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The ace in the hole

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* My Crain’s Chicago Business column

Timid creatures by nature, state legislators often have to be cajoled, begged and even outright threatened to cast tough votes.

It took the Illinois General Assembly years to finally vote in December for a politically dangerous pension reform bill. The “temporary” income tax hike passed in 2011 only because some lame-duck legislators who had lost their elections (after campaigning against a tax hike) decided to play ball, and coincidentally got sweet state jobs.

That vote, which raised the personal income tax rate to 5 percent from 3 percent, was safely held weeks after an election. The hike is scheduled to expire Jan. 1, with the tax rate falling to 3.75 percent. But now, House Speaker Michael Madigan says he’d like to pass a bill to make the tax hike permanent by the end of the spring session, about five months before the Nov. 4 general election.

Making the tax hike permanent is probably very unpopular. A February survey found that 60 percent of Illinois residents want the tax hike to expire, while a mere 26.5 percent favor keeping it, according to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

Not to mention that the person taking the lead on making the tax hike permanent is Gov. Pat Quinn, who barely won his 2010 election.

Mr. Quinn forcefully argued during his annual budget address March 26 that keeping the tax hike in place would preserve much-needed state programs like education funding and prevent “draconian” budget cuts.

His Republican opponent has been ripping him all week. Bruce Rauner says Mr. Quinn in 2010 promised to oppose any tax increase above one percentage point and then signed a hike double that amount. Now he wants to make it permanent.

Mr. Quinn’s popularity among legislators is almost nonexistent; his political future is in doubt. So why follow him off a political cliff?

Click here for the rest.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Jimbo - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 9:53 am:

    Isn’t it journalistic malpractice to use words like “probably”?

  2. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 9:55 am:


    That word was added by my editor.

  3. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 9:55 am:

    I`m retired,so i don`t pay state taxes.i dont`t have a dog in the hunt yet?

  4. - PublicServant - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 9:57 am:

    === why follow him off a political cliff? ===

    Because the state needs the revenue to pay its bills, and doing so now means they can rappel down as opposed to jumping without a long enough rope the closer we get to November. It’s also recognition that Brucey won’t care to fix it if and when he occupies the governorship.

  5. - Jimbo - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:01 am:

    Thank goodness. I knew you were better than that. I thought I was being funny, but after I posted it I felt bad and was worried about a ban hammer lol.

  6. - Johnson's Corner - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:01 am:

    At least it’s less then Wisconsin’s income tax. If it ever becomes more or they start taxing retirement, I will move up to Wisconsin before I retire in 20 years.

  7. - Bill White - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:01 am:

    With respect to Illinois gerrymandering, context is helpful.

    In Wisconsin, when all districts are added together, Democratic candidates for the state legislature got more votes than Republican candidates and yet the GOP has decisive control over both houses.

    The Illinois maps do favor the Democrats however the Illinois maps are less effectively partisan than in a great many other states.

  8. - OneMan - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:04 am:

    The Illinois maps do favor the Democrats however the Illinois maps are less effectively partisan than in a great many other states.

    But I suspect not from a lack of trying….

  9. - Makandadawg - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:04 am:

    This is the most interesting times I have seen in Illinois politics. Hard lines are being drawn and the voters will have to decide which one would be worse. We know enough about Quinn but do we know enough about Rauner?

  10. - Johnson's Corner - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:06 am:

    Gerrymandering is bad no matter who does it.

  11. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:08 am:

    First, great take. I am always the big fan if the backstory realities that lead to conclusions, so this column really hits a sweet spot for me.

    To the Post,

    ===Mr. Quinn’s popularity among legislators is almost nonexistent; his political future is in doubt. So why follow him off a political cliff?===

    I always hear crickets when the question is asked by anyone, “Who are Quinn’s Floor Leaders?” Cricket sound are being polite to the Governor.

    That said, Veto-Proofed ChamberS allow MJM and Cullerton to take this leading role, and by proxy, be the de facto Floor Leaders for Quinn, and by working with Quinn on making the Tax permanent, both Madigan and Cullerton have the cache a Floor Leader doesn’t. “Quinn will protect you”, is quite hollow while Quinn has no base in the GA. MJM and Cullerton’s word to Members will have significant weight.

    Bruce Rauner, with a PAC generated towards Democrat and Republican GA incumbents or challengers put both parties in all 4 of their Caucuses on notice. Rauner wants Raunerites, the Speaker and President want to help the Democrats “win the day”. Different motivations.

    The Raunerite Caucus would have an untested, newly minted governor, if Rauner, too, wins. Your “Sponsor” wants to know your weaknesses, your fears, and is willing to be someone to look for leverage OVER you, instead of working WITH you for a better Illinois.

    The Members and Challengers know what it means to be with MJM and Cullerton.

    Who do you choose?

    Getting 60 and 30 will be a bet taken with that ace in the hole of the two leaders, and not with a governor sitting, or a candidate wanting to be sat.

  12. - Downstater - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:16 am:

    The column reinforces the need for independently drawn maps to bring sanity to the legislative branches of government in Illinois. And as former Governor Edgar was quoted in a different posting on this blog, Spending cuts should have been put in place and they were not. That is the issue.

  13. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:16 am:

    People, if you’re not reading the rest of the column you shouldn’t be commenting. I didn’t ask a question, the column answered it. Click the link.

  14. - Walter Mitty - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:20 am:

    My tin foil hat is back… This is so Madigan can assure Bruce winning…. Then, they can have the taxes raised to tackle the bigger issues that Bruce can cut and leave Madigan in his quest for changing his image…Not the guy who got us in…The guy who got us out… I said it the day Pension reform passed… MJM named Rauner by name when he was not the leader of the other “3″ … He needs Rauner to win. Chess…Everyone else…Checkers…

  15. - VanillaMan - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:23 am:

    The gerrymandering was for Michael J. Madigan. It allows him to remain in power to do what he wishes. With it, he has built his castle, filled his moat with sharks and alligators, raised his drawbridge, and left Pat Quinn outside to do battle with Rauner.

    If Quinn goes down, Madigan is still safe with his ducklings, mushrooms, sharks and alligators to do to Illinois whatever the hell he wants.

    Rauner may not change the situation in Illinois, but he can starve the castle until Madigan is carried out of it feet first, whenever that occurs.

    Status quo has the upper hand and it wants more of the serf’s earned wages.

  16. - VanillaMan - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:25 am:

    Good lord,
    Why are we talking about Quinn like he has ever been actually in charge anyway? That dude is a caretaker. He isn’t even allowed to govern when it matters, remember how he’s been shut out of the castle too?

    Don Quixote = Pat Quinn

  17. - DuPage Rep - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:26 am:

    … This is so Madigan can assure Bruce winning…
    Far fetched, but I can see the Unions coming back to Madigan in a big way of Rauner wins. He is gonna need Unions for his daughter’s political future.

  18. - Old Guy - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:28 am:

    Excellent column. I wish sometime you’d talk about the other big downside to gerrymandering – the polarization of the parties.

    Democrats and Republicans alike only have to worry about primaries under this map. Thus we have good and reasonable lawmakers like Ron Sandack barely squeaking by and extremists in both parties comfortably cruising to re-election.

    There is an inability to meet in the middle because the only elections that matter any more are the primaries, where moderation is punished, not rewarded.

    That is the single biggest reason why we need a new, independent system in Illinois (and everywhere else as well, regardless of which party is in power)

  19. - Walter Mitty - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:29 am:

    DuPage… I agree I am stretching… But in Illinois it makes some sense! Bizzaro world… As I learned from Rich years back… Madigan had said the few times he was in a Super Majority were his toughest times… I am either crazy or am right… I honestly believe Madigan gains by a Rauner win…

  20. - PublicServant - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:29 am:

    OK Rich. So you think it will pass because there little chance the legislators will be voted out because of the gerrymandered districts, but the problem with the 5% flat tax that isn’t ameliorated by the 3% surcharge on the 2nd million on up in income is that the extra taxes we’re taking from the middle and lower middle class in this state hurts the economy because it’s taking money that those people would otherwise spend on food, shelter and the other necessities of life whose purchase keeps this economy afloat. A progressive tax takes those dollars from people who are much less likely to need to spend it.

  21. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:32 am:

    ===He is gonna need Unions for his daughter’s political future. ===

    Thanks, Kass.

  22. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:34 am:

    When Brady lost in 2010, and the new map and poor performances of the H&SGOP political apparatuses went beyond the Democratically drawn map in “Veto-Proof Land” for both Chambers, neither Democratic Caucus has much fear in 2014 losing its grip. It’s an easy sell to those wavering in the Caucus to follow MJM or Cullerton. In theory, all of Cullerton’s seats could almost all vote “No” and still get Cullerton to 30. Madigan has 10 “passes”, with Franks a given “No”.

    The election of 2010 just continues to haunt…

  23. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:37 am:


    “In theory, all of Cullerton’s alleged vulnerable seats this cycle could almost all vote “No” and still get Cullerton to 30.”

    Apologies. Dopey on my part.

  24. - Bigtwich - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:38 am:

    Don Quixote = Pat Quinn

    Antoine Comte de Guiche: As for you sir, have you read “Don Quixote”?

    Cyrano de Bergerac: I have, and found myself the hero.

    Antoine Comte de Guiche: Be so good as to read once more the chapter of the windmills…

    Cyrano de Bergerac: Chapter thirteen!

    Antoine Comte de Guiche: Windmills, remember, if you fight with them… may swing round their huge arms and cast you down into the mire!

    Cyrano de Bergerac: Or up, among the stars!

  25. - Walker - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 10:49 am:

    ===I think Madigan wins with a Rauner win===

    Maybe. Not sure.

    But am sure Rauner wins big if this passes in May. He can hammer Quinn not only with high-tax, but with liar as well — and Rauner will need the tax revenue if he gets the Governorship.

    Rauner can even promise in the campaign that he will reverse it and lower taxes, but he won’t be able to do that as governor without the legislative leaders. He can then blame them once again, for doing what he secretly knows has to be done.

  26. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 11:19 am:

    It would seem to me a better idea to make the income tax extension permanent now under Quinn than to fight over this later with a Gov. Rauner.

  27. - Demoralized - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 11:24 am:

    ==Spending cuts should have been put in place and they were not. ==

    Yeah, they were. Problem is things like pension payment increases overshadowed all of those other cuts.

  28. - train111 - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 11:29 am:

    Cullerton really has nothing to worry about. In order for the GOP to get a majorit in the Senate, they have to flip 11 out of the 12 Dem seats up for election. So far they only have candidates in 4 or 5 (6,30,36,48)(A D-1 has been filed for a GOP Candidate in 57) of those races, and in reality probably only 2 (Jacobs in 36 and Manmar in 48) are even competitive, the others (6,30,57) not being competitive.


  29. - Skeptic - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 11:38 am:

    “but he won’t be able to do that as governor . . . ” “He can then blame them . . .”

    Don’t you just love politics? You can accomplish absolutely nothing and claim a victory for it!

  30. - anon - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 11:51 am:

    Kind of hard to stomach the characterization of politicians who vote for a blatantly unconstitutional theft from public employees so they can keep taxes artifically low and corporate welfare high as some sort of profile in courage.

  31. - one of the 35 - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 12:20 pm:

    An earlier post suggested moving to Wisconsin if Illinois should start taxing pension income. I’m a retired state of Illinois employee who moved to Wisconsin 2 years ago. It cost me $2100 more in state income tax to live here than in Illinois. I just figure that’s the cost of being near my grandsons.

  32. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 12:33 pm:


    Apologies for a terrible “grab”, and looking as though I was answering “a question” or leading that was what was going on.

    That was my fault commenting in the manner I did, with that grab as the lede of my commenting. Sorry.

  33. - muon - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 1:27 pm:

    Studies in California of statewide partisan votes on their Assembly found that every 1% increase in a party’s share should produce about a 2% increase in their share of seats. Based on that and the numbers in the article, the Illinois legislature would have about a 54-56% Democratic majority rather than the current 68% and 60% majorities. That’s probably a fair guess as to the direction that independent redistricting would take the state.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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