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Leadership, or lack thereof

Friday, May 25, 2007 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My Sun-Times column this week is mainly about how long Speaker Madigan and Senate President Jones have been in power without producing results on an issue both claim to wholeheartedly support…

llinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was first elected to the House in 1970. I’m 45 now, so I was 8 years old at the time. Senate President Emil Jones was first elected to the House two years later, in 1972. I was in fifth grade. Both men have held legislative leadership positions for pretty much my entire adult life.

Madigan and Jones’ combined 70-plus years of experience can be a good thing. They’ve seen almost everything, so it’s tough for a lobbyist or a governor or anyone else to sneak something past them.

Lately, though, I’ve been getting the urge to change the channel and watch a new program. Over the years they have become little more than self-perpetuating power machines. Plus, the two men have so much history between them, much of it antagonistic, that they too often can’t seem to put aside their differences for the good of the state.

* My Sun-Times editor, Steve Huntley, has a column today about the lack of gubernatorial leadership, among other things…

All this doesn’t add up to the kind of leadership Illinois needs any time, but especially this year with pension, education and transportation funding in dire need of help. Because of a no-tax-pledge made in spite of mounting fiscal problems and in the face of ambitions by the governor and Democratic legislators for new spending, the campaign of 2006 has come back to haunt Springfield. Where all this will end is anybody’s guess, but it tells you a lot that lawmakers are talking about an expansion of gambling.

* The Sun-Times also runs an editorial today entitled “Get leadership failure off legislative agenda”

Maybe a deal can still be reached to address the state’s funding problems, but it will take more flexibility and leadership than our government has so far displayed.

* And Eric Krol looks at why the governor’s tax plan tanked and includes this bit…

Where to from here? Looks like a session that’ll last half the summer, depending on whether Senate President Emil Jones decides to stand firm with ally Blagojevich (and is able to keep his members with him) or cut a scaled-back deal with House Speaker Michael Madigan.

* More tax and spend stories, compiled by our ever-popular intern Paul…

* Dem leaders finally talk budget, get nowhere

* Last minute jockeying in statehouse

* Budget meeting finally happens, leaders appear no closer to a deal

* Gambling emerges as key state budget item

* Blagojevich, Madigan, and Jones meet on budget

* Can Illinois bettors balance budget

* Some ready to bet on gambling

* Casino legislation back on the burner

* Looks like bet is off for Rockford casino

* Tribune Editorial: Illinois, Land of Baccarat?

* Editorial: Madigan speaks, cards are on the table

* AARP lobbies with apples for health bill


  1. - Fan of the Game - Friday, May 25, 07 @ 9:21 am:

    If Illinois is going to look to gambling, then let’s do it right and allow land-based casinos.

    We could become the Vegas of the Midwest and really expand gaming. We could make some of the more desolate places places in southern Illinois destination spots as Vegas became sprouting out of the desert and as Tunica is becoming along the Mississippi.

    The usual penny-ante arguing about one or two licenses won’t fund what Illinois needs. I’m not saying that gambling is the way to balance the budget, but if that is the course this legislature is headed, do it BIG. Then we can get those tax dollars from tourists who come from other states because our casinos have become a destination.

  2. - leigh - Friday, May 25, 07 @ 9:41 am:

    Is Cross not supporting a Chicago Casino because of fear it will hurt those in his own district?

  3. - Beginning of the End - Friday, May 25, 07 @ 9:50 am:

    They never saw the likes of Blagojevich before.
    This heavy baggage needs to be discarded and soon.

  4. - 105th Blues - Friday, May 25, 07 @ 10:12 am:

    Again we need to start talking about people making spending cuts instead of looking at ways to raise more money via taxes and gambling. Where’s the discussion at the State level about cutting budget expenses?

  5. - High Roller - Friday, May 25, 07 @ 10:36 am:

    We should not try to become the Vegas of the Midwest. That is so wrong, on so many levels.

    Be clear about this: gambling expansion is no panacea for our budget woes: it is going to make a few insiders attached to the projects, and their friends, very rich, at a financial and social cost to the entire state. Gambling tourism dollars are not going to be a significant chunk of the budget. The bulk of gamblers at these casinos will always be Illinois citizens, not tourists. You can argue gambling is a voluntary tax that hurts no one, but I disagree: it’s a regressive tax, the money that gets bet in the casino was money already here, either in savings or tied up as local, taxable capital or disposable income that would have gone to buy local products and services and feed the local and state economy.

    What the casino does is hoover most of that off out of state to the big gambling consortiums/managment companies in Vegas and elsewhere. That’s money that could have been put to work in this state on tangible things, useful things, necessary things. If you have the state run and operate the casinos itself, that’s another whole mess you’re inviting, as Rich’s story above regarding audits points out. The minimum wage jobs in janitorial and table dealers and such positions will not significantly affect employment stats. Even the construction jobs will not make much of a bump, and even that, only for a few months. And we get to reinforce the gangster stereotype for Chicago as well as create more real organized and petty crime and misery by feeding degenerate gambler’s addictions.

    There is no upside to the deal of expanding gambling, not for the state as a whole. It gets lobbied so heavily because a handful of connected people stand to become obscenely rich and powerful if it is made to happen. Don’t we have enough of that already?

  6. - Gene Parmesan - Friday, May 25, 07 @ 10:53 am:

    Gambling expansion won’t solve all of our financial woes, but the construction jobs, tax revenue, etc. will help somewhat.

    Seems to me that lost in all of this is why is gambling illegal in the first place? Do we really need the state protecting people from themselves in this manner? The state operates the lottery, folks go to riverboats, participate in NCAA pools, and drive to Gary or Milwaukee to casinos. Open it up, and enough with the rediculous “riverboats” that don’t move. Just let them have landbased.

  7. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, May 25, 07 @ 12:28 pm:

    Kudos to you, Rich. It takes brass cajones to call Jones and Madigan out like that.

    However, I can’t help but notice that CapitolFax seemed to have turned a thumbs down to most of the education funding reforms being offered, atleast until late, when CapitolFax gave credence to the Glengariff poll showing that the majority of Illinoisans support a modest tax increase in exchange for fairer school funding and substantial property tax relief. As I recall, CapitolFax largely discredited previous polls which showed much the same result.

    I know many folks are willing to throw in the towel until we throw out Blagojevich, but I’d like to suggest that the move of the primaries to early February might actually increase the odds of passing education funding reform next year.

    Moderate Republicans will be past their primary dates, and lawmakers from both parties will have a better idea of whether or not they will have a general election opponent.

    There are two keys to getting education and property tax refom passed next year. First, all of the disparate groups who say reform is badly needed need to get behind a single, simple plan. I can’t help but note that both the IFT and IEA donated funds to Blagojevich’s advertising fund for the GRT, where he bragged about his opposition to a sales or income tax increase. They must accept part of the responsibility for this mess.

    Proponents also need to start hammering Governor Blagojevich the day after he signs a shortfall budget. And by hammer, I mean no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners, up-yours-buddy demonization.

    They could start by holding a big press conference announcing that they are asking Blagojevich to return their campaign contributions, given that there’s a federal investigation into his campaign fund. “Given the mounting criminal defense bills facing the Governor’s campaign fund, it would be a disservice to the working men and women we represent to allow their campaign contributions to be used to defend a potentially criminal enterprise.” If the Governor refuses, I’d seek a court order asking that the funds be placed in escrow.

  8. - Fan of the Game - Friday, May 25, 07 @ 12:40 pm:

    High Roller,

    I don’t think expanded gambling is the answer, either, but if that is the tack the legislature is going to take to make the budget, then it needs to be done on that large scale.

    I would much rather see the state make business feel welcome in Illinois so that existing businesses expand and hire more workers and new companies want to relocate in Illinois. Alas, we are not business friendly.

  9. - Patriot - Friday, May 25, 07 @ 1:44 pm:

    Democrats are notorious for in-fighting and not being productive. The best that the Democrats can do is criticize the Republicans for attempting to be productive.

  10. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, May 25, 07 @ 3:22 pm:

    Patriot - one man’s “in-fighting” is another man’s “democracy.” One man’s “unity” is another man’s “authoritarianism”. I don’t remember alot of public in-fighting under Stalin, do you?

  11. - Patriot - Friday, May 25, 07 @ 3:30 pm:

    Point made.

  12. - A Citizen - Friday, May 25, 07 @ 4:27 pm:

    I have listened seriously to education industry folks for several decades and tried to make sense out of their constant droning for more money. The only conclusion I have been able to sustain throughout is that there is no upper limit, just more. I would expect a knowledge based industry that touts intellectual pursuits to be able to come up with an analytical approach to funding needs that would yield a tangible goal that could be understood. The “just trust us” approach for me has left a sense of profound distrust of the industry. Doing things “for the children” is a shallow and emotional argument without merit. Who else might you be doing it for? Obviously the answer lies in the huge overhead costs of non direct service delivery education staff. And frankly I think they are overpaid to the level of obscene salaries and perks. The military is led by civilians, perhaps the education industry needs to be led by serious non-education business type administrators. Restoration of trust and confidence in education at all levels is an admirable goal and should be pursued, starting with this budget cycle and then continuing into the future. The current leadership in the industry is irrevocably detached from the real world. It is time for a change, now!

  13. - Huh? - Friday, May 25, 07 @ 6:26 pm:

    A Citizen, how could you possible propose that a non educator, serious business type be a school administrator? What could they possible know about teaching our poor children? All they will be interested in is bean counting and interfering with the real work of the school.

    Sounds like a good idea. Know anybody who would be willing to take a pay cut to run a school district?

  14. - Huh? - Friday, May 25, 07 @ 6:27 pm:

    Rich -

    The message “Sorry, you can only post a new comment once every 15 seconds. Slow down cowboy.” is popping up again, even on the first posting.

  15. - Rich Miller - Saturday, May 26, 07 @ 7:19 am:

    Thanks. I noticed the same thing. It should be fixed now.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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