Herald & Review

Tough times, tough talk, no action

Monday, July 19, 2010

Comptroller Dan Hynes tried to hammer home the seriousness of the state’s budget problems in a quarterly report issued last week.

Here’s how Hynes succinctly summed up the state of the state.

“Illinois ended the year in the worst financial position in history,” he wrote.

That’s hardly a surprise, but it is probably a good thing to keep pounding it into the brains of people who are still holding out hope that this meltdown will just magically go away sometime soon.

As Hynes explained it, the state will be in even worse financial condition at the end of next year if no significant changes are made to the state’s budget plan.

Wait ’til November

Gov. Pat Quinn last week finally came to grips with the fact that lawmakers have abandoned trying to fix the state’s financial problems so they can spend the next 16 weeks campaigning for re-election.

During a press conference, Quinn said he doesn’t expect the General Assembly to return until Nov. 4. That’s two days after the election.

By announcing so firmly that lawmakers will return Nov. 4, Quinn might have hurt himself.

In order for him to get the power to borrow money for pension payments or, in a stretch, an income tax increase, he’s going to need Republican votes.

So, now that everyone knows the General Assembly is going to come back a mere two days after the election, he set up Republicans who might be friendly to his cause to be relentlessly targeted in the upcoming election for what they might do two days after Election Day.

For Quinn to get what he wants, he might have been better off keeping quiet about the legislature’s post-election plan.

Then again, if he keeps his mouth shut, we’d be deprived of the looming political theater of the election season.

Talking tough

For someone who needs the help of lawmakers to manage the state’s horrendous budget problems, Quinn sure isn’t pulling many punches.

In talks with reporters last week, Quinn needled lawmakers for being weak-kneed.

“The General Assembly doesn’t have a lot of fortitude when it comes to raising revenue or making cuts. The General Assembly doesn’t want to do anything very challenging,” Quinn said.

Scaredy cat

Lawmakers aren’t alone in lacking gumption.

Jurors in former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s federal corruption trial learned last week that the governor hid in a bathroom to get away from one of his top aides.

Maybe he was just fixing his pompadour.

Teachers for Quinn

One of the state’s biggest campaign donors signaled it would be funneling its overflowing buckets of cash to Quinn during the upcoming election season.

The Illinois Education Association endorsement marks quite a turnaround for Quinn.

During a 2009 event at the teachers’ union headquarters near the Capitol, Quinn was heartily booed and yelled at by teachers and retirees because of his proposal to change teacher pension plans.

Then again, it wasn’t as if the IEA had much of a choice. Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady is pushing far more changes to education funding than Quinn, including his dream of switching employees away from pensions to 401(k) retirement plans and the abolition of the Illinois State Board of Education.

Here’s what Brady had to say about the endorsement: “The union leadership has unfortunately chosen the status quo. Governor Quinn’s answer to the crisis in Illinois is to keep spending, borrow money and raise taxes. Pat Quinn will fight for massive tax hikes, while I strongly oppose them.”

Pay hikes

Even some of Quinn’s closest allies expressed outrage last week after the Associated Press reported that members of his inner circle had received pay hikes.

“Apparently the best way to make it through one of the worst economic downturns in our nations’ history is to get a job working for the governor of Illinois,” wrote state Sen. Deanna Demuzio, a Carlinville Democrat.”If the governor wants to advocate fiscal responsibility, then he needs lead by example.”

Demuzio’s outburst was notable because Quinn actually lived in the Demuzio household in the 1970s when he was helping Demuzio’s late husband, Vince, run for office.

“I find these actions to be irresponsible considering the hardships being faced by the unemployed workers, families and businesses in my area and across Illinois,” Demuzio added.