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Question of the day

Monday, Apr 15, 2019

* Daily Herald editorial

If a school district — or any local government, for that matter — overtly promoted a bond issue that required voter approval, it would be drawn and quartered.

That’s against the law, and so when Barrington Unit District 220 recently held a referendum for one, school officials were careful to ensure that any publicity that was underwritten by the government was strictly informational, in tone as well as word.

Contrast that with the messaging you and we are financing through Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office. As one example: a “Fair Tax Calculator” on the Illinois government website that begins with the message, “Governor Pritzker is making good on his promise to protect working families and make our system more fair. With a fair tax, 97 percent of taxpayers will see some tax relief.”

Sounds more than a little promotional, wouldn’t you agree? […]

There’s only one reason for Pritzker to brand his proposal as a “fair tax:” to subliminally promote voter support. Who, after all, would want to consider themselves unfair?

At first I just figured this was a typical editorial from opponents demanding that the other side fight with both hands tied behind their back. But I checked the statutes and here’s one of the definitions for prohibited political activities on state time

Campaigning for any elective office or for or against any referendum question.

Of course, the referendum hasn’t qualified for the ballot as of yet. But whatevs.

* The Question: Is the governor campaigning on state time? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please…

survey services

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - South of Sherman - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 11:56 am:

    I said no. It’s not a referendum question yet, not on any ballot. But he will have to watch that very carefully if and when it crosses that threshold.

  2. - Suzzz - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 11:59 am:

    I’m failing to see how this is any different than what the Rauner administration did with his turnaround agenda. Is the governor not supposed to advocate for policy positions he believes in? Isn’t that his whole job… to come up with plans and work to make sure they’re implemented? I could argue his fair tax calculator is a good transparency measure. His administration is allowing people to see how policy would affect their lives. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

  3. - Give Me A Break - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:00 pm:

    If this meets that standard, everyone single gov from 1818 forward as campaigned on state time to move their agendas.

  4. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:03 pm:

    Yes, he is. And every office holder, ever, is and has been constantly campaigning on state time.

    What do you think ribbon-cuttings were invented for?

    So, who’s going to make the mass citizens’ arrests — Gomer, Goober and the boys at the filling station?

    –If a school district — or any local government, for that matter — overtly promoted a bond issue that required voter approval, it would be drawn and quartered.–

    That’s just a bizarre statement. I can’t recall a school referendum that wasn’t overtly supported by both board and district officials.

  5. - Shytown - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:09 pm:

    No. This is a dumb premise. Every governor tries to push/sell/advocate for their agenda.

  6. - Wow - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:09 pm:

    It’s what Governor’s do.. but.. if this question gets to the ballot, I assume Mr Baise would go to court to stop using State resources.

  7. - allknowingmasterofraccoodom - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:09 pm:

    Absolutely 100% he is campaigning on state time. Promoting a referendum is a HUGE no-no. I watch municipal authorities closely who run ref’s and in 10 years I have not even seen a sniff of promotional activity of any ref.

  8. - Actual Red - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:10 pm:

    I voted yes initially, but I do think the fact that its not technically a referendum question yet probably gives the administration some cover.

    Either way, I don’t particularly care. As other commenters note, the governor has to promote their agenda.

  9. - Minnie Pearl Jam - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:11 pm:

    Voted no.

    Law is clear on the use of state resources: advocating for a legislative agenda is permitted generally, advocating for a balloted referendum question is prohibited.

  10. - Ron Burgundy - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:12 pm:

    I agree that the answer is “not yet.” If and when it becomes an actual referendum question might be a different story based on the letter of the law. I don’t think the agendas of prior governors involved referenda so those could be apples to oranges. Of course governors can promote their agendas.

  11. - JS Mill - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:16 pm:

    I voted yes. That is what they do and there is nothing wrong with it.

    =–If a school district — or any local government, for that matter — overtly promoted a bond issue that required voter approval, it would be drawn and quartered.–

    That’s just a bizarre statement. I can’t recall a school referendum that wasn’t overtly supported by both board and district officials.=

    That is actually true. You can talk about the benefits of the referendum, you can say “vote” but as a school official on school time. It is asinine, but that is the rule.

    Now, citizens committees can say what ever they want.

  12. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:18 pm:

    No - as noted, been going on since 1818. The editorial reminds me of this.

  13. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:20 pm:

    –I watch municipal authorities closely who run ref’s and in 10 years I have not even seen a sniff of promotional activity of any ref.–

    Where did those referendums and the arguments promoting them originate?

  14. - NoGifts - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:23 pm:

    Voted no. The words used to describe a desired policy are always carefully chosen to support or oppose a policy. The governor’s office gets to choose the words like any other elected office. And the other side can call it the “job killing tax.” Are legislators opposed to the tax calling it the fair tax? LOL

  15. - Illinois Refugee - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:31 pm:

    Voted Yes. The minute they put political spin on it with the “fair tax” label, it stopped becoming factual.

  16. - lake county democrat - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:32 pm:

    What a weird thing - it obviously violates the spirit, and it’s obviously a law that reasonable people wouldn’t want enforced to the letter. But, hey, pension clause. When it does become an referendum and the governor is campaigning for it, we’ll see how “rule of law”-ish our judiciary is - if the GOP picks its judge/jurisdiction carefully it may get an injunction (until the IL Supreme Court rules it’s not appropriate for the judiciary to enforce under some separation of powers argument).

  17. - A Jack - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:34 pm:

    No, they go further into referendums later in the law. Although I suspect the Daily Herald lost interest before reading that far. And the calculator is informational anyway.

  18. - NeverPoliticallyCorrect - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:35 pm:

    I voted yes because although the bill hasn’t been passed he is clearly trying to get it passed. As an elected official I have had to keep my distance on a number of referendum issues. We all understand this. The question will be will J. B. keep his distance once the bill passes.

  19. - Thomas Paine - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:47 pm:


    It’s not campaigning unless you say “Vote for…” See the recent Willie Wilson decision.

    Might seem like an arbitrary spot to draw the line, but the line had to be drawn somewhere.

  20. - RNUG - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:51 pm:

    Expected from a Governor. Over the line if the agencies are pushing it.

  21. - MyTwoCents - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:56 pm:

    He’s not because it’s not a referendum question, it is currently a legislative agenda to get the amendment on the ballot.

    That being said I think the entire question is moot. It doesn’t seem that Governor Pritzker meets the Ethics Act definition of a “state employee” but is instead an “Executive branch constitutional officer.” Section 5-15 of the Act says that State employees can’t perform prohibited activity on State time. So IMHO nobody under the governor can campaign for any referendum on State time but there’s nothing that says Governor Pritzker can’t.

    Additionally, as governor what’s the difference between State time and not State time? I wouldn’t recommend having any sites associated with the amendment but beyond that it seems like legally speaking anything goes for the governor.

  22. - Just Observing - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:59 pm:

    Actually, from what I’ve seen, a good number of public bodies use taxpayer dollars to promote referendums they are supporting. They won’t say “vote for” but it will be “informational” that is all positive. Or, if they include negative arguments in their information, it’s usually weak or watered-down negative arguments.

  23. - Get it Solved - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 1:00 pm:

    Every governor attempts to push/advocate for their agenda. I see Daniel Biss was at UIS to help promote the fair tax. Appeared to be about 20 people who attended.

  24. - A Jack - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 1:00 pm:

    Although, to be in the safe side, the Governor might remove the first sentence of the fair tax calculator page. That sentence doesn’t add anything to the calculator and might be considered self promotional if its there when he runs for office again.

  25. - Norseman - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 1:06 pm:

    Campaigning is in the eye of the beholder. It’s easy to criticize efforts to request funds for a campaign or to urge folks to vote for him/herself, the idea of urging folks to support policy initiatives is more of a gray area. Therefore, I voted no.

    We expect our candidates to espouse policy initiatives during a “campaign” for the office, we cannot then criticize them for urging the implementation of these initiatives.

  26. - Boone's is Back - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 1:16 pm:

    It’s unnecessary to be on a state website. The administration should err on the side of caution and remove it.

  27. - titan - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 1:17 pm:

    Elected officials aren’t “punch the time clock” employees. What is “state time” for them is a little nebulous.

  28. - Henry Francis - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 1:20 pm:

    State time? I’ve been thinking about this, if I’m here and you’re here, doesn’t that make it our time?

  29. - Gooner - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 1:20 pm:

    Typically, I don’t like the “BUT RAUNER DID IT!” type of response, but I think on this one, it matters.

    An elected official is going to promote his agenda. It is different from campaiging. It just is.

    When Rauner did it I didn’t like the message, but I didn’t have a real problem with it.

    Same with J.B.

    On the other hand, billboards saying “Mayor * Welcomes You” or “Governor * Welcomes You” bugs the heck out me.

    I’m not claiming that my views are rational.

  30. - Jocko - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 1:26 pm:

    Like the saying goes, “The governor proposes, the legislature disposes”. I’d be more upset if JB DIDN’T travel the state pushing his ideas.

  31. - I Miss Bentohs - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 1:27 pm:

    Yes, he is.
    No, I don’t care that he is.

  32. - sewer thoughts - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 1:30 pm:

    There is a huge distinction between staff and elected officials - even personal staff. This is part of the job description, I don’t want elected officials I disagree with to be silent on their issues.

  33. - Markus - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 1:35 pm:

    Voted No- @MyTwoCents has a point. The act prohibits State Employees from campaigning on State time and State Officers from directing those employees to do it on state time.

    Nothing prohibits officers, elected officials or school board members for that matter, from speaking their mind. They just can’t direct State Employees to assist them in promoting a referendum on State compensated time. A press release campaigning for the referendum issued by an employee would violate the act. One issued by the officer or board member would not unless there is a court opinion somewhere that disputes that.

  34. - Streator Curmudgeon - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 1:41 pm:

    Voted yes. Is the governor campaigning on state time? Yes. Does it matter? No.

    Are PAC donations to politicians legalized bribery? Yes. Does it matter? Yes.

  35. - Nick Name - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 1:56 pm:

    Yes, but as has been said, this is what they do, including school districts. Was Squeezy the Pension Python any different?

  36. - Downstate Illinois - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 1:58 pm:

    The governor can do what he wants. That’s his First Amendment rights. However, any staffer that uses state resources to promote the referendum in the way that it’s being promoted is violating the law and could be held accountable.

  37. - Anon - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 2:23 pm:

    The way I read the statute, an elected official does not appear to fall within the definition of a “State Employee” for whom political activities are prohibited on state time. This would be consistent with caselaw generally that says that an elected official is not a governmental “employee.”

  38. - Earnest - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 3:08 pm:

    I voted no. Advocating for legislation he supports is part of his job, same with legislators. It’s reasonable to have the state provide a calculator to show the potential impact of the proposed tax. I do agree that the question merits discussion.

  39. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 3:40 pm:

    So the Daily Herald, which traditionally harps that it wants to be told the dollars and cents impact of policies, is now objecting to being told the dollars and cents impact?

    Whatever it takes to defend the status quo you guys.

    Just wondering, after demanding everything change, when did the DH edit board decide change is bad?

    I’ll hang up and listen.

  40. - Montrose - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 3:57 pm:

    No for the same reasons others have said. He is pushing legislation right now. There is nothing on the ballot. Once the question is formally on the ballot, its a whole different ball game.

  41. - d. p. gumby - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 3:58 pm:

    This is the Gov’s job to educate the public on his proposals.

  42. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 4:09 pm:

    –Once the question is formally on the ballot, its a whole different ball game.–

    I predict he’ll continue doing what he’s doing, if it gets on the ballot. And elected opponents will campaign against it, as they are doing now.

  43. - Bigtwich - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 4:24 pm:

    Sec. 5-15 of the act deals with “Prohibited political activities”. It is directed to State employes. It does not prohibit such activities by State Officials.

  44. - Father Ted - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 4:46 pm:

    Of course he is campaigning on state time….but as Bigtwich points out, the statute does not prohibit this activity; such restrictions apply to “state employees”. Constitutional and legislative officers are not subject to Section 5-15 (a) of the act.

  45. - walker - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 5:23 pm:

    There must be nothing else happening in Springfield for the DH to comment on. Disappointing.

  46. - anonymous - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 8:52 pm:

    Bigtwich . - you mean like this?


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  47. - Harvest76 - Tuesday, Apr 16, 19 @ 7:25 am:

    Not yet. He campaigned on this as a conceptual issue and is now trying to find support with more specifics. That’s how it works when you win an election. If it didn’t, Trump would be guilty every single day by trying to drum up support for a wall. If this issue becomes a ballot question, then the answer might change. But for now, he simply following through on campaign promises.

  48. - Whatever - Tuesday, Apr 16, 19 @ 9:00 am:

    He’s clearly campaigning and likely on state time. However, he’s not a “state employee” as defined in the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act quoted in the question. That Act prohibits state employees from campaigning for a referendum on state time and prohibits the governor from requiring state employees engage in campaigning on state time or as a condition of employment, but does not prohibit the governor himself from campaigning.

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