A New Can Of Worms
25 July 2003

Don't You Wish You Could Do This?

The Illinois Supreme Court Gives itself a raise:

"The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday formally ordered state Comptroller Dan Hynes to include a cost-of-living raise in paychecks he issues to judges next week.
All seven justices signed the order that says Hynes has no choice but to issue paychecks to the state’s 1,000 judges that include a 2.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment.

Hynes has said he cannot issue checks containing the cost-of-living increases because Gov. Rod Blagojevich cut money for the COLAs out of the state budget.

“We’re looking into this,” said Hynes spokeswoman Karen Craven after the Supreme Court issued the order. She declined further comment.
The two-page order states that cost-of-living adjustments are a component of judicial salaries and that the state constitution prohibits reduction of judicial salaries in the middle of a judge’s term. Just because Blagojevich vetoed money for the raises doesn’t mean judges aren’t entitled to them, the court said."

24 July 2003
Not Much Blogging

I've been in San Francisco all week at the NCSL Annual Meeting. I've been attending meetings on smokeless tobacco (interesting) and telecommunications policy. This afternoon IL State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger debated Grover Norquist on a e state salestax streamlining agreement.

They're two really good guys who agree on a lot. I do believe Grover's position on the issue is more realistic. In a perfect world this would be good policy and not a money grab -- but it is not a perfect world and this is just a way to increase the size and scope of Government. Yesterday Steve R. told me to come and listen, then tell him afterword whether or not he was crazy. He's not, I just think he is naive on the issue. The unintended consequences could be expensive.

I also have to admit, that I am uncomfortable with politicians in other states having access to my wallet, without any fear that I'll vote against them. The gun analogy is a good one. I also believe that competition among the states is healthy.... More on this later...
21 July 2003
More On MCI Government Markets

Deroy Murdock writes on NRO today that MCI doesn't deserve the death sentence.

He eloquently confirms many of the points I made in a rant defending the company on July 15th. I tend to take this issue personally.

In Federal Computer Week we also learn that the GSA may not be able to ban MCI from government contracts because they lack the authority to punish MCI for past actions. They may be able to suspend the company, but this is unlikely because throughout this whole episode MCI has exceeded service level agreements with the government.

Again, the management at MCI Government Markets is part of the solution for the company, not the problem. They have developed a corporate culture that is committed to their customer and aspire to exceed expectations.

Finally, I believe the line about Government Markets bringing in $1 billion per year from the government is high. I recall reading in Federal Computer Week that the figure is probably around $500 million per year. And Government Markets works for every penny of it.
20 July 2003
Hot Rod vs. the Insiders

AP reports on the continuing carping about Hot Rod. I don't much care for many of the Governor's policies -- especially his willingness to punish businesses by hiking their taxes and fees. It's counter productive to punish the sector of the economy that is ailing the most, which has been business investment these past 3 years. But there are aspects of the Governor I begining to warm to. And I also think those conservatives who most want to change the political culture in Illinois may unknowlingly have an ally in Blagojevich.

According to AP the state's political insiders are in a snit:

"After six months of Rod Blagojevich in the governor’s office, some officials are so angry that they are questioning his honesty in unusually blunt terms.

“I think the governor likes making people feel good to their face and then stabs them when they’re not in the room,” state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka said.

Blagojevich and his aides chalk it up to Springfield insiders upset by a reform-minded governor making the choices necessary to fill a roughly $5 billion budget deficit.

“Having political leaders calling me names is a minor, harmless occupational hazard. It doesn’t bother me at all,” Blagojevich said last week.

A squabble with politicians arguing against budget cuts could even help Blagojevich by reinforcing his image as a reformer. He’ll have a chance to play up his budget-cutting this week on his second bus caravan, this time along Illinois’ eastern border."

This says at all. The carping from the Capitol is deplorable. Thinned skinned state legislators and a culture that is used to operating like Leonid Breschnev's Politboru are finally being challenged in Illinois. (Come to think of it the apathy toward not only our legislators and constitutional officers but the entire state government is also reminiscent of the Breschnev era. So, yeah, the Breschnev era might be good analogy.) While the Governor is being denounced for going back on his word -- by people who have made a living at it -- he is out using the trappings of the Governorship to gather public support for his positions. This is a no win situation for the constitutional officers and angry legislators. They need to get over it and adjust to the new realities.

Rich Miller has begun comparing the Governor and his strategy to Gov. Walker -- the last Democrat to hold the office: "After about a year in office, nobody trusted Dan Walker, a self-centered, serial prevaricator with dreams of national office who thought he was smarter than everyone else and who relentlessly promoted himself as an independent by deliberately picking demagogic fights with other politicians. Sound vaguely familiar?"

Rod Blagojevich isn't Dan Walker. Walker tried to replace Mayor Richard Daley the First as head of the IL Democratic Party. Blagojevich isn't picking fights with the Party (Speaker Madigan is its leader) and, unlike Walker, Blagojevich has a few years of national politics under his belt. Watching Bill Clinton and George W. Bush up close and working with Ald. Dick Mell (his father in law) and Clinton strategist and Fmr. DNC Chairman David Wilhelm gives Blagojevich a base of support and political smarts that Walker never had. No, Blagojevich is not Dan Walker.

Like a President, Governor Blagojevich is seeking a public debate on matters of state. This is what I want, debates on prescription drugs, taxes, Medicaid Reform, and fiscal reforms. Just like we are winning at the national level, we'll win at the state level. If we are confident in our ideas, then conservatives should be egging Blagojevich on.

Everytime the "insiders" demand the Governor come back to Springfield and negotiate -- which means essentially to work behind closed doors -- they look bad, not the Governor. He'll win that one everytime. It is 2003, not 1903 and it is about time the Illinois political culture catches up with the times. Thanks to Internet, talk radio, and cable tv we govern publicly today, not behind closed doors. Our leaders either need to grow up and learn how to operate in the twenty-first century or move on.

In the end, Blagojevich may not be able to beat the establishment, the first guy to challenge rarely does. Think Glasnost. But he may weaken the establishment to the point where the next one who comes along does finally finish them off. If Blagojevich can at least do that, then he will have done a service to Illinois conservatives.

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