“We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth.”
First presidential inaugural address from Ronald Reagan, who was born in Illinois.
Last summer the Democratic-dominated Illinois General Assembly, overriding a veto from Republican governor Bruce Rauner, slugged Illinoisans with a 32 percent hike in the state income tax.
The Democratic nominee for governor, billionaire JB Pritzker, favors another tax increase. This phony, in a successful ploy to decrease property taxes on his Chicago mansion, purchased a neighboring mansion, disconnected its toilets, then in an assessment appeal, received his tax cut because the palace next door was “uninhabitable.”
Welcome to ILL-inios.
Rauner barely won the Republican nomination in last month’s primary over a little-known and little-funded insurgent conservative, Jeanne Ives, in a thoroughly dishonest campaign. I backed Ives. As for Prtizker, he comes with additional baggage, including embarrassing recordings of FBI-wiretapped phone conversations with now-imprisoned former governor Rod Blagojevich, which is the only reason why he is not the prohibitive favorite to wipe the floor with Rauner in November. Still, it’s likely that a Governor JB is in the future for the Prairie State.
Illinois is broken and broke. It might not have the worst-funded public pension system among the states, but it’s so close to the bottom it doesn’t really matter. Illinois House speaker–“speaker for life”–Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), with some Republican help, transformed Illinois’ pension system into a generous political reward in exchange for support from public-sector unions. Illinois’ budget dedicates 25 percent of spending on state worker pensions. In Wisconsin that amount is 16 percent. Okay, that doesn’t seem like much, but Wisconsin’s pension plan is 100 percent funded, Illinois is at a paltry 35 percent.
Bad times have arrived in Illinois–with worse times coming. For the last three years Illinois has suffered from negative population growth.
It’s hard to see how Illinois won’t be able to avoid some sort of default.
Pritzker favors a “temporary” income tax increase until a graduated tax rate is put in place. But for that to get enacted the state constitution must be amended. That requires three-fifths of both houses of the General Assembly to approve it and a majority of Illinois voters to go along. Even in blue Illinois those are tall hurdles, especially since a “Prtizker amendment” will be viewed, rightly, by voters as a pension bailout amendment.
Of course Pritzker is vague about rates for both that “temporary” tax plan and the graduated one. Of course with the latter one, only “the rich” will pay more.
In honor of Illinois’ bicentennial, Kerry Lester of the Daily Herald compiled a list of Illinois’ best-known leaders. There is some good in it–Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, and some bad. Ethel Kennedy? Robert F. Kennedy’s widow was born in Chicago but grew up in Connecticut. And besides, her contributions don’t amount to very much.
Illinois has a well-deserved reputation for corruption. So I have put together my own list, the 14 Worst Leaders from Illinois.
My “hall of shame” by no means exonerates anyone not named.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
She is one of two people on both lists. Clinton is a former first lady, US senator, US secretary of state, and of course, the first major party presidential nominee. She was born in Chicago and grew up in suburban Park Ridge. Smoke, but as of yet, no fire has engulfed HRC’s public career. Clinton was implicated, but never charged in the Whitewater Scandal. Two years after her Whitewater billing records from the Rose Law Firm were subpoenaed, they mysteriously appeared in the White House living quarters. While secretary of state under Barack Obama, she used a home-brewed private email server. Her handling of those emails was deemed “extremely careless” two years ago by FBI director James Comey. After our consulate in Benghazi was overrun by terrorists in 2012, leading to the death of our ambassador to Libya as well as three other Americans, Clinton spread the lie that a YouTube video inspired the barbarians
I could go on and on about Clinton, but I have other names on my naughty list.
Richard M. Daley
Chicago’s mayor from 1989-2011, Daley’s father, Richard J who was mayor for nearly as long., had a strong background in public finance which allowed Chicago to escape the fiscal problems cities such as those New York and Cleveland suffered in the 1970s. Richie Daley inherited his dad’s name but not his financial acumen. Chicago’s public pensions are the worst-funded of any major city in the country. Property tax increases signed into law to right the ship by his successor, Rahm Emanuel, are probably just buying time; besides, the tax hikes are likely a key reason why Chicago is the only major city with a declining population.
After two Democrats it’s time for our first Republican. Lennington “Len” Small of Kankakee was governor of Illinois from 1921-1929. While governor he was indicted for embezzling money during his time as state treasurer. He was found not guilty, but eight of the jurors on his trial later received state jobs. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.
Another Kankakee GOPer, Ryan got in trouble for his scandalous eight years as Illinois secretary of state. Under Ryan, who once was speaker of the state House, the SoS office was enmeshed in a driver’s licenses for bribes scandal. Elected governor in 1998, after his one-term in that post Ryan was convicted of corruption involving perjury and bribery. His scandal was one of the few political ones that involved fatalities. On Election Day in 1994–Ryan was re-elected secretary of state that day–a truck driver who obtained his license by bribery caused an accident where six children from Chicago were killed.
Like Ryan, Powell served as speaker of the state House before his election as secretary of state. His personal motto was “There’s only one thing worse than a defeated politician, and that’s a broke one.” Illinoisans who needed their license plates renewed were instructed to make their checks out to “Paul Powell.” What could go wrong? Powell died in office in 1970. The executor of his estate discovered over $800,000 in cash in the Springfield hotel suite where the southern Illinois self-servant lived, including some stuffed in a shoebox. His tombstone reads “Here lies a lifelong Democrat.”
Before his election to Congress in 1986, Hastert, a Republican, was a teacher and a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School. He later became speaker of that House. But at Yorkville he was a serial child molester. He was sent to prison not over those assaults, but for lying to federal officials about banking activity involving payments to one of his victims.
He’s on that other list too. Jesse Jackson, the “poverty pimp” civil rights leader, has done little if anything to alleviate the problems of the people he claims to represent, Chicago’s minority poor. His half-brother, Noah Robinson, is serving a life sentence for racketeering and murder-for-hire. Jackson utilized his then-powerful Rainbow/PUSH organization to elect his son, Jesse Jr, to Congress and his daughter-in-law, Junior’s wife, as a Chicago alderman. Both went to prison over misuse of campaign funds.
We have to go to the pre-Civil War era for Matteson. The Illinois & Michigan Canal is the reason Chicago is the Midwest’s great city, not Milwaukee or St. Louis. But the canal faced enormous financial difficulties before its completion in 1848. Scrip was utilized by Illinois to fund the canal but in 1859 it was discovered that Matteson, a Democrat who was governor from 1853-1857, converted some of that scrip for personal use. Matteson was investigated but never charged in the case.
Antoin “Tony” Rezko
An immigrant from Syria, Rezko essentially was a collector of Democratic politicians, including Barack Obama and Governor Rod Blagojevich. Rezko engineered the mysterious land deal that made Obama’s purchase of his South Side Chicago mansion affordable. But his role as a fixer for Governor Rod Blagojevich earned him a trip to prison.
The most recent Illinois governor to be sentenced to prison, the Chicago Democrat attempted to sell the Senate seat of Barack Obama to the highest bidder. He essentially transformed the governor’s office into a vast pay-to-play operation. He’s still a federal inmate. Outside of the corruption, Blago was a still terrible governor. Illinois’ precarious financial situation grew much worse during his six years in Springfield, lowlighted by a two-year long pension payment holiday. State House Speaker Michael Madigan–another speaker!–played a large role in that debacle. We’ll be learning more about Madigan a little later. As for Blagojevich, amazingly he is the only Illinois governor to be impeached and removed from office.
William Hale Thompson
Chicago’s last Republican mayor, Thompson served two stints in office–from 1915-1923 and from 1927-1931. Thompson let Al Capone and other gangsters run wild during Prohibition. After the death of “Big Bill” in 1944, nearly $2 million in cash was found not in a shoebox, nor in Al Capone’s vault, but in a safe deposit box.
You might have heard his name in the news lately as Kerner, a Democratic governor from 1961-1968, served as the chairman of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, better known as the Kerner Commission, which explored the causes of the 1967 urban riots. It was released 50 years ago last month. But in 1961 Kerner received a bribe of race track stock, which only came to light after the woman who paid him off him listed that expenditure on her federal income tax return because she viewed it as a legitimate business expense. Who can blame her for that opinion of Illinois? By the time the bribe was revealed Kerner was serving as a federal appeals judge. Facing certain impeachment, he resigned. Kerner was released from prison early for health reasons and died in disgrace shortly afterwards.
Carol Moseley Braun
Capitalizing on anger over the testimony of Anita Hill against Judge Clarence Thomas over reputed sexual harassment during his US Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Braun went from being Cook County Recorder of Deeds to the US Senate in 1992, becoming the first African-American woman to serve in the upper chamber. Even before her election, scandal percolated for Braun over allegations that she and her campaign manager, Kgosie Matthews, who was also her fiancée, diverted campaign funds for personal use. The Chicago Democrat blew off her Senate orientation meetings and instead took a nearly month-long vacation in South Africa with Matthews. What followed was a mind-bogging and ethically challenged six years in the Senate. Matthews was a citizen of South Africa–foreign meddling anyone?–and he was also at one time a paid lobbyist for Nigeria, which was then run by a murderous dictator, Sani Abacha. Over the objections of the Congressional Black Caucus, Braun visited Abacha while she was a senator.
During the ’92 campaign, it came to light three years earlier that inheritance money belonging to her mother, a nursing home patient, was split between Braun and two siblings, instead of being used to reimburse Medicaid. Once the scam became public Braun promptly paid Medicaid $15,000.
Matthews was later accused of sexual harassment of female campaign workers. Braun was elected during what was then called “the Year of the Woman.”
Braun and Matthews–he later left the country–were never charged with crimes.
Like Richard M. Daley, Madigan has modeled his public life on that of Richie’s dad, the first Mayor Daley. But like the son, Madigan, who has been speaker of the state House for 33 of the last 35 years, the Boss of Illinois is inept in regards to government finance, which is why last year Reuters declared him “the man behind the fiscal fiasco in Illinois.” Madigan, yet another Chicagoan, is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party. The “speaker for life” runs the House with an iron fist and his gerrymandering abuse is an insult to democracy. He’s the poster child for the admonition, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Unless you live in Illinois’ 22nd state House district, Michael Madigan’s name will not be on your ballot when you vote in the March 20 primary in the Land of Lincoln.
Not directly, that is.
But his foul spirit will be there.
Even when there is a Democratic governor in Illinois, the most powerful Democrat in the state is Madigan, the state House speaker for 33 of the last 35 years. Since 1998 Madigan has been chairman of the state Democratic Party. He’s the committeeman of Chicago’s 13th Ward–that post allowed him to nominate Joseph Berrios as chairman of the Cook Party Democratic Party, better known as the Chicago Machine eleven years ago. The message was clear–the boss had spoken. Two other candidates withdrew and Berrios was unanimously elected. Berrios is also the Cook County assessor, it’s his office that determines what the county residents such as myself, as well as businesses, pay in property taxes. The assessor’s office has long been a cash cow for the Democrats.
The major Democratic candidates for governor, with the exception apparent frontrunner, JB Pritzker, accuse each other of not being independent of Madigan. Pritzker’s main challengers, Chris Kennedy and Daniel Biss, have called for Madigan to resign his state party post over sexual harassment scandals involving staff members (but not Madigan himself).
Why aren’t they calling for Madigan to quit the speakership? Fear is my guess.
On the Republican side, the incumbent governor, Bruce Rauner, with “amusing and unconvincing effect,” Crain’s Chicago Business says, accuses his conservative challenger, Jeanne Ives, of being a Madigan ally.
Ah, but where are the Madigan allies? Sure, when it was time, again, to reelect the speaker-for-life last year, he prevailed. There was only one “nay” vote from Democrats. And that dissident was punished.
Madigan controls not only the remap of state legistlative districts but also those of Illinois’ congressional districts. He’s the Pablo Picasso of gerrymandering.
I have many friends who live in this blue state who tell me that they detest Madigan–yet they vote for every Democrat on the ballot.
Is the state attorney general able to fight Madigan? Maybe in year. Lisa Madigan, daughter of, well, you know, has been holding that job since 2003. But she’s not running for reelection. Her dad holds considerable sway over Illinois judges too.
Even Barack Obama does Madigan’s bidding. After a Chicago Democrat missed a key House override vote of a Rauner veto, a hand-picked Madigan ally, Juliana Stratton, was endorsed by the then-president and Obama even appeared in a TV ad for the challenger in the next primary election. Madigan and Obama’s candidate won. Stratton is now Pritzker’s running mate.
The Democratic Party of Illinois is Michael Madigan and Michael Madigan is the Democratic Party of Illinois.
Cognitive dissonance is widespread in this state.
While the official state animal of Illinois is the white-tailed deer, in reality it’s an octopus named Mike Madigan. His tentacles are everywhere.
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Donald Trump received during the 2016 general election campaign, only two of them came from publications that have more than 100,000 subscribers. Those papers were the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Florida Times-Union. There were nine anti-endorsements–eight of those urged “Not Donald Trump–” and 64 “No Endorsements.” Most of the rest, 243 of them, were for Hillary Clinton.
Running against Rauner in the GOP primary is Jeanne Ives, who I support. A West Point graduate, Ives entered the race after Rauner signed into law bills that angered Land of Lincoln conservatives, including sanctuary state legislation, a bill that allows Illinoisans to change the gender listed on their birth certificates, and legislation that expands taxpayer funding for abortions. On that last one Rauner broke his promise to Illinoisans--including Cardinal Blase Cupich–that he would veto it.
Rauner’s endorsements are milquetoast testimonials.
“You say you wish more had been accomplished during Rauner’s first term to fix finances, to grow jobs? So do we,” the Chicago Tribune shrugs.
“As we approach this primary election, we have fundamental concerns about the governor’s ability to lead in this incredibly difficult time,” the Bloomington Pantagraph unloads.
“With a handful of exceptions, we believe he has been a failure as governor, and he has only himself to blame. He promised what he could not deliver,” says the Chicago Sun-Times.
In not choosing Ives, each paper mentions her conservative stance on social issues and the Pantagraph specifically cites a controversial TV ad where actors, including a man wearing a dress, “thank” Rauner for signing social issue legislation.
There has been only one poll so far in the GOP race and it’s a month old. At that time nearly 70 percent of likely voters hadn’t heard of Ives. But a few days later Ives’ TV commercials, including the one that has so angered the media and Democrats who have no intention of voting for a Republican candidate for governor, began airing.
The “experts” said Trump couldn’t even win the Republican nomination for president, let alone defeat Hillary Clinton. Sure, Illinois is a blue state, but the Land of Lincoln has been destroyed by the Democratic hegemony led by Madigan. And as I told the Prairie State Wire last week, Illinois hasn’t had a real conservative governor in the modern era.
Almost a year ago here at Da Tech Guy I wrote this about Chris Kennedy entering the race for the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor.
He’s not a people person. I can’t remember who said it, but a wiser scribe than me said something along these lines about Hillary Clinton, “Some chefs can’t cook in front of an audience. And Hillary can’t do politics in front of people.”
And that’s Kennedy too.
Chris, a son of Robert F. Kennedy, has lived on Chicago’s North Shore for many years, for much of that time he ran Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, which his family used to own.
Kennedy still can’t cook in front of an audience.
Last year entered the fray of Democratic politics after years of begging from prominent pols.
As I noted in my that Kennedy post, a disastrous elevator interview at a 2016 Democratic National Convention event when he as still weighing his gubernatorial run betrayed Kennedy as a hothead. He is one. A trusted reader of my own blog told me that many years ago he witnessed Kennedy throw a drink in the face of a woman at a chamber of commerce event.
Kennedy’s campaign hasn’t caught fire, unless you include his self-immolation in recent weeks. JB Pritzker, who is part of another Democratic political family that so far hasn’t produced an electoral office holder, has sucked most of the oxygen in the room. He’s gathered most of the endorsements from Democratic politicians and from labor unions. By all accounts he is the frontrunner in the race. While the Pritzker name isn’t as politically magical as the Kennedy name, JB is worth over $3 billion and he’s self-funding his campaign. Chris Kennedy is wealthy enough to live in a huge mansion in one of Illinois’ wealthiest communities, but he is only a meager millionaire who can’t afford the Pritzker approach to campaign finance.
Illinois’ gubernatorial primary will take place on March 20.
Let’s look at Kennedy’s recent stumbles.
Early this month Kennedy accused Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, of purposely driving blacks out of the city to expedite gentrification.
Jeanne Ives, the conservative legislator who is challenging incumbent Bruce Rauner in the Republican Primary, said that “fathers in the home” is the solution to gun violence in Chicago. A bit simplistic? Perhaps. But single-parent homes–which almost always means that there is no father there–by all accounts is a root cause of inner city violence.
Kennedy’s response was, “Well, I wish I could agree with you. I didn’t have a father in my life. Somebody shot him.” RFK’s death of course was a tragedy but his assassination was not a symptom of inner city violence.
Kennedy then stormed out of the forum.
Rauner is ignoring Ives’ challenge and has been running TV ads across the state and online playing excerpts of FBI wiretaps of Pritzker speaking with then-Governor Rod Blagojevich over a possible appointment to be Illinois treasurer, which have been effective.
I think Bruce Rauner is trying to do what he thinks is best for the state of Illinois. And we may disagree on what that is, but his willingness to speak truth to power, to take on the powers that have been strangling our economy for decades in this state is something that I think he should be applauded for.
Rauner has been consistently defeated in his attacks on “the powers,” which are centered upon longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party.
Democrats of course pounced on Kennedy’s pro-Rauner comments.
Last week at a televised candidate forum moderator Carol Marin asked participants to say something nice about an opponent, just as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were invited to do at one of their debates.
Pritzker lauded Kennedy’s charitable work with Special Olympics. Kennedy couldn’t return the favor, calling Pritzker “the poster child of all that’s wrong with the corrupt system in our state – it’s difficult for me to heap praise on him.”
Realizing his mistake, after the forum Kennedy cited Pritzer’s efforts for children’s charities.
It’s gotten so bad for Kennedy that the little-known Daniel Biss, a leftist state senator who represents a district near my home, is seen by some as the best-positioned challenger to Pritzker. In his latest ad, Biss attacks Rauner, Trump, Prtizker, and Kennedy.
Last year Pritzker was caught scamming the complicated and esoteric property tax system in Cook County, where Chicago is. Kennedy blew the whistle on Pritzker, but forgot his own shady history on tax appeals.
So goes the attempt to plant a seed of the Kennedy dynasty in Illinois.
John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Illinois resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.
Illinois will have one of the most-closely watched gubernatorial contests this year. Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner has been a tremendous disappointment to me and just about every conservative voter I know. I enthusiastically backed the then-political newcomer in 2014, but this time around, as I explained here at Da Tech Guy, I’m supporting Rauner’s Republican challenger, state representative Jeanne Ives in the March primary election.
Ives is attacking Rauner, and to be fair, the Dems are too. Rauner has much to answer for. Actually he has little to answer for–as Rauner has not accomplished much of anything. For her part Ives is promoting common sense reforms that only public-sector union bosses and their enablers oppose, such as amending the state constitution so pension benefits can be changed, that is, so payment increases can be lowered, and having new state employees enroll in 401(k) plans.
Deals with the Democrats’ state worker wing, the public-sector unions, that some Republican governors signed off on–but not Rauner–have burdened the Prairie State with $250 billion in pension debt. Retiring at 50 with full benefits is nice–except for chumps like me who have to pay for it. Illinois’ current budget is $36 billion and a whopping one-quarter of it goes to government worker pension payments. Illinois has suffered from the worst credit rating among the states for years, currently that rating is just one level above junk.
Illinoisans are responding sensibly and predictably–for four straight years Illinois has had negative population growth.
There is little to celebrate during Illinois’ bicentennial year.
Two candidates on the Democratic side are getting most of the attention from the media and presumably it’s a race between them, as there is currently no polling data on gubernatorial race. Billionaire investor JB Pritzker, a scion of the family that own the Hyatt Hotel chain, has collected the lion’s share of endorsements from prominent Democrats and the party’s union allies. He the only Democratic candidate regularly running ads on radio, television, and on the internet. The other prominent contender is Chris Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy who used to run Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.
Neither have much to say about Illinois’ long-running fiscal crisis and solutions for it, other than “taxing the rich.” But they don’t even talk much about that.
Pritzker’s web advertisements are a daily presence on my Facebook and Pandora pages–in these Pritzker almost always attacks Donald Trump, as he does for instance in this YouTube ad. Trump has not visited Illinois since he was elected president. Last year, in front of Chicago’s Trump Tower, Pritzker released his five-point plant to resist the president. And when the inevitable spring tornado tears through Illinois bringing death and destruction, who will Governor Pritzker call for help?
Since Trump has been monopolized as a scapegoat by Pritzker, Kennedy is left with smaller prey. One of his targets is a worthy one, at least for scorn. That one is Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, who is also the chairman of the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization, better known as the Chicago Machine. Pritzker owns a mansion on Chicago’s Gold Coast. He purchased a smaller mansion that sits next to his. The billionaire didn’t maintain it–and then he successfully appealed his property tax assessment with Berrios’ office because the other mansion was “vacant and uninhabitable,” saving Pritzker a bundle of cash. Berrios has been under attack by the Chicago Tribune for his assessing practices, which the Chicago Tribunesays favors the rich over the poor. Kennedy is calling for Berrios to resign as assessor, but the tiny yet powerful law firm where the longtime state House Speaker and state Democratic Party chairman, Michael Madigan, is a partner was hired to lower the property taxes of a company owned by Kennedy’s Merchandise Mart.
Last week Kennedy moved on to another unpopular target, Chicago’s embattled mayor, Rahm Emanuel.
“I believe that black people are being pushed out of Chicago intentionally by a strategy that involves disinvestment in communities being implemented by the city administration,” Kennedy said at a press conference held in a predominately African-American neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side. “I believe Rahm Emanuel is the head of the city administration and therefore needs to be held responsible for those outcomes,” he added.
Phrased succinctly, Rahm, according to Kennedy, is driving blacks out of Chicago.
For a variety of reasons, including most notably high crime and execrable unionized schools, in sheer numbers and by percentage, the black population of many large cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and even Detroit has been falling, as I stated in my own blog when I reported on this story. Kennedy’s claim is tin-foil hat stuff.
And what does Trump and Emanuel have to do with Illinois’ pension debacle? Nothing with the former and a just a little bit in regards to the latter, since Rahm, a longtime prominent Illinois Democrat, was silent about the festering fiscal disease that is devouring ILL-inois. As for Berrios, I’ll place the party boss somewhere in the middle.
But the role of scapegoats, using the term in the modern sense, is to defer attention away from larger problems. And Kennedy and Pritzker don’t have solutions–or if they do they don’t care to share them with voters.
Boss Michael Madigan’s use of “Illinois math” to kick the pension problem down the road isn’t an option anymore. Illinois has reached the cliff.
John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Illinois resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.
At my own blog and here at Da Tech Guy, I enthusiastically backed the candidacy of Bruce Rauner, the current Republican governor of Illinois.
Count me as an ex-supporter. I’ll be voting for state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) in next spring’s primary.
Rauner was a political newcomer when he narrowly defeated unpopular incumbent governor Pat Quinn three years ago. He became the first gubernatorial candidate in the Land of Lincoln to win a majority of the vote–albeit a very small one–since Rod Blagojevich’s first victory in 2002.
Rauner’s campaign slogans were “Bring Back Illinois” and “Shake Up Springfield.” He hasn’t done either which is why, in its upcoming cover story, National Review is calling Rauner “the worst Republican governor in America.”
After Quinn’s own narrow win in 2010, he and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), by far the most powerful politician in Illinois, ramrodded through the General Assembly what was called a temporary income tax increase, which would expire shortly after the 2014 gubernatorial election. At that point, after Quinn’s presumed next win, the tax increase would be voted on again and made permanent.
But fed-up Prairie State voters, most of whom are corralled into gerrymandered legislative districts created by Madigan, who is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party, have no other way to fight back except at the top of the ticket every four years. They chose Rauner to stop the bleeding.
In his previous career Rauner was a venture capitalist. When he took over a company he could fire the CEO. He can’t do that with Madigan. So what followed was a game of chicken. Rauner, as part of his Turnaround Agenda, supported such common sense reforms as term limits for legislators, later changed to term limits for legislative leaders, which was clearly aimed at Madigan, who has been speaker of the House for an unprecedented 32 of the last 34 years. It’s Madigan who Reuters calls “the man behind the fiscal fiasco in Illinois.”
Other Turnaround Agenda items included tort and pension reform–Illinois has one of the worst-funded public pension systems in America–a ban on public sector unions contributing to state political campaigns, an option for local governments to enact right-to-work laws, as well as a two year property tax freeze.
Rauner said he was not averse to an income tax increase–but in exchange for his support of a tax hike he wanted his Agenda Turnaround agenda passed.
For thirty months the game of chicken continued, and that included an unprecedented two years without a budget. Illinois’ pile of unpaid bills tripled, reaching a level of over $16 billion. In the end Boss Madigan won. Overriding Rauner’s veto and some Republican legislative defections–who provided cover for Democrats in unsafe seats to vote “No,” Madigan’s 32 percent income tax hike became law.
Rauner and the GOP didn’t see a single part of the Turnaround Agenda included in that tax hike. Its passage was a colossal failure for the Republicans and long-suffering Illinois taxpayers.
And Rauner has been a colossal failure too. Yet he’s still running for reelection. In his video announcement Rauner dons a leather jacket and rides a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which is ironic as southeastern Wisconsin, which is where Harley-Davidson is based, has been a direct beneficiary of Illinois’ decline.
The failures of Rauner don’t end with Madigan winning the tax increase war. Breaking a promise he made Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, Rauner, who is pro-choice, signed into law a bill that keeps abortion legal in the state even if the US Supreme Court overturns the Roe vs. Wade decision. The bill also allows Medicaid funding of abortion as well as funding of abortions for state employees. And Rauner also signed into law a bill, weeks before California did, making Illinois a sanctuary state.
Ives, who is Rauner’s only declared Republican opponent, voted against both bills when they were up for vote in the House.
Last week the governor drove home the gist of his own failures when he said of Illinois, “I’m not in charge.” Who is? Madigan, because he has “rigged the system,” Rauner says. Is that true? Probably. But Rauner has had three years to unrig it. That’s why voters hired him.
What expectation do we have that Rauner can unrig it in a second term?
In her campaigns announcement Ives said that she wants to “realign public sector salaries and benefits to be commensurate with their private sector counterparts who finance it all.” Specifically she favors 401(k) plans for new state hires. Ives, a West Point graduate and a mother of five, also backs property tax reform and in an acknowledgement to one of President Trump’s campaign themes, vows to fight for the “forgotten people in Illinois” Of which there are plenty, including me.
In that campaign introduction Ives refers to the governor as “Benedict Rauner.” While I don’t view Rauner as purposely traitorous to the voters who supported him, he has been a spectacular disappointment as governor. I apologize to anybody who took my advice and voted for him.
Rauner says he is “not in charge” of Illinois yet he still wants four additional years of not being in charge. Who in their right mind can get behind that? Rauner says “it’s time to finish the job.” But he hasn’t even started it yet. Imagine Rauner as a homebuilder and three years after hiring him all that he has to show for his efforts is an unkempt pile of bricks paid for with money borrowed from you.
On Thursday the Democratic-dominated Illinois House, with aid of ten Republicans, overrode Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of a 32 percent income tax hike. The corporate rate jumped by 35 percent.
Apologists for the income tax increase love to point out that many states have higher income tax rates, but last week’s override places Illinois within the top 20 of the 50 states. And these tax lovers always leave out some painful facts. For instance, while sales tax rates vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, Illinois’ sales tax rates are very high across the board. Chicagoans, at 10.25 percent, pay America’s highest sales taxes. And depending on who you talk to, Illinoisans suffer under America’s largest property tax burden–or they are near the top. Chicagoans deal also suffer with nuisance taxes such as a seven-cents-per-bag tax at grocery stores, and had a judge not temporarily struck down a Cook County–where Chicago is–a penny-per-ounce sugary drink tax would be in place right now. Food stamp recipients don’t have to pay those last two. And those nuisance taxes add up, of course.
As a lifetime resident of Illinois, I can assure you that the services we receive from the state are terrible. Last year the Chicago Tribune phrased it more eloquently, “As a result, Illinois government is a massive retirement system that, during work hours, also offers some services.”
Illinois’ personal income tax rate is now at 4.95 percent and the corporate rate is now 7 percent, but because of a local only-in-Illinois 2.5 percent state personal property replacement tax, the corporate rate is really 9.5 percent, which makes the overall rate the fourth-highest in the nation.
And before these tax hikes Illinois was one of the few states losing population.
So ends the Prairie State’s national record two-year span of operating without a budget.
Governor Rauner, a Republican, was elected by voters to, as his campaign slogan vowed, “Shake Up Springfield.” While never averse to a tax increase, Rauner, who never held public office before, said he’d approve one as long as it included such items as term limits, redistricting reform, workers’ compensation law changes, and property tax freezes. House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), who has held his job for 32 of the last 34 years, of course views term limits as anathema to him, and this master gerrymanderer created legislative maps that gave the Democrats supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly in the first two years of Rauner’s term. The Dems still have a veto-proof majority in the Senate.
One of the reasons the Republican General Assembly members who sided with Madigan gave for their votes was that Moody’s and S&P warned that if Illinois didn’t have a budget in place for fiscal year 2018 its bonds would be rated as junk. Guess what? Moody’s says it might downgrade Illinois’ bonds anyway. The new taxes don’t address how Illinois will tackle its $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Pension payments already consume a whopping one-quarter of the Illinois budget. And even assuming enough funds are there for Illinois schools to open in the fall, more legislation is needed for allocating that cash. The state has over $15 billion in unpaid bills-which is over 40 percent of the ’18 budget. That backlog will take years to pay off. Adding to the debacle is a late June ruling by a federal judge for Illinois to pay $586 million per month to bring down its past-due Medicaid bills. Which means that other vendors will have to wait even longer to get paid. How many of them will go out of business waiting for their bills to be settled?
Didn’t I mention that Illinois is losing population?
At best, the Illinois budget deal is a band-aid for much more serious problems.
Rauner is a candidate for reelection in 2018. That task was made more difficult by the manner that the tax hike was passed. In the first go-round 15 Republicans–the Madigan 15–voted for the tax hike. That allowed Boss Madigan, who has been chairman of the state Democratic Party since 1998, to allow, yes, allow 11 Democrats in vulnerable districts to vote “No.” In the override vote, four of the Madigan 15 voted “No.” Another one missed the roll call. Of course Madigan “found” the other five votes among his caucus.
Democratic candidates for governor are of course calling the tax increase “bi-partisan.”
As this post goes live, the 48th Chicago Pride Parade is taking place on the city’s North Side. The event is still commonly called the Gay Parade, “Pride” is of course a much more generic term. On the Yahoo home page today, next to the rainbow colors, is this message, “Be proud of who you are.”
In Chicago there are many people who should be ashamed of who they are and what they’ve done. Which got me thinking. America’s third largest city–for now–really needs a Shame Parade, something along the lines what Queen Cersei suffered, in the buff, in Game of Thrones two years ago at the hands of the Sparrows sect.
But please, shameful ones, keep your clothes on.
Participation is limited only to brigands who live in Chicago.
Attendees are encouraged to chant “Shame…shame….shame.”
Chicagoans, now let me present to you the 2017 Shame Parade participants!
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley: The son of Mayor Richard J. Daley, the younger Daley inherited his father’s talent in creating a powerful political organization. But while the first “Hizzoner” was a whiz at public finance, Number 2 was clueless about about it–clearly Richie is bad at math. Chicago has the worst-funded municipal worker pension plans in the nation. The city prospered in the 1990s, it’s easy to see why. The pension obligations were shorted to create an illusion of prosperity, a Potemkin Chicago.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel: The Tiny Dancer inherited a mess from Daley, and he’s responding as any liberal Democrat would to any problem–raise taxes. But Chicagoans are responding with their feet–Chicago is the only major city losing population. Most of the West Side and much of the South Side is a killing zone. More people are murdered in Chicago than New York City and Los Angeles–combined.
The leaders of every street gang: “Chicago is the gang capital of the United States,” CBS News reported a few years ago. There are roughly 600 gangs in Chicago and about 70,000 members in these criminal enterprises.
Cook County Assessor and Cook County Democratic Party Boss Joseph Berrios: The assessor’s office has long been a campaign fund cash cow for the Chicago Machine. But in a fantastic series from the Chicago Tribune, Berrios’ reign has been shown to favor the wealthy residents of Cook County while cheating poor ones. Boss Berrios has also been accused of rampant nepotism. Do you mean the Democrats aren’t for “the little guy?”
Edward Vrdolyak: A onetime boss of the Cook County Democratic Party, “Fast Eddie” is one of the many former members of the Chicago City Council who is a convicted felon. Roughly once every 18 months a member or former member of that shameful legislative body takes up residence in a federal prison. Vrdolyak became a Republican in the late 1980s. Seven years ago he served a ten-month prison sentence for participating in a kickback scheme with cronies of disgraced governor Rod Blagojevich. Last fall Vrdolyak was indicted again on tax evasion charges.
Karen Lewis: The longtime president of the Chicago Teachers Union, a hardened leftist, was a pretty good high school chemistry teacher, a former co-worker who was one of her pupils told me once. But she’s not that good at math. Or perhaps she is? For years members of her union have had taxpayers, in the name of Chicago Public Schools, pay what is supposed to be the teachers’ contribution into their still woefully undercapitalized pension funds.
Barbara Byrd-Bennett: While the aforementioned Chicago Public Schools was headed into the financial sewer, its CEO, “BBB,” participated in a kickback scam. Byrd-Bennett will report to prison later this year.
Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn: Barack Obama began his political career in the living room of these unrepentant Weather Underground terrorists. After their terror career ended they moved on to academia, where they learned that it’s easier to destroy America by indoctrinating youngsters with leftism than by bombing buildings.
Rod Blagojevich: Can President Donald Trump arrange a furlough for the onetime “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant? While Colorado is the jailbird’s home for now, the rest of his family still lives in Chicago. The hair-brained former governor inherited a fiscal mess, as did Rahm Emanuel, but he made it worse, particularly with his 2005 pension payment “holiday.”
Former Gov. Jim Thompson: Look! Another Republican! In 1989 Thompson signed into law the compounded interest pension raises which of course were never properly funded. An astute pol, yes, but like the younger Mayor Daley and perhaps Karen Lewis, math is not the strong suit of “Big Jim.”
Chicago’s Power Corruption Couple, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson and former US Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr: They’re undergoing a nasty divorce right now, but in happier times they looted Junior’s campaign fund. Both are ex-cons. The couple that steals together doesn’t necessarily stay together.
Lifetime Lack-of-Achievement Award, Jesse Jackson Sr: Decades of race-based shakedowns enriched himself and his family. Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH organization placed his son and daughter-in-law into positions of power. But what tangible achievements can he show other Chicagoans?
Who will the grand marshal of Chicago’s Shame Parade?
State House Speaker and Illinois Democratic Party Boss: Michael Madigan: Since becoming speaker in 1983, Madigan has nominally served with–or over?–six governors. But you can find the 13th Ward Democratic committeeman’s fingerprints on every piece of pension and fiscal legislation enacted into law since then. Illinois’ public pension plans are among the worst-funded among the 50 states. Illinois’ bond ratings are just one step above junk–the lowest ever for a state. And if a budget isn’t passed by the end of this week S&P and Moody’s warns that junk status will be declared.
Oh, why isn’t Barack Obama in the Shame Parade? Chicago is so bad even Obama has bailed on it. The former president lives in Washington now. Obama served in the Illinois Senate, from 1997-2004, while the state’s pension disaster festered. Obama is so smart, right? But why were there no warnings from him about Illinois pensions?
Illinois isn’t at the crossroads. It’s on a collision course after driving off a cliff. It’s that bad here.
The Land of Lincoln faces what is likely its most pivotal two weeks in its 199-year history.
Last week Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican who never ran for political office before, called for a special session to pass an annual budget, which is something that the Illinois General Assembly hasn’t done in over two years. And it’ll be tougher to do so now, as a supermajority will be required to pass a budget because the 2017 session of the legislature ended on May 31. Getting a budget on the governor’s desk theoretically should be easy, thanks to the gerrymandering skills of state House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), as there is a supermajority in the state Senate and a near-supermajority in the House. Madigan, who has held his job for 32 of the last 34 years and is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party, enjoyed a supermajority in the lower chamber for the first two years of Rauner’s term.
I view Madigan’s strategy as an early manifestation of the national Democratic Party’s “Resist” strategy regarding Donald Trump, even though the political boss is a soulless creature who has no manifesto other than maintaining power for himself. And Madigan doesn’t want, at least yet, to have Democrats in the House vote “Yes” on a big tax hike. Yeah, they did so in a lame-duck session in 2011, but there was a Democratic governor in Springfield then to help shoulder the blame.
Rauner offered an extensive “turnaround agenda” as a candidate and he demanded it be included in any tax hike bill once he took office. He’s scaled back on that agenda since then, but the rump of it is still anathema to Madigan and his campaign contributors. Rauner is asking for pension reform, education funding changes, more business-friendly workers’ compensation laws, and a five-year property tax freeze.
That last one is the most ominous news as Illinois’ comptroller, Democrat Susanna Mendoza, is warning that Illinois, because of court orders, will soon have to pay out more each month than it receives in revenue. “The magic tricks run out after a while,” says Mendoza, “and that’s where we’re at.”
Illinois has $15 billion in unpaid bills, which is over 40 percent what the state collects in revenue annually. It has over $100 billion in unfunded public worker pension obligations. Its bonds have the lowest rating of any state ever. It is one of only a few states, and the only one in the Midwest, that is losing population.
Pretty horrible. So much so that a “grand bargain” between Rauner and Madigan might end up being too little or too late to prevent the Land of Lincoln from collapse.
The end of Illinois as we know it will arrive by the end of this month. If no deal is reached it’s hard to imagine the Prairie State not ending up in a quasi-bankruptcy situation, even though Congress will need to get involved first. An austerity budget will likely hasten the population exodus, as will a massive tax hike without any reforms.
Another Illinois-style temporary fix will only delay judgement day. And that judgement will only be harsher when it comes.
As Ben Affleck’s character in Argo phrased it, “There are only bad options, it’s about finding the best one.”
John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Illinois resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.