Regardless of Who Becomes Governor, Illinois Needs A Republican-Led House

Several weeks ago I wrote a post talking about the perceived “civil war” in the Illinois Republican Party, in which I took to task those who would position themselves in the middle of the battlefield and then attack both sides.

As we move closer to the March primary and the November general election, it’s time to examine exactly what’s at stake for Illinois and what the best strategy is for assuring that there is at least one body in state government that stands against the worst of whatever happens, regardless of who’s elected Governor.

We have a Republican Governor who has shown himself to be untrustworthy and, because of that, has invited a primary challenge. It’s widely assumed that he’s unelectable. I’m not so sure, because the Democrat challengers who’ve surfaced have shown themselves to be nothing more than a pandering mob that will make the situation even worse. I mean, do you want a $15 per hour minimum wage? A government-run workers’ compensation company that will be funded with 10 million of your tax dollars? Making a resolution by a local government objecting to the state’s prevailing wage law a criminal offense? Do you want another billionaire who thinks that Governor is an entry-level position?

Please don’t consider this to be an endorsement of Bruce Rauner. It’s not. No matter who’s elected Governor in 2018, this state is in trouble. We’ve endured nearly 4 years of dysfunction, and there’s a strong likelihood that the next 4 won’t be any better, especially if the next Governor is named Kennedy, Biss or Pritzker.

And it’ll be even worse if the Democrats reclaim their super-majority in the House. Take the 3 bills referenced above. All that stood between legislative sanity and those bills becoming law were House Republicans who drove down the vote for the minimum wage (61-53), upheld the veto of the workers’ comp bill (65-50) and the prevailing wage bill (70-42). We’ve held the line on those and many other bills which would make Illinois an even bigger economic clown car than it is now.

The only sure guarantee of there being an adult in the room after the 2018 election is if Republicans increase their numbers in the House by the nine seats it will take to take the Speaker’s gavel out of the hands of the Democrats.

Say what you want about a failure of leadership with the budget votes, but put the blame where it belongs. The frustration of our caucus doesn’t belong with our leadership; it belongs squarely in the lap of the Governor. For a guy who made his fortune closing deals, this administration has shown itself to be utterly incapable of understanding what can and cannot be done when it’s a minority player in each house.

So how do Republicans add nine seats our caucus? We don’t do it with cranial flatulence such as this from the “outsider” running in the 82nd District primary:

“Too many longtime Republicans take the easy way out and surrender to the Democrats rather than fight for fiscal prudence and our future.”

What you call “surrender” is a concession to the reality of simple math. In case you haven’t looked: THE DEMOCRATS HAVE MORE MEMBERS ON THEIR SIDE OF THE AISLE THAN WE DO. Run as an outsider all you want, even if you get elected, your presence won’t add one more Republican to the House. Unless we pick up those nine seats, all your talk about fiscal prudence will crash upon the reality of a House controlled by the same knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who’ve controlled this state for decades.

Republicans have a long history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and this descent into tribalism is nothing more than a variation on that theme. We are not going to succeed so long as those who fancy themselves to be kingmakers insist on eating their own.

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Who Fills the Vacuum in the Illinois GOP “Civil War”, and Why?

Pig WrestlingJonah Goldberg has written an article in National Review talking about the recent primary election for Senator in Alabama. I was struck by how much the points he made apply to the current situation within the Republican Party in Illinois.

From the article:

“The conservative movement is caught in a Catch-22 of its own making. In the war against “the establishment,” we have made being an outsider the most important qualification for a politician. The problem? Once elected, outsiders by definition become insiders. This isn’t just a semantic point. The Constitution requires politicians to work through the system if they’re going to get anything done.

Look at all the senators who rode the tea-party wave into power…To one extent or another, they are now seen as swamp things, not swamp drainers, by the pitchfork populists…

But there’s a larger dynamic at work. It’s like taking the job seriously is an automatic disqualification for the perpetually furious. Merely talking like a halfway responsible politician — “we don’t have the votes,” “we have to pay for it” — is proof of selling out… What’s both funny and sad is that there is remarkably little intellectual or ideological substance to the current populist fever…

A lot of people are simply mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore. Republican politicians can’t ignore the anger. Ideally they’d channel it toward productive ends, as they did in the past. But further stoking the anger for political gain is not just ill-advised, it’s pointless, because eventually politicians have to govern.”

We’re seeing the same thing playing out here in Illinois. In July, 15 of my Republican colleagues voted to override the Governor’s veto of a budget bill. Since then, the long knives have been out, with a well-funded effort to primary those members which has resulted in the decision of 11 of them (as of this writing) to not run in 2018. Calling them “tax traitors” and worse, they’ve created an environment which makes it impossible to have a serious conversation about the most pressing problems facing this state. The primary challengers are running as “outsiders”, with promises of the kind of financial support that would drain resources and make it virtually impossible to withstand a well-funded Democrat challenge in the general election.

But here’s the funny thing: the Governor who was betrayed by those 15 members is now Continue reading

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He Looked Us In The Eye, Then Spat In It

I want to talk today about the glue that binds us together as honorable men and women, in business, in marriage and in life. I want to talk today about trust.

As I went through law school and entered the practice of law, it was constantly hammered into me that a lawyer’s word is his bond. Say what you will about the profession, but in my 35 years of practice, I’ve never had a reason to doubt another lawyer’s word.

As I entered the General Assembly, I was told that if I ever broke my word to a fellow member, regardless of party, I would never get a second chance to redeem myself.

To change one’s mind on an issue is not a sin, so long as the reason for change is honestly held and is clearly communicated to those to whom you’ve given your word. There are a million clichés about change; there are many reasons why changing one’s mind about this position or that is valid. Political expediency is not one of them.

Bruce Rauner looked us in the eye in April and said that he would veto H.B. 40, the bill which grants public funding for abortion in Illinois. Today, he spat in our eye. His decision to sign that bill is a betrayal fueled by political expediency and nothing more. Any trust which he may have earned on this issue or any other is gone.

I guess this day has been a long time coming. We saw it with the staff purge in July. Since he’s been Governor, he’s treated the General Assembly like employees of a company he just bought whom he wouldn’t have hired in the first place if he’d had the chance. The only difference is that he can’t fire us.

With all the issues facing Illinois, we need strong leadership now more than ever. Sticking a finger in the air to see which way the political wind is blowing is not leadership.

If the Governor wants to defend his decision to sign H.B 40 in this District, or anything else for that matter, he can come up here and do it himself.

Posted in Abortion, Life | Tagged | 1 Comment

Sometimes You Have To Hold Your Nose And Vote “Yes”

On Monday, the House finally passed an education funding bill. The last time the legislature passed a funding bill was in 1997, and in those 20 years, the formula has been changed to the point where the original was barely recognizable. I’ve written extensively (here, here, here, here and here) about how and why the formula became so unworkable.

My feeling was that if we had gone back to what the formula was before it was changed in 2004, we’d have a funding mechanism that would be reasonably progressive and would meet the needs of most school districts. However, the changes that were made to the formula took money from the General State Aid formula and moved it into the Poverty Grant and the PTELL Grant, which had the effect of concentrating funding into districts which had higher concentrations of poverty, primarily the Chicago Public Schools. That left the rest of us to rely to a greater and greater extent upon property taxes to pay for education.

I could spend hours discussing what went on to get us where we ended up, but I think it’s more important to tell you why I ended up voting for a bill that contains many of the things I originally voted against.

As I mentioned above, I thought we could make funding more equitable by rolling back the changes that were made to the 1997 funding bill rather than impose a 27-step model that even Rube Goldberg would have envied. That’s why I voted “no” in committee on H.B. 2808 (the original “evidence-based model” bill). When the bill came back to the House as S.B. 1, which included a laundry list of sweeteners for the Chicago Public Schools, I was a “hell no”.

The Governor’s amendatory veto of the bill took out many of the Chicago sweeteners, and I came out in support of the veto, but hoped that further negotiations on the bill would progress to give us something better. However, the Democrats in the House did what Democrats often do, which was to engage in political theater by taking the language of the amendatory veto, plug it into a shell bill (S.B. 1947) and rush it onto the floor for a vote.

So on August 16th, the Speaker called us all to Springfield to vote on this sham of a bill. They had no intention of voting for it, and fully expected us to vote to uphold the veto. However, our caucus stood firm and to the surprise of everyone, we all voted “Present”. This had the effect of forcing the Speaker to back down and agree to further negotiations which led to the bill which the Governor is signing today.

While the bill still contains many of the things which I found objectionable in S.B. 1, it provides for things which would never have been enacted if we hadn’t forced the Democrats to the table. Among them:

  • The normal pension costs for the Chicago Public Schools was taken out of the education bill and put into the Pension Code, where it belongs;
  • The bill takes $50 million of newly appropriated money and provides property tax relief to districts in low-EAV/high levy districts. It’s the first step to what I hope will be a movement to cap property taxes statewide;
  • It provides mandate relief for school districts for P.E., driver’s education and gives a streamlined process by which school districts can seek relief from other unfunded mandates;
  • It authorizes the City of Chicago to raise its property tax levy to pay for teacher pensions. Given that the city is responsible for that train wreck, it’s only fair that they be made to fix it;
  • It creates a commission to examine our system of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) which will hopefully lead to a way for schools to share in the increased property wealth that comes from economic development;
  • The bill provides for a tax credit program whereby up to $100 million can be donated to provide scholarships to low-income children to go to private and parochial schools. People who donate can receive a credit equal to 75% of their donation off their state income taxes. I’m not crazy about this. Though I fully favor school choice, it should come from money appropriated by the General Assembly. There are better ways to provide parents with the means to send their kids to the schools of their choice, not by blowing a $75 million hole in the budget.

I spoke about my concerns for the bill on the House floor. You can see my comments here:

Rep. Reick: A Reluctant Yes on a Less Than Perfect Bill

Watch this video on YouTube.
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Cook County “Pop Tax” Creates Entrepreneurial Opportunity

The latest story to hit the airwaves is the threat by the Federal government to cut off food stamp (SNAP) benefits to Cook County as a result of its 1 cent per ounce “pop tax”, which could result in an estimated cut of $87 million to the county. I find this to be hilarious on several fronts.

This all stems from the fact that items purchased using a SNAP card are exempt from sales tax. The Feds are saying that unless Cook County finds an acceptable workaround to allow for the purchase of SNAP-eligible items exempt from the new sales tax, Federal funds are at risk.

First, the County was apparently informed of this back in June, but it went ahead and imposed it anyway. It would appear that gluttony isn’t a vice reserved to individuals.

Next, when the Illinois Retail Merchants’ Association’s (IRMA) suit to have the tax repealed on Constitutional grounds was dismissed by a Federal judge, the County sued IRMA for $17 million, simply for asserting a right in court. The suit has been withdrawn, but not before an ordinance was proposed by a member of the Cook County Board to require board approval prior to filing any similar suit, and legislation has been filed in the House seeking a similar result. Once again, here’s an instance of government’s habit of “ready, fire, aim”.

Finally, and most hilarious of all, one of the stated goals of the SNAP program, straight from the IDHS website is to: “help low-income people and families buy the food they need for good health.” Nothing screams “good health” like a 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew. (Parenthetically: The tax is calculated on a “per ounce” basis, who’s doing the math on the metric conversions?)

However, there’s a silver lining around this particular dark cloud. Since drinks purchased using SNAP benefits are tax-exempt, I will lay a dollar to a donut that some bright entrepreneurial SNAP recipient is already buying up every 12 pack of pop in sight with an eye to creating a business selling “loosies”.

Ah, capitalism, it works everywhere it’s tried.

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