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A good plan to stop the override, but no plan yet to pass a bill

Monday, Jul 31, 2017

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

During the lead-up to the recent special legislative session over the state budget and a tax hike, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s staff studied whether their boss had the power to force legislators to attend the sessions.

A court ruled during the Rod Blagojevich era that the General Assembly must convene at the date and time ordered by the governor, but Rauner’s staff found nothing in state statutes that gives the governor the power to, for instance, deploy the Illinois State Police to haul legislators to Springfield. You may recall 2011, when several Wisconsin and Indiana Democratic legislators attempted to deny their General Assemblies a quorum by fleeing to Illinois, outside the jurisdiction of their respective state police forces. But, as we’ve seen time and time again, for better or for worse, we aren’t Wisconsin or Indiana.

The battle plan to kill the Democrats’ education funding reform bill (Senate Bill 1) that was plotted before Gov. Rauner’s infamous staff purge in early July, and which still appears to be mostly operative, actually anticipated low special session turnout since there likely wouldn’t be much of anything to vote on. They figured that the Democrats would wait a while before lifting the parliamentary brick off the education funding reform bill - the better to foment a crisis atmosphere as the clock ticks down to schools reopening after summer break.

So, legislators not showing up for session will likely only amplify the governor’s contention that the majority party isn’t interested in preventing a crisis and funding schools. The cops aren’t needed.

Overall, the plan devised a while back is pretty good, even though it relies heavily on stoking the flames of regionalism with an unspoken but still clear racial element. Rauner’s “Chicago bailout” card is about the easiest one to throw in this state, and it has been played longer than anyone reading this has been alive.

Despite the fact that Downstate pays far less in state taxes than it receives in state benefits, people who live there think Chicago is the place that gets all the taxpayer goodies. It’s actually suburbanites who pay the bills on net, and with their high local property taxes and a recent income tax hike, those folks are probably (and understandably) not thrilled with the idea of bailing out the city’s notorious school system.

The bill’s supporters have lined up an impressive list of Downstate and suburban school superintendents in strong support of SB 1. Education groups like Stand for Children (which was, ironically enough, brought to Illinois by then-private citizen Bruce Rauner) have been advertising locally to back the plan.

But school superintendents are often resented by local taxpayers for their high salaries. And at least one has already been singled out by conservative political activist Dan Proft’s newspaper empire. Proft’s outfit published a snarky article last week about Harrisburg Superintendent Mike Gauch, a prominent SB 1 supporter who is often cited by proponents. The piece noted that Gauch and his wife, a Carbondale public school teacher, make a combined $220,000 per year, plus benefits.

“The Gauches represent a new reality in Southern Illinois,” the article claimed, “a public employee power couple whose income ranks them among the wealthiest families in Saline County.

Aside from the class warfare angle, the superintendents don’t have a vote in the General Assembly. So, while they can credibly claim all they want that SB 1 isn’t a Chicago bailout, the governor simply counters with his own numbers (which he won’t verify) that Downstate and suburban schools would do much better with his plan (which he refused to disclose for weeks).

The idea of using the superintendents was not just to encourage Republican legislators to support SB 1, but to give them ample political cover if they decided to cross the governor and override his veto. But since the governor has concocted his own proposal with his own numbers (which show that schools outside the city will get lots more money than they would under SB 1), that encouragement now means little and the cover is blown.

Downstate and suburban Democrats who vote to override his veto are also put in a bind because the governor can claim that those Democrats voted against their districts and for Chicago.

Preventing a veto override is the governor’s main effort here, but passing a bill into law that reforms school funding is a whole different matter. Without such a law on the books, billions of dollars of state education formula money can’t be distributed. And as I write this, that solution doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s horizon.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

31 Comments
  1. - slow down - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 9:07 am:

    So the governor is relying on a plan which he cannot and will not explain in order to campaign against an actual written bill passed by the legislature. As always, he’s an able campaigner, but hopelessly lost as an actual governor.


  2. - winners and losers - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 9:09 am:

    ==The idea of using the superintendents==
    ==school superintendents are often resented by local taxpayers for their high salaries==

    Months ago I warned school superintendents of trying to have it all: the extreme local control granted by SB 1 plus $8 billion in new funding over the next 10 years.


  3. - Puddintaine - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 9:09 am:

    It sounds as if the glowing lands and people north of I80 would almost be better off without all of us mewling for scraps and clinging to their legs.

    Let me be the first to shout for hosannas of praise and thankfulness to be sung in honor of these magnificent and munificent beings who shower us with providence


  4. - winners and losers - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 9:12 am:

    ==our school funding plan ensures a high quality education is accessible to ALL students==

    Another grandiose promise about SB 1 made by Senate DEMS


  5. - Texas Red - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 9:17 am:

    Proft pointed out how much a Harrisburg superintendent and his Carbondale teacher wife make, and yes, the class warfare card is played. But the Dem’s have constantly play the income inequity card in favor of taxes/entitlements.


  6. - JohnnyPyleDriver - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 9:24 am:

    $220,000 for a teacher and superintendent doesn’t really sound like that much, am i wrong?


  7. - Anonymous - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 9:26 am:

    ==But the Dem’s have constantly play the income inequity card in favor of taxes/entitlements.==

    I dunno, “stop giving tax breaks to billionaires so we can pay for our roads and schools” sounds a lot less “warfare-y” than lighting up the pitchforks for a middle class couple making $220,000 a year


  8. - Lynn S. - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 9:38 am:

    Johnny PyleDriver and Anonymous:

    You do realize the median income in Southern Illinois, outside of the Metro East area? This couple is easily in the top 20% for income, and qite possibly top 10% for their County.

    Next questions: how many kids in the superintendent’s district, what’s the poverty rate, and what do the district’s test scores look like?

    Definitely a class card moment, though.


  9. - Norseman - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 9:42 am:

    Good column Rich.

    Rauner is good at keeping things from getting done, tearing things down and blaming others. Our problem is Illinois needs a leader to get things done and working for solutions.


  10. - Anonymous - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 9:44 am:

    ==I dunno, “stop giving tax breaks to billionaires so we can pay for our roads and schools” sounds a lot less “warfare-y” than lighting up the pitchforks for a middle class couple making $220,000 a year==

    They’re classified as the top 10%….


  11. - JohnnyPyleDriver - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 10:08 am:

    I was “Anonymous” at 9:26 am.

    Yes, I’m well aware the median income. I live down here, well aware of the struggles. I’m also well aware what people make. I know middle managers at Ameren making over $200k a year. I know designers that make over $100k. A guy in charge of all the districts schools making $100k is not a lot of money. How much should a superintendent make? How much should a career teacher make? Neither of these numbers are large. Like at all


  12. - wordslinger - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 10:08 am:

    A sniveling appeal to regionalism and “the racial element” is as low as an Illinois governor can go. That’s the stuff of brain dead, backbench mushrooms.

    Like Trump, Rauner is a weakling’s conception of a strong leader.


  13. - cdog - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 10:09 am:

    It seems to me that the “Chicago bailout card” would not have been necessary play if the last minute amendment(s?) had not been added to SB1.

    What goes around comes around.

    Madigan/Cullerton/Dem Party brought this rejection of a region by their decades of protection and special treatment of that region.


  14. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 10:20 am:

    ===It seems to me that the “Chicago bailout card” would not have been necessary play if the last minute amendment(s?) had not been added to SB1.

    What goes around comes around.===

    This only works in a thought process that Rauner owns the veto.

    “What goes around comes around.”

    “I didn’t want to make schools suffer, or have schools not open. I felt I owed it to them to veto and force damage.”


  15. - cdog - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 10:25 am:

    Ow. I think the whole concept of “owning” anything with Illinois politics is fading into the background.

    Rauner has nothing to lose at this point. Watch out, the kitchen sinks will be flying.


  16. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 10:28 am:

    ===I think the whole concept of “owning” anything with Illinois politics is fading into the background.===

    Considering Rauber continues to place blame on Dems and Madigan for things they can’t possibly be held liable, your premise is “flawed” at best.

    ===Rauner has nothing to lose at this point. Watch out, the kitchen sinks will be flying.===

    Why? Rauner owns his destruction. He can’t have that.


  17. - Anon Downstate - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 10:30 am:

    “Downstate and suburban Democrats who vote to override his veto are also put in a bind because the governor can claim that those Democrats voted against their districts and for Chicago.”
    ————-
    That argument has power behind it. IMO, Unless Madigan/Fullerton can shake loose a coalition of Republicans in the House to cross over and back SB1, there’s no chance of an override. Madigan is not going to sacrifice his remaining suburban /downstate Democrats on an exercise in futility.


  18. - illini97 - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 10:32 am:

    “Ow. I think the whole concept of “owning” anything with Illinois politics is fading into the background.

    Rauner has nothing to lose at this point. Watch out, the kitchen sinks will be flying.”

    Rauner’s negatives in polling are remarkably bad. He’s certainly owning something.


  19. - Texas Red - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 10:33 am:

    =Word=

    “regionalism and “the racial element”

    I suppose seem from a different point to view the opposition to SB1 and CPS funding, could be seen as one of individual liberty and fiscal constraint. But hey that is just one view among many.


  20. - wordslinger - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 11:14 am:

    TR, Rauner’s all about “fiscal constraint,” is he?

    That extra $10B he piled on the backlog of bills says otherwise.

    But you’re in Texas, so maybe that was all a dream, like in “Dallas.”

    I have no idea what you mean by “individual liberty” in this context. Is that a leftover from a previous word salad?


  21. - Texas Red - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 11:26 am:

    =Word=
    Actual I’m in the land of Lincoln suffering with the rest of us; my nom de plume is from a classic Marty Robbins song. As for your comment - I’m befuddled by the “racial element”, might say more about you than others.


  22. - Demoralized - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 11:29 am:

    == individual liberty ==

    Liberty from what? That’s an odd argument to insert in this discussion.


  23. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 11:31 am:

    ===I’m befuddled by the “racial element”, might say more about you than others===

    Somebody just fell off a turnip truck.


  24. - Texas Red - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 11:42 am:

    I guess I don’t what to be on that truck -
    I’d rather see Illinois govern using the standard of equality of opportunity, not outcome. Let the residents of Chicago properly self-govern themselves; that includes accepting the consequences of elected leaders in collusion with unions making foolish decisions.


  25. - Sue - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 11:43 am:

    Word- how can you blame Rauner for the 10 B in Bill’s. The courts forced him to spend money at the old levels imposed by the Dems before he took office. The money spent wasn’t due to Rauner increases in govt spending. The laughable thing is that 2 weeks after Madigan announced a balanced budget we now know he is short 2.3 Billion in revenue with no intention of reducing spending. If the unpaid bills rise due to the Madigan shortfall is that Rauner’s fault?


  26. - Earnest - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 11:53 am:

    >Word- how can you blame Rauner for the 10 B in Bill’s. The courts forced him to spend money at the old levels imposed by the Dems before he took office.

    Incorrect. All the spending was not court-ordered. No court made him do a big spend on IT consulting, new building leases, creating of new staff positions, most human service contracts, state vendors, etc. He signed a ton of contracts for which there weren’t enough appropriations to cover.


  27. - wordslinger - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 12:09 pm:

    Sue, that doesn’t even qualify as weak spin. Try harder.

    Earnest, Rauner signed a ton of contracts then vetoed the appropriations for them. It’s called squeeze the beast.


  28. - Demoralized - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 1:07 pm:

    == how can you blame Rauner ==

    I don’t know. Probably because he’s the Governor. You people who seem to be on the Rauner is a victim bandwagon are something else. Noting is ever his fault.

    ==with no intention of reducing spending==

    The Governor can do that on his own. He doesn’t have to spend everything that was appropriated.


  29. - Demoralized - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 1:08 pm:

    Texas Red

    You could have simply said “It’s not my problem” and left it at that. Under the bus the kids in Chicago go with you huh?


  30. - Mama - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 4:18 pm:

    If the public spent a week as a district superintendent, principle, teacher, teacher’s aide or school bus driver, there is no doubt in my mind, the people whom are complaining about their pay would be saying those people are not paid enough.


  31. - wordslinger - Monday, Jul 31, 17 @ 8:14 pm:

    – I’m befuddled by the “racial element”, might say more about you than others.–

    I guess it would say that I’ve been sentient during my lifetime in Illinois.

    What’s it say about you?

    Those dog whistles have been the preserve of do-nothing mushrooms, not governors.


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