The Put Illinois To Work (PITW) program has become a surprising lightning rod in Illinois' gubernatorial race. It started yesterday when Gov. Pat Quinn committed $75 million in state funds to extend the federal stimulus program, operated by the Illinois Department of Human Services, for two months. (It was slated to expire tomorrow.) PITW offers private employers subsidies to hire (for $10-per-hour) Illinoisans eligible for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and was widely seen as a success, creating jobs for 26,000 low-income people. At a rally in Chicago's Daley Plaza today, employer Paula Mitchell said she didn't understand the type of impact the program would have until she brought several women on using the funding. Watch:
During their debate this morning, GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady lashed out at Quinn for the plan, calling it "as bad as your AFSCME deal." "You extended a program," he added, "that will cost the taxpayers $75 million so you could buy public sector jobs for people in the private sector." That criticism is a bit strange; a job in the public sector is no less valuable to people looking for work than one in the private sector. And demand for the program has been high specifically because so few private sector firms are adding employees to their staff.
Brady did raise a secondary concern we also share: should Illinois spend $75 million on a program Congress may not extend further when it owes literally billions to human service providers and other state vendors, many of whom are being forced to shed staff and cut programs because the state can't pay its bills on time?