Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich earlier this month used a line-item veto to cut funding increases for HIV prevention and hepatitis C programs in the Chicago area, the Chicago Free Press reports. Blagojevich cut $1 million in AIDS prevention funds for programs serving communities of color and removed $600,000 for hepatitis C programs in Cook County. Blagojevich, a Democrat, pledged during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign to restore $2 million in HIV-prevention funding cut by former Gov. George Ryan, a Republican. However, state lawmakers passed a fiscal year 2004 budget that boosted funding to $3 million for HIV prevention services in communities of color. Blagojevich curtailed the funding increase, matching only his campaign promise to restore funds cut by Ryan.
"There was a commitment by the governor to put $2 million in and that's what he did," Blagojevich spokesperson Tom Schafer told the Free Press. "Keep in mind that the state had a $5 billion deficit. There's only so much the state can afford." Blagojevich also pledged to sign a law that would allow Illinois residents to purchase syringes at pharmacies without a doctor's prescription. However, as of mid July he had not signed the measure that had been approved by state lawmakers on May 13. Schafer said the governor is currently reviewing the provisions of the bill and is seeking input from proponents and opponents of the measure before he decides whether to sign it.