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Still time to boot Blagojevich leftovers

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It's been nearly a year since Rod Blagojevich was ousted as Illinois governor.

But his taint still remains on the state, and some of the employees he hired under suspicious circumstances remain on the state payroll.

Many folks in Central Illinois will remember retiring Sen. Frank Watson's impassioned speech on the day of Blagojevich's impeachment. Watson said the state was not only right to remove the governor, but also should make sure to remove all of those who helped or benefited from Blagojevich's tenure.

To the state's and Gov. Pat Quinn's discredit, that hasn't happened.

According to a recent story in the Chicago Sun-Times, as many as 70 holdovers from the Blagojevich administration remain. Some of these folks were mentioned in a scathing inspector general's report that called for the employee to be fired "for unethical and fraudulent activity."

Some of these employees cut in line in front of others for state jobs, including several instances in which these political hacks received jobs over military veterans.

Quinn undoubtedly has been busy with other issues. The state's finances are in a shambles, although the General Assembly has effectively put off addressing that problem until February. The governor also has been able to enact some modest reforms, although many Illinois residents think the reforms are a far cry from what the state actually needs.

It's probably also true that Quinn is in a bit of a political quandary. These appointees all had political backers; that's how they got their jobs in the first place. Quinn might be reluctant to fire them and tick off their supporters, especially with a competitive primary election set for Feb. 2.

The governor has been removing these people on a case-by-case basis, but it's taken too long. Every time one of these employees receives a taxpayer-backed paycheck, it's a slap in the face of hard-working residents who want their government to be honest and ethical.

What should have happened long before now is a thorough housecleaning. The bad should have been swept out of state government with a strong lesson that "unethical and fraudulent activity" will not be tolerated in a Quinn administration.

The governor missed that chance, but he still can take decisive action. The governor's political career has been based on doing the right thing instead of the politically expedient thing.

It's time the governor showed that kind of backbone and got rid of the last remains of the Blagojevich administration.

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