Illinois is following the model of Czarist Russia

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Illinois is following the model of Czarist Russia

[cap­tion id=“attachment_95048” align=“alignright” width=“193”] Illi­nois Pol­icy Insti­tute car­i­ca­ture of Michael Madigan[/caption]

By John Ruberry

I can’t stop the rev­o­lu­tion, but until it comes, let’s have some fun.” Prince Felix Yusupov to Rasputin in the film Nicholas and Alexan­dra.

And with the rev­o­lu­tion of course came the col­lapse of Czarist Russia.

The belea­guered state of Illi­nois set a cou­ple of futil­ity records last week. It became the first state since at least the Great Depres­sion to go two straight years with­out pass­ing a bud­get. In response, Stan­dard & Poors and Moody’s dropped Illi­nois’ bond rat­ing to one level above junk – the low­est ever recorded for a state. And both agen­cies alluded that a junk rat­ing may be com­ing very soon.

The 2017 Illi­nois Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion ended on Wednes­day. It can still pass a bud­get, but it will require a three-​fifths major­ity to do so. To be fair, the state Sen­ate, which has a super­ma­jor­ity of Democ­rats, did pass a bud­get that included a huge income tax release – with no Repub­li­can votes. But the real leg­isla­tive power in Illi­nois lies with House Speaker Michael Madi­gan (D-​Chicago), who has held that job for an unprece­dented 32 of the last 34 years. Madi­gan is also the chair­man of the Illi­nois Demo­c­ra­tic Party – and if you are a Demo­c­rat in office in the Prairie State you almost cer­tainly owe mul­ti­ple favors to Madi­gan, who is also a prodi­gious fundraiser and jobs provider, and of course those jobs include seats on the Gen­eral Assem­bly and the state attor­ney general’s office, which his daugh­ter holds. Madi­gan, an adept ger­ry­man­derer, draws Illi­nois’ leg­isla­tive dis­tricts, which is why Democ­rats have that super­ma­jor­ity in the state Sen­ate and until this year had one in the House.

Noth­ing gets passed, heck, noth­ing even gets onto the floor of the Illi­nois House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives with­out Madigan’s approval. And if a bill can’t make it out of the House it can’t move on to the Sen­ate, let alone to the governor’s desk.

Illi­nois’ gov­er­nor is Bruce Rauner, a Repub­li­can who is a first-​time pub­lic office holder. Rauner is will­ing to sign a bud­get bill that includes an income tax increase, but only as part of a grand bar­gain that also con­tains reforms such as term lim­its, a prop­erty tax freeze, work­ers com­pen­sa­tion law changes, and tort laws that are more business-​friendly. Is Rauner com­pletely blame­less? Of course not. Per­haps he should bol­ster his nego­ti­at­ing chops or remove an item or two from his Bring Back Illi­nois agenda. But Rauner, who three years ago became the first Illi­nois gov­er­nor to win a major­ity of the vote since 2002, was dis­patched to Spring­field to bat­tle the sta­tus quo of failure.

Madi­gan of course has the votes to pass a bud­get in the House. But he is only inter­ested in main­tain­ing his speak­er­ship and of course his power – even though Illi­nois is cir­cling the drain. It cur­rently has over $14 bil­lion in unpaid bills and at least $130 bil­lion in unfunded pen­sion oblig­a­tions. The Boss doesn’t want his min­ions in the House to face vot­ers next year after vot­ing for a tax increase. Madi­gan would rather rule a col­laps­ing Illi­nois than share power in a pros­per­ous one, which is the same gov­ern­ing phi­los­o­phy Russia’s last Czar used.

That’s not to say that the Gen­eral Assem­bly hasn’t accom­plished any­thing this year. It passed a $15 min­i­mum wage bill that is seen as a jobs killer by busi­nesses. Why do I say that? Because Cook County, where I live, recently passed a $13 min­i­mum wage bill that sub­urb after sub­urb – and it’s impor­tant to note that sub­ur­ban Cook is heav­ily Demo­c­ra­tic–is opt­ing out of because of fierce oppo­si­tion from small busi­ness own­ers. Rauner is expected to the veto min­i­mum wage bill. The GA also passed a bill allow­ing for an elected Chicago school board. While I nor­mally sup­port more direct democ­racy, an elected Chicago board of edu­ca­tion will quickly, if not imme­di­ately, become beholden to the well-​organized and hyper-​leftist Chicago Teach­ers Union, which refuses to com­pro­mise on issues such as hav­ing teach­ers pay more into their woe­fully under­funded pen­sion funds. And the Gen­eral Assem­bly passed leg­is­la­tion that will make it eas­ier for Illi­noisans to change their birth cer­tifi­cate gen­der if they have not under­gone gen­der re-​assignment surgery.

Mean­while the 800-​pound gorilla in the room – Illi­nois’ dire finan­cial sit­u­a­tion – is grow­ing big­ger and becom­ing more mal­odor­ous every day.

Illi­nois has become 1916 Rus­sia. The col­lapse is com­ing. Per­haps it has arrived.

John Ruberry, a fifth-​generation Illi­nois res­i­dent, reg­u­larly blogs at Marathon Pun­dit.

Illinois Policy Institute caricature of Michael Madigan

By John Ruberry

“I can’t stop the revolution, but until it comes, let’s have some fun.” Prince Felix Yusupov to Rasputin in the film Nicholas and Alexandra.

And with the revolution of course came the collapse of Czarist Russia.

The beleaguered state of Illinois set a couple of futility records last week. It became the first state since at least the Great Depression to go two straight years without passing a budget. In response, Standard & Poors and Moody’s dropped Illinois’ bond rating to one level above junk–the lowest ever recorded for a state. And both agencies alluded that a junk rating may be coming very soon.

The 2017 Illinois General Assembly session ended on Wednesday. It can still pass a budget, but it will require a three-fifths majority to do so. To be fair, the state Senate, which has a supermajority of Democrats, did pass a budget that included a huge income tax release–with no Republican votes. But the real legislative power in Illinois lies with House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), who has held that job for an unprecedented 32 of the last 34 years. Madigan is also the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party–and if you are a Democrat in office in the Prairie State you almost certainly owe multiple favors to Madigan, who is also a prodigious fundraiser and jobs provider, and of course those jobs include seats on the General Assembly and the state attorney general’s office, which his daughter holds. Madigan, an adept gerrymanderer, draws Illinois’ legislative districts, which is why Democrats have that supermajority in the state Senate and until this year had one in the House.

Nothing gets passed, heck, nothing even gets onto the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives without Madigan’s approval. And if a bill can’t make it out of the House it can’t move on to the Senate, let alone to the governor’s desk.

Illinois’ governor is Bruce Rauner, a Republican who is a first-time public office holder. Rauner is willing to sign a budget bill that includes an income tax increase, but only as part of a grand bargain that also contains reforms such as term limits, a property tax freeze, workers compensation law changes, and tort laws that are more business-friendly. Is Rauner completely blameless? Of course not. Perhaps he should bolster his negotiating chops or remove an item or two from his Bring Back Illinois agenda. But Rauner, who three years ago became the first Illinois governor to win a majority of the vote since 2002, was dispatched to Springfield to battle the status quo of failure.

Madigan of course has the votes to pass a budget in the House. But he is only interested in maintaining his speakership and of course his power–even though Illinois is circling the drain. It currently has over $14 billion in unpaid bills and at least $130 billion in unfunded pension obligations. The Boss doesn’t want his minions in the House to face voters next year after voting for a tax increase. Madigan would rather rule a collapsing Illinois than share power in a prosperous one, which is the same governing philosophy Russia’s last Czar used.

That’s not to say that the General Assembly hasn’t accomplished anything this year. It passed a $15 minimum wage bill that is seen as a jobs killer by businesses. Why do I say that? Because Cook County, where I live, recently passed a $13 minimum wage bill that suburb after suburb–and it’s important to note that suburban Cook is heavily Democratic–is opting out of because of fierce opposition from small business owners. Rauner is expected to the veto minimum wage bill. The GA also passed a bill allowing for an elected Chicago school board. While I normally support more direct democracy, an elected Chicago board of education will quickly, if not immediately, become beholden to the well-organized and hyper-leftist Chicago Teachers Union, which refuses to compromise on issues such as having teachers pay more into their woefully underfunded pension funds. And the General Assembly passed legislation that will make it easier for Illinoisans to change their birth certificate gender if they have not undergone gender re-assignment surgery.

Meanwhile the 800-pound gorilla in the room–Illinois’ dire financial situation–is growing bigger and becoming more malodorous every day.

Illinois has become 1916 Russia. The collapse is coming. Perhaps it has arrived.

John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Illinois resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.