Illinois is the reason people hate government.
The state is in the middle of a terrible financial crisis and two political titans are battling over bragging rights to the political carnage.
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who is likely to spend more than $100 million on his political campaign if he runs for re-election next year, claims to be on the side of reform.
Rauner wants to freeze property taxes, cut worker’s compensation and undermine collective bargaining rights. He would also like term limits for state officials and reduce the gerrymandering of legislative districts.
Almost all of these things would undermine the Democratic Party’s voting base and do nothing to balance the state’s budget — which is a terrible mess.
On the other side there is Michael Madigan, chairman of the state Democratic Party and speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.
Madigan has been a legislative leader for more than 30 years, the longest serving legislative leader in the history of the Unite States, and therefore has had a hand in everything that is wrong with this state.
A brief list would include a pension debt of more than $114 billion, a public school funding system that is one of the most discriminatory in the nation, a budget that is chronically out of balance, one of the most underfunded mental health care systems in the country and one of the worst states to raise developmentally disabled children.
Property taxes in this state are highest in the nation because of the state’s failure to adequately fund schools as required by the state Constitution.
Despite all this bad stuff, which has disproportionately hurt minority communities (the voting base of the Democratic Party), members of the House keep electing Madigan their speaker.
Why? Because Madigan cares more about maintaining his majority in the House than he does about the people of Illinois and keeping their jobs is obviously what matters most to the Democratic lawmakers who vote for him.
Since Rauner was elected governor in 2014, the Illinois government has not passed a budget, increasing the state’s debt by hundreds of millions of dollars. Many government contractors have not been paid. Some have gone out of business. Social service providers have been scrambling to stay in business.
The words “social service providers” sound high and mighty and bureaucratic so most people don’t give a hang about headlines like “Social service providers in danger.”
But we’re talking about programs and people who help the elderly who can no longer help themselves.
These are government programs that help the handicapped stay in their homes when they can no longer fix their own meals or get dressed by themselves. Maybe you don’t care about those people, but putting them in nursing homes at government expense would cost taxpayers three times as much, maybe more.
The governor has kept all of these people worrying that their programs may be cut and despite a lot of talk about school children, he has done nothing to substantially improve education in Illinois.
What the governor does is complain a lot, mostly about Madigan.
Madigan in turn talks about helping the working poor, middle-class families and union workers.
But all of these people are going to be paying the state’s debt, which amounts to millions of dollars every day, for decades. Taxes are going to increase eventually, which is the one thing Rauner and Madigan agree on.
The governor is calling for unity. Some people support Rauner. Some people support Madigan.
But most of the people in Illinois hate their government. Thanks to Rauner and Madigan we are unified.
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