* 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.
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.