I thought all problems emanating from Springfield the last few years were caused by Rod Blagojevich. While our recently impeached governor may have been on a political crime spree, reasoned deliberation would blossom in Springfield once he was removed from office. Right?
Wrong. While Blago is gone, the dysfunction is worse than ever. Even though the new fiscal year began July 1, the state budget remains $9 billion out of whack. No solution – higher taxes, lower spending or a combination of the two – is on the horizon.
Someone must be to blame for this mess. Could it be Gov. Pat Quinn? Quinn has a few things going for him. He is not Blagojevich, and no one has accused him of being a crook. Quinn dared the Legislature to raise state income taxes to close the gap, a cheeky thing to do during a recession. The answer from the Legislature was a Bronx cheer. At least he tried. If Quinn is not the problem, who is?
Sen. John Cullerton could qualify, but he is too new to the job of Senate majority leader to be our Darth Vader. And that leaves, drum roll please, House Majority Leader Mike Madigan. Bingo. Madigan has his own agenda. First, do whatever is necessary to further the political aspirations of his daughter, Lisa Madigan (who has assembled a $3 million campaign war chest). I assumed Mike Madigan was letting Quinn twist in the wind on the budget to dirty up Quinn in the event Lisa decided to run for governor. But now that Lisa is content to remain attorney general, daddy no longer needs to play hard ball for his daughter’s benefit.
The other longstanding Madigan agenda items are to maintain his stranglehold over the Illinois House and, if possible, keep the state Senate Democratic, too. Some years ago, Madigan spent time in the wilderness when the state House passed to Republican control. He did not like it. Also, he knows that downstate Democrats who vote to raise income taxes would face cudgel-bearing Republicans eager to throw out the Dems (and Madigan as House majority leader). So, increased income taxes are off the table.
The only other option is to cut spending. But $9 billion is lot of fat to cut, even in easy-spending Illinois. So what is a majority leader to do? Nothing. Madigan is like the homeowner who has not paid the mortgage in six months, is facing foreclosure and is hoping the market will turn around before he is evicted.
Jack Crowe is a third-generation Oak Parker. He cycles with the Lake and Harlem group, volunteers at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep in Austin and sometimes performs at the Village Players Performing Arts Center.