After their plan to create a media embargo and bar video cameras, live tweeting and other forms of immediate communication from a briefing on state budget cuts created a media backlash, the Quinn administration has reversed course.
From a press release:
CHICAGO - Governor Pat Quinn and Chief of Staff Jerry Stermer will hold a press availability to outline the FY10 Budget Allocation Plan.
The PowerPoint that accompanies this presentation can be found on Budget.Illinois.gov at 2:30 p.m.
This press conference will stream live on satellite starting at 2:45 p.m. The coordinates are provided below.
To listen live online, please visit Budget.Illinois.gov.
The previously scheduled 2 p.m. reporter video conference and conference call has been canceled.
The kerfuffle began this morning with an email from the governor's office about the planned announcement of $1 billion in state budget cuts (all emphasis in original email):
At 2pm today, the Governor's Chief of Staff Jerry Stermer will present to the press the FY10 Budget Allocation Plan via video and phone conference.
As a member of the statewide media, you are invited to participate in the presentation via a conference call line.
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?
CLTV political reporter Carlos Hernandez-Gomez took to Twitter to sum up his thoughts:
Transparent government? NOT
But the final nail in the coffin may have been from influential Springfield chronicler Rich Miller at his Capitol Fax blog:
[T]his ought to be a live broadcast. Lots of people all over the state are anxious about these budget cuts and they ought to be allowed to listen or watch. [...] What are Quinn's people so afraid of?
Here's background on the cuts from the AP:
CHICAGO (AP) -- State agencies and programs will find out how much of a budget hit they'll take when Gov. Pat Quinn unveils his budget cuts.
The Quinn administration is set to detail those cuts Friday after the governor meets with his Cabinet members.
Quinn has broad authority over how to spend state money because lawmakers didn't spell out where the budget should be cut. They passed a patchwork spending plan that also relies on borrowing billions of dollars and leaving bills unpaid.
Quinn has hinted he will blunt the impact of cuts for high-priority items like children's services and health care.
Still, Quinn has warned that all state agencies and programs should be prepared to see their budgets cut.
Illinois had a budget deficit of $11.6 billion.