’s various proposals to increase taxes on business “create a less than favorable kind of climate for business in Illinois.”

MICA MATSOFF, spokeswoman for the employment security department, said monthly statements always include charts showing job gains and losses, and both negatives and positives are discussed when they are trends. She said there is good news about job creation, and “it does not behoove the state’s economy – people who are considering coming back into the workforce, companies looking to possibly relocate here, companies we’re working to retain – if we would highlight a negative anomaly and wrongly characterize the state’s economic picture.” She noted that all figures on which the releases are based come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.



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Illinois Comptroller DAN HYNES, who has not been shy about criticizing some proposals of the administration of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, will speak at an Oct. 18 luncheon at the Sangamo Club, 227 E. Adams St. in Springfield.

The appearance is part of the Sangamo Speakers Forum, chaired by TONY LEONE.

People who want to attend will need to make reservations by Oct. 16 by calling JULIE KELLNER, membership and program director of the club, at 544-1793. Cost of the event is $26 per person.

The event comes after the scheduled end of this fall’s veto session. But, this year going the way it’s going, who knows what will be happening at the Statehouse by then?



The MITT ROMNEY presidential campaign last week announced its candidates for Republican National Convention delegates and alternates statewide. Former U.S. House Speaker DENNIS HASTERT, R-Plano, is lending his name to the effort. Hastert also is a candidate for delegate in the 14th Congressional District.

For districts including Springfield, the slate to be on the Feb. 5 GOP primary ballot includes:

--17th Congressional District: for delegates, Fulton County GOP Chairwoman JUDY DUDEK of Canton; D. KAY LONG of Brighton and CHASE WINSTON RAMSEY of Bowen; for alternates, DEBRA MERRIMAN IAMS of Springfield, RICHARD W. BERRY of Cuba and WILLIAM B. ABEL of Galesburg.

--18th: for delegates, state Rep. RICH BRAUER of Petersburg; GARY F. STELLA of Peoria Heights, Toulon Mayor KYLE HAM, and Washington Mayor GARY W. MANIER; for alternate, ERIC FRANCIS HINTON of Peoria, TODD MAISCH of Springfield, KRISTIN VAN AKEN JAMISON of Jacksonville and CHARLES G. OWENS of Henry.

--19th: For delegates, Madison County GOP Chairman JASON PLUMMER of Edwardsville; WILLIAM S. MEYER of Hamel; SARAH DANIEL of Godfrey, and MAY MAHER of Worden. For alternates, BARBARA “BOBBI” SNYDER of Salem, Mayor JANIE GRIMES of Iuka; STEVEN KLINGBEIL of Highland and BARBARA BASSETT of New Douglas.



Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at (217) 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com.