Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Rauner and Democratic agendas include everything but governing

SHARE Rauner and Democratic agendas include everything but governing
SHARE Rauner and Democratic agendas include everything but governing

Unable to solve the pension crisis, deal with the state’s antiquated school funding system or even pass a budget, Democratic lawmakers decided to hold a news conference and unveil an “Illinois Comeback Agenda.”

Republicans were not involved because earlier this year they had been allowed to participate in creating “The Grand Bargain” with Democrats, which has since been marked down to a “Teensy Trial Balloon.”

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Some people blame Gov. Bruce Rauner for that failure, but I think that’s unfair. It seems clear to me that the governor feels he was elected primarily to complain about Michael Madigan, the Illinois House speaker and Democratic Party leader, not actually to solve any of the state’s most pressing problems.

I say that because Rauner repeatedly whines that Madigan is a bully who won’t let the governor do what he wants. What the governor wants to do is impose term limits (so Democrats will be tossed out of office), change the way legislative districts are drawn (so Democrats won’t be able to dominate elections) and get rid of all the government union workers (who support Democratic Party candidates for office).

As for the state’s pension debt, it has grown by billions of dollars since the governor was elected and the state has borrowed millions of dollars more to pay its bills, which includes interest on money the state previously borrowed.

Democrats, who approved out-of-balance budgets for decades, blame the the governor for proposing reforms that would not solve the problems they created.

The truth is that this is the worst-run state in the nation, a bi-partisan accomplishment that is probably the greatest accomplishing of government in Illinois over the past 30 years.

The top priority of the comeback agenda apparently is a graduated state income tax, which might actually be a good thing. Unfortunately, that would require a change in the state constitution, which mandates a flat income tax. A referendum would have to be placed on the election ballot and then, if passed, the measure would still take two years to become law.

The Democrats’ comeback agenda would also attempt to eliminate cash bonds in criminal cases.

Here I was thinking the state’s main problem is that it spends way more money than it has, while legislators have focused on the financial difficulties of suspected criminals.

The Democrats argue that cash bonds keep way too many innocent people locked up in jails awaiting trial.

Why elected officials would sympathize more with suspected drug dealers, purse snatchers and muggers than they do with taxpayers (who have their own financial problems) might be a worthy topic during the next state election.

And Rauner is already focusing on that election. He contends that unlike his “Turnaround Agenda,” the Democrats’ “Comeback Agenda” does not call for a property tax freeze.

Rauner has made a property tax freeze a key component of his administration though it would do nothing at all to balance the state’s budget, reduce the pension debt or pay the backlog of bills.

That’s because property taxes are primarily used to fund public schools because the state has failed to adequately fund education, just as it failed to fund the pension systems.

It’s a politically popular position for the governor to take, even if it does nothing to balance the state’s budget, because everyone wants their property taxes cut.

The important thing to remember here is that the governor has his “Turnaround Agenda” and the Democrats have their “Comeback Agenda,” and the one thing left off their “to do” lists is actually governing the state.

There’s no room for that on their busy agendas right now.


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