There's probably some academic out there who could write a research paper on the events in the Illinois Senate last week. Namely, in this atmosphere of massive public distrust of anything governmental, what thought processes went into reasonably intelligent people thinking it was a good idea for the entire state Senate to meet behind closed doors to hear a discussion of Illinois finances from the National Council on State Legislatures.
There's probably some academic out there who could write a research paper on the events in the Illinois Senate last week.
Namely, in this atmosphere of massive public distrust of anything governmental, what thought processes went into reasonably intelligent people thinking it was a good idea for the entire state Senate to meet behind closed doors to hear a discussion of Illinois finances from the National Council on State Legislatures.
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, both agreed to the idea. One reason for it was to foster a candid discussion among senators. Whether or not it did we'll never know for sure because there were no independent witnesses.
You may have heard the word "transparency" lately. Most politicians, especially here in Illinois, can't utter more than five sentences without bringing transparency into the conversation. But despite all of this lip service paid to open government, the Illinois Senate is only too happy to hide behind closed doors for a discussion of state finances.
Hopefully someone will be able to explain that some day.
This whole thing is even more baffling when you remember that the topic was state finances. There's no indication any secret or previously undisclosed information was disseminated at the meeting. What's left to say about Illinois state finances? Has someone come up with a new synonym for disastrous?
In addition to supposedly promoting a candid discussion, the closed-door meeting with both Republicans and Democrats present was supposed to foster camaraderie between the parties. You know, there's a serious problem out there so we all have to pull together to solve it.
That's a noble desire. It's probably just as productive to desire that space aliens will land in Wrigley Field in May, diverting everyone's attention from whatever disastrous budget the General Assembly is about to pass.
A more likely scenario than sudden bi-partisan cooperation on a budget – in the Senate, at least, where Republicans are in a super minority – is that the GOP will continue to oppose tax hikes and other "revenue enhancers" to balance the budget. Republicans will also oppose the spending plan, the budget itself. They'll say some programs were cut too much and others not enough. They'll label the whole thing irresponsible, vote against it and say it's all the Democrats' fault.
Could be wrong, but wouldn't bet against it.
After spending a good part of the day being badgered by media questions about the closed-door sessions, an exasperated-sounding Cullerton had this to say.
"You know what? Since everybody seems to be pretty upset about it, it's not that big a deal. We just won't do it anymore."
Sounds like a really good idea.
There was a curious little press release from Tax Accountability last week. That's a group headed by anti-tax guy Jim Tobin.
The release said Tobin isn't concerned with whether Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, or Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, wins the Republican primary for governor because both signed the Illinois Taxpayer Protection Pledge in which they promised to "oppose any and all efforts to increase state or local taxes."
That's interesting because Dillard was criticized during the primary campaign because he wouldn't sign an anti-tax pledge issued by Americans for Tax Reform. In fact, he referred to it as a "gimmicky pledge." So what gives?
Dillard said that yes, in fact, he did sign the Tobin no-take-hike pledge. He did it, though, before he began his campaign for governor.
"Being the 24th district state senator is very different than being the governor of Illinois," Dillard said. "Because of my constituency, in the Senate district my position on taxes is different than the governor. As a legislator, I have signed no-new-tax pledges. As governor in these times, I don't sign those pledges."
Dillard repeated that even though he has not signed any pledges as a gubernatorial candidate, he has no plans to raise taxes if elected governor.
This just in from the Quinn administration:
"The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) along with the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program partners has received a $100 million TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)."
When handouts exterminate writing. (WHEW).
Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 or email@example.com.