Doubek: Mike Madigan never had a match like this

SHARE Doubek: Mike Madigan never had a match like this

Well, here we are again, learning just how difficult divided government can be, only in Illinois. With one week to go in the scheduled spring session of our legislative process, let’s look back and look ahead at our divided government, shall we?


A look back: Gov. Bruce Rauner kicks off an anti-union Turnaround Tour that falls mostly flat, but hey, he keeps at it, doesn’t he? Then, we have the Illinois Supreme Court saying we have to pay our worst-in-the-nation pension debt. And we have Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, the 30-year veteran, teaching the new governor a lesson, or five, as he trots out hours of testimony and debate before defeating workers’ comp changes and human service cuts. But wait, there’s more. He again calls up his millionaire tax, and it fails and he fails.

Madigan wins his main objective, of course, because he now gets to send outrageous mailers to Republican districts flogging those politicians for supporting the uber-wealthy and abandoning the hard-working middle class. But he loses because three of the Democrats in his super-majority won’t vote with him for a millionaires’ tax. Suburban and exurban state Reps. Jack Franks and Scott Drury vote no again, and, take note, are joined by state Rep. Ken Dunkin, a Chicago Democrat.

Dunkin said he thought a tax that would send a few hundred more dollars per student wasn’t the best approach and a more comprehensive revamp of school funding and the budget might be needed.

Earlier, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, a south suburban Democrat, also said at a press conference touting expansion of sales taxes on services, “I don’t know about you all, but I’m tired of careening from crisis to crisis,” as she talked about people leaving Illinois, the need for transparency in government and for stability for business.

Hmmm. Something happening here? Do we see more public dissension and diversity among Democrats?

Meanwhile, Rauner admits his pension reform might be unconstitutional, takes some of his demands off the table, finally issues some actual paper to support his ideas, but warns he “understands what I was sent to do” and without reform lawmakers should expect “a very long extra session.”

Democrats in the majority in the House and Senate believe they were sent to support and protect the unions and middle class children and families who voted for them and who fund their campaigns. Rauner and Republicans believe they were sent to actually force change away from the debt and out-of-whack budgeting and spending. Both sides are dug in.

OK, then. Now, let’s look ahead.

A very long extra session. With our first Republican governor in 12 years and our divided government, we could have a very, very long extra session. Overtime days that cost us money and cost them precious political capital. Madigan has his fodder for political mailers, but Rauner has at least $20 million and however much more he needs to send messages that it’s the Democrats who have refused to meet him halfway, who are sending him unbalanced, bloated budgets and who are insisting on raising taxes, not just on millionaires, but on all of us.

Madigan’s never had that kind of competitive match. So, we head into mid-July and payroll is missed, government gets shut down. Prison guards and others don’t get paid. Tempers flare in prisons and in Springfield. What happens after that is anyone’s dreadful guess.

Divided and divisive government. Is that what we meant? Is this what we want? Or was it compromise? A balanced budget with painful cuts and painful tax increases? Everyone gets a little something and everyone gives up and gives in a little bit. No one’s particularly happy.

A long, hot, horrible summer or cooler heads? May Illinoisans find their voice and prevail.

Madeleine Doubek is chief operating officer of Reboot Illinois.

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