By Nancy Thorner -
John Kass calls it “The Combine”, others call it the Illinois Uniparty. But it's obvious both parties in Illinois love to raise taxes and spend more money. In 1969, Republican Governor Ogilvie created a 2 1/2% income tax (he asked for a 4% rate initially) and helped ram through a new Illinois Constitution to make sure it would stay in place as constitutional. This is the same Constitution the Illinois Supreme Court says mandates absolutely no changes in Illinois' outrageous government pensions.
But Dick Ogilvie and his Republican party paid the price in the next elections, so the income tax rate stayed the same except for temporary tax increases under Republican Jim Thompson until it was permanently hiked to 3% in 1990, as Thompson was retiring. The next income tax hike to 5% under Democrat Governor Quinn created such a backlash that it was obvious Quinn was likely to lose in 2014.
Enter Bruce Rauner, political unknown in 2013. Rauner made his money as a pay-to-play (especially to Democrats) manager of government pension funds.
Rauner also had extensive ties to Mayor Emanuel over several decades:
Rauner made it plain he was an extreme social liberal, but many “fiscal conservatives” in the Republican Party ignored all the signs he was a Democrat liberal masquerading as a Republican. The only fiscal conservatism they were interested in was the money and jobs a “winner” like Rauner would bring them.
After record election spending promising to pound Springfield politicians “like a pinata”, Rauner spent his time as Governor giving the same campaign speeches and ads on trivial issues to the voters like term limits and workman's compensation.
Following the disastrous for Illinois Republican 2016 November elections that saw most of the major Illinois Republican officeholders from Rauner on down denounce their own presidential candidate, Rauner suddenly added a property tax freeze, but continued to emphasize term limits. This was a huge signal that Rauner was ready to cave on taxes in return for some fig leaf of “reform” like a property tax freeze that was sure to be rolled back after the 2018 election.
If Rauner wanted plans to really balance the budget, if he really wanted examples of waste and abuse that he could bring up every day when the legislature was in session, there were plenty of groups like the Illinois Policy Institute to help him.
An Illinois Senator on the job for only nine months, Dan McConchie, proposed as easy to sell and understand plan to balance the budget without new taxes along with his fellow Senator Kyle McCarter. This was after Rauner said he was “flexible” on the budget and did not condemn outright all the plans for hiking the income tax to 5%. Rauner could have made the very easy to understand point that hiking the income tax to 5% was tried in 2011 but the pension deficit and unpaid bills both grew by billions as businesses and high income taxpayers left the state to create the worst state economy in the U.S. Instead he spent millions basically recycling the same ads he used in the past.
Now we have the grandest political kabuki theater in Illinois history. Over a holiday weekend so the voters can't lobby and object, after the budget deadline so Republicans have to be added to get a 60% bipartisan vote, and now facing threats the bond agencies will make Illinois the first junk-rated state in the country, fifteen “Republicans” (Andersson, Bryant, Cavaletto, Davidsmeyer, Fortner, Hammond, D. Harris, Hays, Jimenez, Meier, B. Mitchell, Phillips, Pritchard, Reis, Unes) voted for a massive income tax increase. This allowed 10 vulnerable Democrats to vote no: Connor, Costello, Halpin, Manley, Mayfield, Moylan, Mussman, Scherer, Stuart, Yingling. The end result was 72 votes for a tax increase, one more than needed, so no single state rep would be “the vote that raised your taxes."
In addition to the $5 billion tax increase, the Illinois House also passed a $36 billion spending plan which came in the form of a 638 page amendment to Senate Bill 6. This budget had no reforms or meaningful spending cuts; however, it was passed 81-34 with even more Republican support despite nobody having enough time to find out what was actually in it.
At this point, Governor Rauner could have said:
“On Wednesday July 5, I will be spending millions in ads and phone calls in key districts urging state legislators to uphold my veto of these tax and spending increases that will do nothing to solve the deep structural problems of the state that I promised to change. I hope by the time I formally veto these bills on Monday July 10, enough legislative members will have changed their mind and uphold my veto. I will then keep the legislature in session until meaningful reforms and budget cuts are made so our state doesn't continue to have the worst economy in the nation.”
The fix is now in, unless something changes in the next day or so. Rauner will pretend to have fought things with his veto, just like Illinois “Republican” House leader Jim Durkin who voted against the tax increase, but also voted for Madigan's initial budget with a 5 billion deficit and no structural reform. (SB 6, Second Reading, Amendment 2). Bill Brady, the “Republican” Senate leader, can't even pretend to be against raising taxes after proposing a 4.95% income tax rate earlier this year.
Whether he runs again or not, Bruce Rauner and the legislative leaders that allowed Madigan's most vulnerable members to skate have doomed the Illinois Republican party to defeat in 2018; however, Rauner's pension business and all the other loot Illinois politicians make off our government will be safe. And that was the reason Rauner ran, to force the state to have a big, “bipartisan” tax hike to keep things exactly the same – something another Republican beating Quinn might have changed.
After the Democrats sweep happens in 2018, Democrats will propose their ultimate solution—a constitutional amendment to allow a graduated income tax to fund a property tax “freeze” (with major loopholes, of course) until after the next gubernatorial election. As after their 2010 victory over another “Republican” Trojan Horse, Bill Brady, the Democrats will have total power to gerrymander Illinois districts so Madigan will continue to reign another decade unless he faces eternal judgment. Illinois will become a one party dictatorship, like California, but without the good weather.
This is the result of over 50 years of Chuck Percy, “Me, Too But Slightly Less” tax and spend Illinois “Republican” leadership that has been tolerated by Illinois Republican Primary voters.
The sad thing is that we can't be sure these same primary voters won't return Bruce Rauner, and all “Republicans” who voted for Madigan's budget and tax increases, to “oppose” Madigan's Democrats. They fell for the lies of Bruce Rauner in 2014, and they could do the same thing in 2018 before Rauner, who has behaved as a Trojan Horse for the Democrats, goes back to living off the taxpayers with his pension business.
Having the Governor’s wife ask the legislature to override her husband’s veto says it all about the Rauners. In a day and a half of calling, 5 House Republicans flipped off the income tax hike. Imagine what would have happened with a few more days—it would have been only those retiring and Madigan’s troops. I hope everyone who voted for any part of Madigan’s budget is primaried out of a job, just like all three of the “Republicans” who voted for gay marriage are gone. I hope Moody’s puts Illinois into junk bond status as they threatened because this budget still isn’t balanced and doesn’t do a thing for back bills and the pensions. It’s time half of the legislature gets defeated—and please take all the other statewide officials starting with Rauner
This is why I don’t consider myself a Republican in this state. “Fiscal conservatives” is the biggest lie told on earth. Weird, how all of the touted “fiscal conservatives” always cave to the left, but actual conservatives don’t. Why is that? Geeh, I wonder…
Ms Thorner, once again you have summed up the situation in Illinois politics succinctly.
I voted for Rauner and have been concerned about his true motivations since before his election. I was concerned about exactly this – who is he actually beholden to, and will he actually stand up to Madigan and the rest of the scum from Chicago.
But the (as you astutely stated) kabuki that we watched play out these last few weeks – culminating in its final act today – settles the issue for me:
Rauner is exactly who we Conservatives feared he would be.
He is exactly who you describe in this article.
And he and his friends in Chicago have (I believe) just put the final dagger into the Illinois Republican Party.
Thank you for the work you do Nancy Thorner.
In the next election we need to get an opposing candidate in all our state and federal legislative districts with the values of Joe Walsh and Trump. Moral values count and should be in first place in picking a candidate. Too many of our districts do not have an opposing candidate as pointed out by Rauner.
God Bless Illinois
I hope everyone who voted for any part of Madigan’s budget is primaried out of a job
It doesn’t matter. So even if they were the people replacing them would be one of a microscopic minority, just large enough to help screw things up but too inconsequential to do anything else.
So you can spend energy beating these guys in primaries and that will feel great and you’ll wake up and realize that Madigan has gerrymandered the state even more so and the failed state of Illinois will only get worse.
I hope Moody’s puts Illinois into junk bond status as they threatened because this budget still isn’t balanced and doesn’t do a thing for back bills and the pensions.
Last productive person to leave Illinois, please turn the lights out.
Better to not bother pouring your resources into a failed state and look to help others elsewhere.
Unless you enjoy watching sham elections where one party puts up some hapless schmuck who will garner 30% of the vote to give the appearance of a democratic election.
I see the white flag “conservatives” are doing their usual work for the Establishment. Trump shows that if you fight, you can win. Unfortunately, conservatives have not fought back in Illinois with wholesale primaries from top to bottom.
They have been too lazy to run for committeeman and let the liberals control the election machinery in both parties. And too many have been content to allow Joe Walsh types to sweet talk them into thinking by sending a few bucks and attending a few rallies, they are actually doing something.
If you have a Democrat state rep, get somebody in the Republican primary to challenge them even if it appears to be “hopeless”—it will tie them down and help us in other races. If you live in one of 23 “Republicans” that voted for Madigan’s budget–primary and third party them out of office. And demand those who didn’t vote for the budget to get a new leadership or give them a primary, too. Both Durkin and Brady must go.
Rauner isn’t going to run but the Rauner types are hoping to delay that announcement to the last minute so Prtizker can win easily against their designated patsy. Let’s get somebody in the race now, even if it is a token to build support so somebody like a Todd Ricketts who could actually win sees he/she can beat the Dems.
The massive exodus out of Illinois will continue only now, many of the folks leaving will be doing so involuntarily. Through foreclosure, lack of jobs, cost of living, they will have no choice but to uproot and move.
This is very similar to the old Soviet Union, where 5% prospered with mega-deals and mega-salaries and pensions while the 95% was sucked dry. Illinois is going to fall just like the old Soviet Union did, it’s just a matter of time.
All they did with this tax increase is seal the coffin and expedite the demise of Illinois.
Illinois is not worth fighting for. It would be like fighting for Sodom and Gomorrah.
Lazy. Hah, good one. The Dem and GOP force us to work more and more to support their beneath contempt government workers and you call lazy those of us who work and spend time with family (what little is left after working to pay taxes). So we’re expected to spend even more of our lives working for the government. And you call yourself conservative.