At 2 p.m., Governor Pat Quinn's Chief of Staff Jerry Stermer is scheduled to present to the press the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Allocation Plan. Essentially, he'll be outlining massive cuts to social programs and other politically unpopular moves designed to avoid fiscal implosion in the state. And apparently, Quinn and his administration don't want the public to see or hear them doing it.
News organizations in the state received the following alert this morning from the Governor's press deputy Marlena Jentz:
"A PowerPoint outlining the FY10 Budget Allocation Plan will be distributed just prior to the start of the meeting, however that information is embargoed until the conclusion of the presentation. There can be no taping, no streaming live audio and no tweeting. If you are interested in participating in this call, you must RSVP by NOON. If you do so, that means that you agree to accept the embargo and information will be provided to you at 1:45PM."
For a Governor who spent the better part of two decades making transparency a cornerstone of his career, the cloak of secrecy is surprising. A cynic might wonder if Quinn's team is hoping to avoid there being any video or audio record of the announcement of drastic budget cuts that could possibly be used against him in a future campaign?
While it is true former Governor Rod Blagojevich's administration held background briefings for the press before publicly disclosing new budgets, those sessions proceeded by only an hour or two a public re-telling of the information by Blagojevich himself. Governor Quinn has a non-budget related press event scheduled for this morning, but no media availability after the budget bombshell is dropped. Quinn press secretary Bob Reed, a former reporter, was not immediately available to offer an explanation.
Quinn spokesman Bob Reed says room size and logistics - not a desire to downplay bad news - are responsible for the ban on recording equipment. Reed adds that the Governor's Chief of Staff will be available after the briefing to re-cap the budget cuts for those of us in the broadcast media who like to have these sorts of things on tape.
After ABC7's report, Quinn's spokesperson said the governor will be available to answer questions.