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Lite guv debate

Wednesday, Apr 17, 2013

* Daily Herald editorial

Three years ago, when the job of lieutenant governor was vacant, 13 candidates ran for the post. Clearly, it must have important duties and some power attached to it, right?

Wrong. Its allure is in what it potentially can lead to — the governor’s office, just as it did for the current governor, Pat Quinn, after Rod Blagojevich was impeached.

And knowing who the successor will be in case a sitting governor can’t continue is an important issue. But line of succession doesn’t have to mean creating a governor-in-waiting position. That’s the message in what the Illinois House did last week and one that we support.

Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, sponsored a bill approved by the House that would eliminate the lieutenant governor position by 2019. It is estimated that the move will save the state about $1.8 million a year.

While that’s a small number compared with the entire state budget, it’s still significant in that it makes a statement that legislators are serious about cutting costs where they can. It’s a good first step in consolidating government and one that we hope leads to even more consolidation.

* I think Eric Zorn has an interessting idea on this matter. Don’t eliminate the office, just defund it

Zero out the $1.8 million annual budget line for the state’s most conspicuous sinecure and render the position of governor-in-waiting wholly ceremonial. Like a beauty pageant runner up, the lieutenant governors will simply go about his or her life and remain ready to take over if, for any reason, there is a vacancy at the top.

Simply getting rid of the position isn’t a bad idea. The law spells out no formal duties for the so called “lite gov.” But if the state Senate and the voters go along with the constitutional-amendment route, the change won’t take effect until 2019.

And it will leave us with a potentially awkward line of succession in which the attorney general is next in line if the governor dies, becomes incapacitated or is impeached and removed from office.

If the attorney general were to be from a different party than the governor, the will of the voters about state leadership would be denied in the event of death or incapacitation. And impeachment proceedings would be infected by extra political considerations.

* Gov. Pat Quinn wants to keep the status quo

“There are some issues that fall between the cracks, and somebody has to stand up for those issues,” he said, listing off an array of topics he addressed in the position including aid to families of military service members.

“I was lieutenant governor for six years, and I believe in that office, for sure,” he said.

Moreover, he cited his ability to take over immediately after Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment as a positive to having someone in the position.

“It’s good to have a backup quarterback,” he said.

However, the duties Quinn cited were mostly those that he chose for himself rather than those that are given to the lieutenant governor by constitution or statute.

* Finke

The amendment is still a long way from getting on the ballot. The Senate must still approve the measure, and face it, when’s the last time something was on the ballot to eliminate a statewide office, despite numerous efforts? Try never.

This is not to say that Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is doing a poor job. On the contrary, she is doing more with the office than many of her predecessors. But it’s hard to overcome the stigma of a job where, over the years, two people have quit to find more fulfilling work.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - the Patriot - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 9:58 am:

    The post needs to go, but with the current officials it is problematic. No way should we have a system where the Speaker can make his daughter governor by impeaching the governor. Right now, that is the result of eliminating the post.

    Do you trust the Speaker to not abuse his power for his or his family’s personal benefit?

  2. - Chris Sale Fan - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 10:07 am:

    I like Zorn’s idea too, with one modification. Let an elected official serve in the post, i.e. the Senate President Pro Temp or the House Majority Leader. That way if there is a vacancy, the successor at least has a tangential connection to state government.

  3. - The Captain - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 10:10 am:

    Defunding the office won’t work in the long run. During some future campaign some gubertnatorial candidate will be touting the accolades of his/her running mate and will pledge to work as a team (a 2 for 1 if you will). That candidate will vow to ensure that his/her running mate has the resources needed to be effective, won’t just be a ceremonial position and some funding will reappear and then we’re right back where we started from.

  4. - Downstate - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 10:15 am:

    That may be more conspiratorial then even I can imagine.

    I think the funding should be cut. Not to zero, but maybe in half.

    Frankly, the duties for the lt. governor are pretty tiny. “Chair of the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council, the Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee, and the three Illinois River, Mississippi River, and Wabash and Ohio Rivers Coordinating Councils.”

    Make the Lt. Govenor the chair of DCEO. I’d like a state official that is focused on economic development around the state. And it would be a better “training regimine” than say “interagency base support”.

  5. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 10:33 am:

    I’m indifferent. Keep or drop it, it’s not a big deal either way.

  6. - Huh? - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 10:39 am:

    Make the lite-gov the chief of staff for the gov.

  7. - shore - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 10:41 am:

    you need to have the office. This state has an economy the size of turkey’s and it needs a number 2. this is overthinking side issues to avoid talking about the bigger more important issues.

  8. - ShermanStateEmployee - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 10:51 am:

    Since the majority and minority leaders of both houses control everything and nothing can get called for a vote unless they want it, why not save some real money and eliminate all of the house and senate seats but those?

  9. - Wensicia - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 10:52 am:

    Like Zorn said, reduce or eliminate the funding for lt governor. It’s basically a PR position anyway, just cover expenses related to appearances.

  10. - Skeeter - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 10:58 am:

    I have to say that while I usually find posts by “The Patriot” to be at least slightly paranoid and not remotely patriotic, he does have a point on this one.

    If the House ever wanted to do so, they could effectively turn this into a parliamentary system. Create a charge, and remove the gov.

    Is that going to happen? I doubt it, but it is possible. The power exists.

    However, on the other hand it does seem like putting the AG into the “next in line” could create a real potential for conflict. We’ve seen AG’s in other states doing some sort of off the wall stuff. I’m uncomfortable with making a prosecutor the next in line. It just seems to create the potential for abuse.

    One way around it would be to make the highest ranking Senate member of the Gov’s party next in line.

    That might serve to avoid any purely political impeachments and would also put somebody in office who (ideally) has some relatively up to date knowledge of the State’s condition.

    One final note — we need to remember that the Gov. is not the President. The Gov is not dealing with national defense. There is just not that much of a problem with a new Gov taking some time to get up to speed. We don’t need a shadow (or lite) gov to be ready in an emergency.

  11. - downstate commissioner - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 11:06 am:

    Don’t believe that position should be eliminated; but reducing the funding to say $250,000 or so might be a good idea; also assigning some specific job (chief of staff might work) would be a good idea,too…

  12. - Esquire - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 11:15 am:

    Eliminate the elected position of Lt. Governor. Following a gubernatorial election have the party caucus of the incoming governor’s party choose a state senator to hold the post of Lt. Governor without any additional staff or pay. Done.

    In the last century, I think only three Lieutenants succeeded to the Governor’s Mansion and two were short term occupants. It is a waste of money to spend so much on this office.

  13. - Just Me - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 11:18 am:

    We just changed the position so that the Governor and Lt. Governor run together in the primary. Shouldn’t we give it an election or two to see if that changes the nature of the position first before we eliminate it?

  14. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 11:23 am:

    Should we not see how the new “run as a slate” thing works out before passing judgement on this issue? Perhaps future Governors plan on using their pick to actually help govern. I sure as heck would…

  15. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 11:24 am:

    Just Me is a faster typist than I…

  16. - Just Me - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 12:21 pm:

    Cinci — typing class in high school was easily the most valuable class I took. I’m a speed typist and can format letters and memos better than anyone I know. With technology being what it is today, everyone should take a typing class so they can master a computer keyboard.

  17. - Newsclown - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 12:40 pm:

    I think Quinn was actually perhaps the best lite guv there ever was. He took all the stuff on that Rod was un-interested in, and he gave those noble causes the support and attention they deserved. Veterans causes in particular were well-served by Quinn way before it was “cool” to do that. Simon is trying to follow that pattern herself. I think the real issue is that the legislature should define the job better, while leaving some room for each Lt. Gov to pursue their own favored causes.

  18. - Chavez-respecting Obamist - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 12:40 pm:

    Give the Lite Governor actual duties to perform.

  19. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 12:59 pm:

    Have the replacement for a governor similar to how other political positions in Illinois are filled - let the governor’s son or daughter take over.

  20. - Madison - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 3:20 pm:

    Now did we really need Sheila Simon or Jason Plummer to hang that state’s fate on in a time of crisis?
    I would rather have the money for pensions thank you.

  21. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Apr 17, 13 @ 4:09 pm:

    I do not believe we should eliminate the position, but every Governor needs to assign their Lt. Gov some duties or else just give him or her a desk in the Governor’s office with no budget.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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