Opinion: Illinois held hostage to a Grand Bargain
No one should be surprised that group think instead of rational choices surround the 13 interconnected bills of the “Grand Bargain.”
It is wholly predictable given the longevity of the Senate leaders involved. They’ve been working together for nearly two decades. They put in place many of the policies that are now taking a toll on our state. They are the beneficiaries of generous pensions when they retire, excessive pay for their part-time jobs, and the public attention and stature of the positions they hold. What’s new now is the heat is on. Calls to “DO SOMETHING!” echo throughout the state. But after decades of living in the Springfield bubble, Senate leaders have forgotten the common Illinoisan in the “Grand Bargain.”
In doing so, they misread entirely the mood of the people and depth of our troubles. Understand, Illinois is not a middle of the pack state. We are an outlier. We rank at or near the bottom in nearly every financial category, which is what matters to taxpayers and businesses that fund government. Moody’s and others in the financial world are now describing our state’s situation as a “death spiral.” We need revolutionary reform, not a bargain with the hostage takers.
Instead, Senate leaders John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) propose marginal ineffective pension reform when the choice should be reform that moves new hires into 401(k) style retirement accounts that the vast majority of taxpayers have.
They propose workers' compensation reform that neglects the Causation Standard, which is the biggest reform that is needed.
They propose massive gambling expansion – six new casinos - knowing the original gaming bill never met its goal to fund education and that market saturation would ensue.
They propose some procurement reform when the biggest cost to government is labor that is controlled by union collective bargaining agreements that need limits put in place.
They propose consolidation of local government that affects less than 5 percent of your property tax bill, while ignoring school consolidation that is over 70 percent of your bill.
They propose a massive income tax increase and an ever shifting list of new taxes without publicly defining any cuts in spending.
And after these proposals, they went to the editorial boards to sell the ideas because they knew if they brought it directly to the people they would be laughed at.
They are out of touch with taxpayers in Illinois. They operate in an environment controlled by lobbyists, crony capitalists, public sector unions, and weak-kneed legislators focused almost exclusively on their next election.
Truly, the inmates are running the asylum. Illinoisans needs independent-minded leaders who know what life is like for families and businesses outside the Capitol Building.
There are better ways and better ideas and my colleagues and I will be proposing them in the coming weeks.