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The future isn’t looking so bright

Friday, Dec 18, 2015

* I usually run my weekly syndicated newspaper column on Monday, but I won’t be around Monday and Crain’s already has it posted, so

One of the realities of Illinois legislative politics is that our state’s system tends to discourage competition.

Byzantine ballot access laws, a highly partisan legislative district map-drawing process, heavily concentrated populations of partisan voters in Chicago (Democrats) and in the collar counties and Downstate (Republicans) along with often tireless work by incumbents and political parties at the state and local levels to “discourage” opposition all combine to help tamp down the number of competitive races.

The net result is that Illinois has some of the fewest numbers of challenged state legislative races in the country - just 39 percent in 2014, which put us in the bottom fifth of the nation. By contrast, nearby Michigan saw a 100 percent challenge rate in the 2014 general election, and the rates in both California and Minnesota were above 90 percent.

That’s simply unheard of here.

The state’s 2014 rate may be higher next year. Gov. Bruce Rauner’s vast personal cash reserves and his access to his many wealthy friends means the Republican Party can widen the playing field. The Democrats are also looking at doing the same thing, fielding candidates in districts that they have previously avoided (GOP Rep. Bill Mitchell, for instance, has a pretty decent general election opponent for the first time in a long while).

While that’s good for politics, is it good for government?

It almost assuredly is a good thing in the long run. Far too many people think they own their districts. Competition is good.

But in the here and now, these campaigns are just one more headache to deal with in the ongoing governmental impasse. Legislators who aren’t accustomed to challenges may not be all that willing to take the tough votes necessary if the leaders ever come to a deal.

Indeed, we could see a tail wagging the dog scenario. For instance, as a member of House Democratic leadership, Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) has taken a ton of votes that his conservative southern Illinois constituents probably wouldn’t love, including a vote for the 2011 income tax hike.

But Bradley is now a Tier One target. And unless we see a massive political truce with pledges to not use tough votes against incumbents (as we did in the old days under Republican governors Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar and George Ryan) it’s probably safe to assume that Bradley and many, many others aren’t going to want to be a part of any tax hike solution.

The Illinois Republican Party compounded the problem the other day by blasting Bradley and Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) for standing with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (whom the Republicans now refer to as “#TaxHikeMike”) against taxpayers.

The Republican Party accuses Madigan, and by extension Bradley and Phelps and others, of publicly favoring a return to the 5 percent state income tax. They conveniently “forget” that Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he will raise taxes once he gets his “Turnaround Agenda” passed.

And it’s not just the general election that’s complicating matters. Look at what happened not long ago when conservative activist Dan Proft examined GOP Rep. David Harris’ nominating petitions to see if he could kick the Arlington Heights legislator off the ballot. Proft pointed out that Harris had “previously voiced support for tax increases.”

Harris, in turn, noted Gov. Rauner’s support for hiking taxes to balance the budget, but the message was clear: Proft controls a big pot of campaign money and Republicans need to beware of crossing him.

The ILGOP’s “#TaxHikeMike” assault could even play out in Speaker Madigan’s own legislative district.

Madigan’s Democratic primary opponent Jason Gonzales has a campaign message that appears specifically designed to attract money from wealthy people who are fed up with the Speaker’s longtime dominance. Some Democrats (and Republicans) are speculating that forces allied with Gov. Rauner could spend millions of dollars on that one race alone.

Blanketed network TV ads with a solid message can move voters, especially with that kind of money behind them.

Madigan is a notoriously cautious politician. So, whether or not his enemies pull the trigger on a massive campaign assault, he’ll deploy enough foot soldiers to cover his district many times over.

Chicago and Cook County voters (and Madigan represents both kinds) are already up in arms about property and sales tax increases, so we can also probably expect Madigan to be at least reluctant to raise taxes before the March 15th primary.

What I’m saying here is that if you think a solution to this impasse has looked next to impossible for the past several months, the situation may have gotten substantially worse since the candidate filing period ended.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


13 Comments
  1. - Groucho Marx - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 2:13 pm:

    What a shame that the extremists of both parties have paralyzed our government on both the national and state levels. It seems as if a legislator dares to give a little on an issue (compromise) in order to move forward, the extremist will seek to destroy him. No organization made up of people with various interest and opinions can operate under those conditions. Thank You Tea Party. Thank You Labor. Thank You MSNBC. Thank You Fox.


  2. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 2:15 pm:

    To the Post, and to my friend - RNUG -…

    I forget, I need to learn, I was learning, but… I need to remember this;

    ===- Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 21, 15 @ 1:51 pm

    ===I think it is obvious that Rauner would support a tax increase bringing his budget into balance after some of his agenda was passed.===

    That’s a hostage for the budget. Nope.

    Further, after about 1,317 times it being pointed out, I’ve come to the realization, there ain’t gonna be a tax increase. That’s over. I’ve resigned myself to it.

    It’s comical how Raunerites think that’s the carrot. Welp, the carrot rotted next to the stick Rauner pretends he’s not leading with here.

    ===If there was no compromise before the budget is agreed to only a fool would believe there would be compromise after the budget is agreed to.===

    I wouldn’t call Rauner a fool as a way of persuasion, but if you feel that acknowledging that to try to make a point, you hace your reasons.

    ===Expecting a tax increase with no reform of state government is totally unrealistic.===

    That’s why, no tax increase.

    Rauner will own this mess. All governors own.===

    “Further, after about 1,317 times it being pointed out, I’ve come to the realization, there ain’t gonna be a tax increase. That’s over. I’ve resigned myself to it.”

    I forgot. My mistake.

    There won’t be a tax increase anytime soon, so no worry about those 67 “green”

    OW


  3. - Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 2:27 pm:

    Fa la la la la, la la la la.


  4. - Anon221 - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 2:27 pm:

    “…it’s probably safe to assume that Bradley and many, many others aren’t going to want to be a part of any tax hike solution.”

    *****

    Tax hikes are going to take many forms in the next couple of years as the fight continues. Whether or not it’s done on the floor of the ILGA or the village board room, there will be tax hikes simply because of the high levels of anxiety and the chaos created by the threat/promise of property tax freezes for instance.

    Some politicians, somewhere at sometime, are going to have to make unpopular votes.


  5. - Norseman - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 2:43 pm:

    It’s become obvious that if there is an FY 16 budget agreement and an FY 17 it will be “held together with chewing gum mand baling wire.” We can’t hope to see a more comprehensive approach to the budget until the new General Assembly is seated.


  6. - Anon221 - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 2:51 pm:

    Norseman-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEEqwQmFrZs


  7. - Lucky Pierre - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 2:54 pm:

    One more reason for term limits. Legislators just do what they can to a wild the tough votes because they could be voted out of office for doing the right thing. They just focus on the short term politics not the long term ramifications. Deals like the early retirement under Ryan where legislators don’t know what the long term costs are , just that it got them through the year.

    That ended up costing billions of dollars in pension costs


  8. - Last Bull Moose - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 2:55 pm:

    For the short term I see no solution short of a scorched earth approach by both sides. It may take the stench of charred flesh to motivate compromise.

    Longer term, go back to cumulative voting for legislators. That allowed Judy Baar Topinka into politics. We need people like her.

    And today’s leaders need to find a common enemy. We lost 633 people to drug overdoses last year. L. McDonald was born drug affected and died with PCP in his system. Solve the illegal recreational drug problem, or at least try valiantly. The attempt would build alliances across regions and parties.


  9. - Beaner - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 2:56 pm:

    Lame ducks will pass a revenue bill including income taxes. It will only pass with the majority of Rs supporting. Vendors will continue to have problems well into 2017 until the billions in junk Bond proceeds are received. Expect serious action sometime after November 8th. Big win for the 1%, tax free bonds rather than taxes. Who knew BVR was a magician?


  10. - X-prof - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 3:18 pm:

    Joining in the holiday spirit here, I’ve come to see the futility of discussing nuanced tax policy for the foreseeable future.

    So, without further ado,
    here’s two bits that’ll disappoint very few:

    I’ve put the nix to “fix the mix”; it’s
    over, kaput, done and done.
    Instead I’ll put the “ex” in X-Prof;
    I’ll be retired come Jan’ry 1.

    My best to all CapFaxers.


  11. - Norseman - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 3:30 pm:

    Thanks Anon221


  12. - Liberty - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 3:36 pm:

    Why think the next budget year will be any different? The blame game fits nicely with no budget.


  13. - logic not emotion - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 3:36 pm:

    I hope you’re wrong. I fear you’re not.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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