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posted: 4/13/2014 1:01 AM

From Dillard to deficits, musings on state of Illinois politics

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By Paul Green
Guest Columnist

The following are some general observations and musings about 2014 Illinois politics, in no political order of importance:

First: Sympathy goes out to state Sen. Kirk Dillard, who once again came in second in a multicandidate Republican gubernatorial primary.

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Why sympathy? In both contests Dillard lost because votes were siphoned away from him by candidates who had no chance of winning and whose votes would have likely gone to Dillard in sufficient numbers to produce a victory.

In 2010 it was Bob Schillerstrom who withdrew from the gubernatorial primary but after the deadline to remove his name from the ballot, and in 2014 it was state Treasurer Dan Rutherford whose campaign imploded early, leaving him a lifeless candidate.

My free advice to Dillard: If he ever runs again for political office, make sure it is a one-on-one contest and of course, remember, unlike the Olympics, there are no silver medals in politics.

Second: Congratulations to Diana Rauner, wife of the winning GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner. Virtually unseen in the primary, Mrs. Rauner has been liberated from CPP (Campaign Protection Program) and now can appear with her husband on TV ads and at Republican functions, thus helping her husband shed an isolated Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry image in favor of something more family friendly.

Third: Reform is a many splendored thing. You want to be a reformer? It's easy; simply call yourself one, e.g., every Chicago mayor since 1837 has labeled himself or herself -- a reformer. As we meander into the Illinois General Assembly's closing weeks of session and ponder the upcoming November general elections, once again its "Reform Time -- Illinois Style".

Some "reformers" want to change how Illinois legislative maps are drawn. Other "reformers" want to initiate term limits for state legislators, while almost everyone claiming reform DNA -- constantly use the terms "transparency" and accountability" like those words have some biblical meaning to frame their intentions.

Statewide reform goals and philosophy aside, the main target for all this activity is Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. Reformers lament and criticize "The Speaker's" power, influence and durability, especially in his control of the Illinois House.

Alas, what is seldom if ever mentioned, is that Speaker Madigan was created -- you guessed it -- by reformers. Yes, my friends, over 30 years ago, a youngish reformer (who now happens to be Illinois governor) led a constitutional crusade to end cumulative voting for electing Illinois House members.

It was called the "Cut-back" Amendment" -- it created single member districts, reduced House membership from 177 to 118 members and obliterated independent Republicans from Chicago and independent Democrats from suburban Cook and the Collars. And it gave a shrewd and workaholic Mike Madigan the opportunity to create a power base that would have been impossible pre-Cut-back.

Ergo, beware of reform promises. Or, said another way, if folks are promising a New Deal, make sure you cut the cards.

Fourth and last: If President Barack Obama were to write a book about Illinois and Chicago's budget woes, he might call it "The Lunacy of Hope."

Illinois governments at all levels are facing financial disasters and yet various "stakeholders" (I love that word) are bickering as if time were on their side. These stakeholders hope that somehow pension debt and overdue bill payment will be "hoped" away.

The specifics of these crises in Springfield and Chicago are economically complicated, politically toxic and do not lend themselves to a 30 second political commercial. However, the general parameters of the problem are not so complicated. Governments have promised more than they could deliver.

Incoming revenue does not meet expenditure needs, and to resolve these issues everyone in Illinois (Chicago included) has to lose something.

In short, this is a math exam, not an essay test.

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