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Pretty spin

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

* I keep seeing this quote from Republicans, and nobody ever challenges them on it. Here’s House GOP Leader Tom Cross in the Southern Illinoisan…

To increase revenue ignores the root problems, Cross said. With that in mind, he suggested the state’s budget woes can’t be solved overnight.

“It’s a hole that took six years - or more - to get into,” he said. “I think you can take a year or two (to get out of it).”

Since Illinois can’t print money and has a balanced budget clause in its constitution, the only way to put off dealing with the deficit for “a year or two” is to borrow. You can borrow on the bond markets or “borrow” from state vendors by further delaying already horribly late payments. Borrowing beyond the end of the fiscal year will require GOP votes, and they haven’t said they’d be willing to do that as of yet.

It’s a really nice line, and seems quite reasonable. But there’s far more to this than they want reporters (and their readers) to think.

* Meanwhile, the SJ-R doesn’t quite come out and say they’d support a tax hike without exemptions as long as the state increased the Earned Income Tax Credit. Instead, they completely dodged the final issue

In proposing his tax increase plan, Gov. Pat Quinn also called for increasing exemptions to lessen the pain on many taxpayers. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton has advocated a much lower tax increase without increasing exemptions. Obviously, there is ample middle ground here that will be negotiated in the coming weeks.

We hope a discussion of increasing the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit finds its way to the table.

One wonders what the editorial board would do to a legislator who came into the room with that dodgeball language.

* And Kurt Erickson sums up why voting for tax hikes without any big new programs (or much more school funding) won’t go over well out in Voter Land

Citizen: Why did you raise my taxes?

Lawmaker: So we could keep the status quo.

Citizen: Wow. That kind of stinks.

Lawmaker: Can I expect your support on Election Day?

Citizen: Um. Why?

* Rep. Dave Winters (R-Shirland) says what’s on a lot of minds about House Speaker Michael Madigan and the capital construction program…

I’ll give you a leading indicator,” he said. “Does (Attorney General) Lisa Madigan pull the trigger and run for governor? If she does, you won’t see a capital plan because the speaker won’t allow it. If she doesn’t, then I think we’ll see a capital plan.”

I’m not quite sure what’s behind that logic, since killing the capital bill yet again could harm Ms. Madigan’s standing with labor unions, so maybe somebody can explain this more fully.

* Speaking of Lisa Madigan, Eric Zorn reprints a couple of memos from Bob Arya, who used to work for Rod Blagojevich. In this excerpt, he talks of a Blagojevich plan which I wrote about numerous times in the past…

Rod let me and others know that the goal was to “Damage the Madigan brand.” This meant doing all we could to make the Speaker look bad and make him look like the bad guy.

The goal was removing Speaker Madigan from his state party chairmanship and preventing Lisa Madigan from running for governor.

* Related…

* Kristen McQueary blasts the RTA for proposing a fleet of “express coaches” from the far southwestern suburbs to downtown Chicago: But here’s my problem: If you move to the far southwest suburbs, particularly west of Interstate 355, and you work in downtown Chicago, a longer and more complicated commute is the price you pay. You want another hour per day with your family? Move closer to your job.

* ‘Not a lot of pretty scenarios’

* Jones calls for state to cut back in budget

* Stimulus dollars help local schools - for now

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - bored now - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 6:59 am:

    wouldn’t rod have had to significantly raise the speaker’s (statewide) name recognition and thoroughly educated the public as to the power madigan has before he could “damage the brand?”

    i’ve always thought that one of the speaker’s key assets was his willingness to fly under the radar for most people…

  2. - Leroy - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 7:50 am:

    Shame on Kristen McQueary for blasting public transportation. And double shame on her for coming off as an elitist.

    Not everyone is a well paid columnist like you, Kristen. Some people can’t afford to live close in, and have to live in places like Romeoville, or Plano or Plainfield.

    I guess public transportation is only for certain people, not all of us. Sheesh.

  3. - phocion - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 7:56 am:

    I think I get Rep. Winters’ logic on the capital plan, but it’s misguided - or an intentional attempt to spike the capital plan because the Republicans are afraid of opposing it, and want the Democrats to spike it for them.

    His logic appears to be that if there’s a capital plan this year, Quinn gets labor support for his run next year. Problem with this logic: labor understands this game quite well. They will appreciate Quinn’s support for a capital program, but they’ll also appreciate Madigan’s support. If there’s no capital plan this year (when all the stars are aligned), they will blame the Speaker, and take it out on Lisa - not on Pat, who wanted to make it happen.

    Labor knows that as Governor Lisa won’t support the revenue increases needed for a capital plan, so future promises of a capital plan are simply not believable. If it gets done now, there won’t be any ribbon cuttings for Quinn to take advantage of before the 2010 primary. If capital doesn’t go through now, watch for the ire directed at the Madigans. Rep. Winters, your logic is exactly backward.

  4. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 7:57 am:

    ===Not everyone is a well paid columnist like you, Kristen.===


    The Southtown does not pay well. Take a breath.

  5. - Squideshi - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 8:09 am:

    === If you move to the far southwest suburbs, particularly west of Interstate 355, and you work in downtown Chicago, a longer and more complicated commute is the price you pay. You want another hour per day with your family? Move closer to your job. ===

    I wonder what the city would look like if everyone who worked there also lived there.

  6. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 8:28 am:

    You want another hour per day with your family? Move closer to your job.

    Or move your job closer to you.

    As Squid hints, the prospect of 10 million Illinoisans moving to Chicago to join the 3 million already there conjures up images of Mumbai or Hong Kong, which lifestyle so many are clamoring for. Not.

    The future of sustainable living can be found locally in places like Ogle, Grundy and La Salle counties, which grow enough food and provide enough energy for their own needs, and have plenty of both to export.

  7. - BIG R.PH. - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 8:45 am:

    Another example, this time by the SJR, of what is fundamentally wrong with newspapers. They don’t take strong stands and they don’t ask the hard questions. And they don’t ask the hard questions because of the inferior talent they hire and their lazy attitude toward pursuing a story.

  8. - Cassandra - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 8:48 am:

    Even if there is an increase in the EITC, Quinn’s proposed middle class income tax increase remains highly regressive. But that’s not the only problem.Nobody believes that the current recession will go on forever. But the tax increase will. If our fearless legislators
    can persuade us to fork over billions in additional taxes, they’ll be in the clover when the recession ends. And for state legislators, being in the clover (along with their relatives, cronies, and “campaign contributors,”) might be worth a little temporary pain. They’ll huff and they’ll puff but they’ll take our money.

  9. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 8:55 am:

    Why doesn’t the RTA just run more buses to the Metra stations? I ride buses and trains a lot; buses are my least favorite option.

    I find it hard to believe that there’s a big market for a bus from Bolingbrook to the Loop. Funnel what market there is to the trains.

  10. - Fan of the Game - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 9:09 am:

    Part of the problem with politics today is the clamoring of the electorate for “more.” I’m not sure whether we need an income tax increase, but if we got one, it could barely pay for what we owe now. There is no way we could get “more.” Maybe different, but not more.

  11. - Jake from Bellwood - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 9:09 am:

    Ms. McQueary is spot on with this analysis.
    There is ample public transportation to the South Suburbs. It is called METRA.
    We do not need more public transportation, we need more people to utilize the existing public transportation.
    Besides, the shoulder of the road is meant for emergency vehicle traffic and for cars that breakdown.

  12. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 9:33 am:

    We have been accurately stating that laws do not prevent bad people from doing bad things in office. Well, that doesn’t just apply to campaign financing. This also applies to the balanced budget clause in our constitution. In both cases, the intentions of these laws was to force limits onto elected legislators and statewide officials.

    Instead, they have found was around both. We haven’t had a balanced budget in Illinois since the beginning of this century. Worse, our elected leaders while on the campaign trail, use this ineffective guard rail as some kind of thing that will keep voters safe from fiscal mishaps. Except for Hynes and few others, the fact that Illinois’ elected officials have failed to allow the balanced budget clause to work as intended, has been ignored.

    Now, they painted themselves into a corner and have found that the Clause is preventing them from a possible solution to today’s fiscal disaster. So, after over a decade of unofficial unbalanced budgets propelling us towards bankrupsy, they find it tougher to avoid bankrupsy due to their budgetary lies.

    Mr. Cross is correct. The causes of our fiscal situation will not be addressed by tax increases. We have a state government run amok. It is filled with legislators unwilling to tell those who want help with their daily living that they cannot have government help without a loss of personal liberties to all and without taking hard earned cash from their neighbors, jeopardizing their family’s budget and causing more to seek help as a result.

    We have a legislature comfortable with dishonest budgeting. Most of them have fought for a larger piece of the publically funded trough, all the while knowing that the trough was filled with money no one can afford to repay. They clamoured for their fill, yet fell silent when it came time to find ways to pay to refill the public trough.

    Illinois government is bad. It has been bad for a long time. Nearly every golden goose has been slaughtered. Every dime that will be earned in our future, had been spent yesterday. Raising taxes will not solve these problems.

    I propose ethical reform for our state budget, not just for our elections. Our elected officials not only fail us when we ask that they run a clean and ethical campaign, they fail us when we have asked them to balance their budgets.

  13. - Pot calling kettle - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 9:34 am:

    Erikson is clever and legislators may very well feel that way, but, c’mon. The next item above on the blog today is about how secure the districts are because of gerrymandering.

    A tax increase vote this year, even without new programs, is about as safe as it will get. The problems can be blamed on Rod and the economy, and the election is over a year away. This is as good as it gets.

    That said, one good reason to hesitate is that those elected in 2010 will get to draw the new districts. If that’s all it takes to freeze the legislature, it just points more strongly to the need for a non-partisan process that is out of the legislature’s hands.

  14. - grand old partisan - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 10:15 am:

    Does McQueary really think that Romeoville, Bolingbrook and Plainfield don’t have any housing other than “four-bedroom Georgians?” Has she every actually been to any of those communities? Yes, they have their fare share of McMansions, but the people who live in those aren’t the ones looking for this service. But there is a large populations of 2 and a half bedroom townhouse/condo dwellers who moved out there because either (a) they wanted to stop wasting money on rent but couldn’t fine a decent place to live within their price range or maybe even (b) their first job out of college was in the burbs but have since changed jobs and can’t sell right now. Is it really asking too much for a system that their tax money funds to make some reasonable (and, in this case, relatively cost effective) accommodation?

    If I ever change jobs and take a position in the loop, I’ll be sure to consult Kristen on where all the affordable homes in (even relatively) low-crime communities are within reasonable commuting distance. Me and the 50,000+ other people in similar circumstances might be interested in moving there.

  15. - OneMan - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 10:17 am:

    Ok folks, first it is the RTA not the CTA that is looking at the ‘express buses’ so calling this some sort of Chicago power grab is misleading at best.

    Since PACE has been running buses that do basically the same thing from other locations (the south suburbs, Dolton, Harvey, etc) to other suburban locations (Oak Brook) without the express lanes, this isn’t a new concept.

    As for ‘take the train’ from Bolingbrook your options are realistically Joliet or Route 59, both of which have parking issues (Route 59 has significant parking issues). Also if you send them to Route 59 they are going to be getting on BNSF trains that are already full.

    As for ‘move closer to work’, easier said than done right now for a host of reasons. The affordability belt exists for a reason and that reason is that good homes with good schools exist out there.

    If the RTA can do something that is relatively low cost (vs. adding rail service) that reduces congestion and may improve air quality, that is something I want them to do. It is the very reason the RTA exists in part or address regional transit issues.

  16. - Concerned Observer - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 10:23 am:

    You’re missing a fundamental point about public transportation to the Bolingbrook area: There isn’t any.

    If I live in the Brook, or Plainfield, what are my choices:

    A) Drive to the BNSF line — most of which doesn’t have parking and which forces me to deal with traffic on either 59 or 55 every day.

    B) Drive to the Heritage Corridor line in Lockport — but there are only three trains in, and three trains out, and the commute is still longer than driving to BNSF. Oh, and it’s more expensive.

    C) Drive all the way to Joliet, dealing with traffic on Weber Road or 59, then spending an hour-12 on a train (and that’s an “express”), and oh-by-the-way paying STILL more.

    So RTA looks at this problem, realizes they’ll never get money for a rail line down I-55 to Bolingbrook or Plainfield, and says “what if we ran express buses to fill the need”.

    I don’t know if it will work, but I know that I like the fact that they try.

    **Full disclosure: I live in Romeoville, drive to Downers Grove every morning, and take a BNSF express in. I’d go to Lockport, but I actually spend more time “with my family”, Kristen, by driving out of my way to take that line than I would to Lockport because of the HC schedule.

    ***Oh, and Kristen? I can’t afford to move closer to the city, or have you seen how high home prices are, even now, after the bubble has burst? I bought a home out here because I could AFFORD it. I also can’t move my job. My job has an office downtown. I can’t work from home like a columnist, much as I’d like to. I have to be there.

    (wow, I got a bit worked up there…sorry, but I do stick by my points)

  17. - the Patriot - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 10:34 am:

    Cross and the rupublicans are still dancing around the issue. The fact is MIKE MADIGAN put each and every budget signed by Blago on his desk. You can blam Blago for a billion here or there, but the budgets are MADIGANS. Even the republicans won’t go after Mike. Lisa endorsed Blago once, and Mike twice. After hammering Jim Ryan for not indicting George, Lisa let Rod rob the state blind for two more years then George got. Our taxes and debts will increase until we get rid of the Madigans because they simply care more about maintaining a strangle hold on the state politics then the well fare of the citizens. If there was any argument to the contrary it would have been in Mike not endorsing Blago after he KNEW the man would end up in prison.

  18. - Crystal Clear - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 10:43 am:

    The balanced budget clause in the constitution is just words. Previous and current Governors and General Assemblies have figured out how to game that provision. Until the carry over deficit is equal to the entire budget, it means nothing.

    If we don’t begin a budget process that truly takes a look at everything, then we can’t fix this problem, no matter how much we raise taxes.

    Even when there is true scrutiny to the process at the agency level, it gets skewed by the Governor and the General Assembly.

    I simply don’t want to pay more tax until there is true scrutiny applied to the entire process. Especially when it is clear that Filan’s finger prints are all over this budget.

  19. - The KQ - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 12:28 pm:

    In good traffic, it is about an hour commute for me now that the new 355 extension is complete. I have family in the SW burbs, and my job is in Rolling Meadows. I would LOVE to take public transportation, but there isn’t any. I am also glad that they are trying out some alternatives, and will watch the results closely because the same idea (using busses) has been discussed as an option for 355 commuters. I am looking for a home that will put me half-way between family and work, which means the Plainfield/Bolingbrook area. But, I still can’t affort to live in that area. So, for now I just hope gas prices stay low and I will keep looking.

  20. - City dweller - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 12:32 pm:

    I agree with McQueary. I am sick of hearing people from the suburbs complain about long commutes. They work in the Loop and know that’s where the jobs and money are. But they think they are running from minority neighbors and crime by moving to the burbs. Then it’s the poor me, I don’t get home from work until 8 because the commute is so long. It’s a choice we make. I can make it downtown in 20 minutes and that was my choice.

  21. - Concerned Observer - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 12:49 pm:

    See, I think you’re completely wrong City Dweller — I don’t think the black guy who lives next door to me is making some sort of “white flight” for obvious reasons. But I at least understand that part of your opinion.

    Here’s what I don’t get. Why do you care? Obviously, this issue has no impact on you. You don’t use the public transportation. You lose more money in your couch cushions on a daily basis than this program would take out of your pocket. And yet you have this visceral reaction to the plan.

    By your logic, we should get rid of all public transportation, since those people obviously should have decided to live within walking distance of their work, or should just deal with the consequences.

  22. - Shore - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 12:50 pm:

    The new intern is doing a pretty decent job. Those clips yesterday were as thorough as I’ve ever seen them and well organized.

  23. - Anon - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 1:12 pm:

    I feel like Rep. Winters’ logic is that if there is no capital plan this year, Quinn will look like another do-nothing politician; unemployment will continue to rise and people will suffer. Mike Madigan may be the one who derails it, but Quinn will be the one who is blamed come February.

  24. - Pot calling kettle - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 1:25 pm:

    Madigan knows that his name is only on the ballot in his district. The whole state gets to vote on Quinn. If you’re mad, you take it out on whoevers name is on the ballot. (Of course, if people vote against “Madigan” that could hurt Lisa.)

  25. - techboy - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 2:00 pm:

    I would have preferred it if Quinn just said no to running for election to the governorship, so he could concentrate fully on fixing what’s busted. But the psychology of Springfield plays into this, and Quinn may feel that to get the respect and attention of key people, he HAS to run or make a show of running, to be taken seriously. Right now the legislature is friendly enough but acts a lot like kids who see they have a substitute teacher for the day, so they may not do their best or hardest work.

    The attitude among some down here is that if you don’t have skin in the game, we’ll find someone who does, because that makes for more long-term mutual success.

    How this plays into the capital bill and budget is, non-candidate Quinn is the janitor and fall guy, he does all the hard and unpopular but vitally necessary work, and Lisa or some other candidate comes in with the most unpleasant work already done for them.

    In that scenario, playing ball with Quinn is nice but in the end you throw most of your effort towards supporting some other active candidate’s agenda, so that they can share back some spoils after they win.

    If Quinn is in it to win it, the Game Theorists then want to work more cooperatively with him to stay on his good side, in hopes they can get his favor on bills over the next four years. Quinn then has to play ball right back and make compromises to help form these alliances. Compromises that may weaken the efforts at reforms and structural change.

    I don’t envy Quinn: to not run means your motives are less questioned or compromised, but you limit your effectiveness because nobody will lend you much support since you’re not going to be around after the work is done. If you run full-out, you clash with Mike, and little may get done so as to keep Quinn from getting the credit. A middle way would be to make a pro forma show of a run, but promise Mike it won’t go all the way, in exchange for Mike greasing the wheels on the budget, cap bill, and reforms.

    Having the budget/capital/reform cake and eating it too are looking about like Schrödinger’s cat about now.

  26. - BIG R.PH. - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 2:14 pm:

    Y’all just need to move down south.
    8 minutes to work in my gas guzzling SUV. Gas is cheap in MO @ $1.85/Gal.

    BTW Look who has the best record in all of MLB.
    Go Cards!!

  27. - City dweller - Tuesday, Apr 28, 09 @ 2:54 pm:

    - Concerned Observer -

    I was making a generalization. I don’t care where people live. I was commenting on the article. My point being, I grew up in the city with some folks who fled to the burbs because they think it’s better than city living, status, fear, whatever. But I don’t want to hear them complain about the long commute when they had a choice. That is what I think McQueary is saying. And by the way, I do take public transportation and my kids use it all the time.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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* Avi suffers hamstring strain; leaves game in 2nd
* White Sox relish in runs revival to bust slump

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