A New Can Of Worms
17 April 2004
How To Say No...

Rich Miller's Weekly Column makes a great point this week in his discussion of Speaker Madigan asserting himself on a number of key issues. The issue revolves around saying, "No," to a governor with a lot constitutional authority:

"Ten years ago, Madigan told me he had learned his lesson after his extended, high-profile fights with Jim Edgar. The Speaker started off determined to show Edgar who was boss. Four brutal years later, Edgar was re-elected in a landslide and Madigan lost control of the House. Madigan said afterwards he finally realized that when legislators fight with governors, the public always sides with the governors.

But nobody with any power at the Statehouse has said 'No' to this governor. Without some sort of braking action, Blagojevich's continued push for fee hikes, his heavy borrowing and his attempted removal of local control from schools (not to mention his very liberal social positions and his pro-Chicago bent) might do more harm to Madigan's targeted incumbents than keeping everything quiet and going along with the program. "

Under our system the governor dominant and the legislature is weak in comparison, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways of telling the governor, "No." To me it is not a matter of having the power to tell the governor no it is an issue of how you do it.

Taking on the guy with the bully pulpit or the printing press is not the way to go about. If you want to undercut the governor in Illinois I think you have to think strategically and inetgrate tactically. Strategically I would change the way we do business in Illinois. Fewer bills and more hearings makes concetrates the public and the media on what you are doing legislatively.

Introducing and passing bills -- something like 4,000 bills are introduced per year -- is one way for legislators to show they are effective. That's fine and that's the way things have been done in Springfield for decades. It's part of the culture. However, Limiting bills and using and fewer hearings are one way of focussing the mind on some core issues and using the hearing process as a way of showing legislators are doing their jobs -- it's called the oversight function. You change the way your legislators get exposure.

Fewer hearings that are more probative would be "news" that would be covered for two reasons. First, they aren't as common and second, there would be more time for digging. They create political drama. Tactically, you use your messaging for the week coupled with putting executive officials on the hot seat to make your case that the governor is borrowing too much money.

Another approach is too simply, early as possible, bring the governor's plan up for a vote before he can lobby the public and legislators. Then vote it down. When the governor blisters the speaker, he can come back with, "He just didn't have the votes to get his package through." His budget has already been dismissed in a democratic fashion so there is no place to go for the governor. This changes the dynamic of the debate. The legislature is in a much stronger position to fashion a budget with the governor.

Finally, for the opposition party I would suggest promoting alternatives. "Our plan would balance the budget on these principles and is better than governor's plan because it balances the budget without tax increases nor borrowing." Throw in some principles and voila'! You never actually introduce anything because you are the opposition and it will be voted down just to embarrass you. But it does grab attention as the alternative. Reporters will have to cover it.

Can you do all of this in Illinois? Who knows. But surely, using your institutional strengths as opposed to your personal power would make it much easier to tell the governor, "No," without all the negative consequences of taking on the bully pulpit.

15 April 2004
We Told You So...

Last Fall the Illinois Policy Institute released its Illinois-STAMP report dynamically scoring the Governor's FY04 Budget. The press release for the study (we haven't re-posted the study to the new web site, yet) can be found here.. In our study we measured $541 million in proposed tax and fee increases compared to the $421 million the Economic & Fiscal Commission is tracking.

Our predicted results were:

3,823 jobs lost

$110 million lost in nominal investment

Only $443.91 million of the $541 million in fee and tax hikes would be collected by the state. Resulting in anticipated revenues falling short by $97.09 million.

Now compare that to the AP and the Economic & Fiscal Commission found here. They measured $421 million in taxes and fees:

Higher fees on everything from personalized license plates to dumping garbage are not bringing in nearly as much money as Gov. Rod Blagojevich predicted and could fall more than a quarter short of the $421 million the governor was counting on, an Associated Press analysis shows.

The Legislature's bipartisan Economic and Fiscal Commission also has dropped its estimate for new fee revenue, to $344 million. The commission adjusted its total based on the economic outlook, while the AP went further, analyzing the more than 100 increased fees individually.

In retrospect, AP is reporting that revenues were 19 (344/421) percent short of projections. We said revenue would fall short by 18 percent (443/541). Not bad, unh?

As far as the lost investment is concerned. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce released an analysis earlier this Spring in which they found $120 million had been lost in investment thanks to the budget. Again, Illinois-STAMP suggested losses of $110 million. The Blagojevich Administration dismissed the story as "partisan," The SJ-R, AP, the Sun-Times the Chicago Tribune, The Champaign-News Gazette all ignored the story.

Hats off to the Illinois Radio Network, Rich Miller's Capitol Fax, and Lee Enterprises Newspaper chain for having the foresight report our findings.
Hold On To Your Wallet

Lawmakers back Madigan on budget is the headline in today's SJ-R.

Whenever you see a Republican and Democrat agreeing in a legislative setting the taxpayer is probably about to be screwed. Around here, since we won't see the state budget until the last day that can often come as a surprise.

No you say, "What about Illinois' long history of collegiality?" In the last 30 years Illinois went from one of the top producers of good and services to the middle of the pack and fiscally we are headed the way of New York City in the 70's and California in the '90's.

In fact, let me go on the record saying that if you want to be governor of Illinois, begin sounding the warnings about fiscal trainwrecks now. In the next 4 to 8 years when it hits you will be seen as a prophet.
14 April 2004
Hitting the Nail on the Head

Dorothy Rabinowitz's Media Log takes on the 9/11 Jersey girls.

I've been waiting for someone to do it. I think it was probably best that a fellow woman that can comprehend losing a husband do so.

These women are weighing in on matters they know nothing about and their comments would be out of bounds if anyone else uttered them. Frankly, part of me wonders what life must of been like for Mr. Breitweiser.
If That's The Case, I Say Run On It...

More from the

"By almost a 2-1 margin, Americans prefer balancing the nation's budget to cutting taxes, according to a poll, even though many believe their overall tax burden has risen despite tax cuts over the past three years.

About 6 in 10, 61 percent, chose balancing the budget while 36 percent chose tax cuts when they were asked which was more important, accordi ng to a poll conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs."

Ending Business As Usual...

In today'sSun-Times:

"Vote fraud felon Dominic Longo has landed on a new government payroll -- the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District -- just a week after he took early retirement from the Chicago Park District."

Of course, nobody knows who got the guy a job...

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