Chicago political observers have had to put up with a lot of scare talk the past couple of days with regards to government budgets.
We’ve heard threats that unless the chief executives of Illinois state and Cook County governments get their way with regard to significant tax increases, there are going to be a whole lot of people suffering.
LIKEWISE, WE’VE HEARD the opposition that claims the only people who will be suffering will be the taxpayers, who will have to pay the higher rates if not for the fiscal responsibility of legislators.
Now I don’t doubt that state and county government are facing serious financial problems. In today’s economic situation, everybody has problems. Why should the government (whom we ought to be able to turn to when problems arise) be any different?
But much of the political talk of the past couple of days has little to do with serious public policy actions.
What it all is geared toward is that date next year when Illinois and Cook County officials have to run for re-election.
THERE ARE GOING to be a lot of negative broadcast advertisements that air next year. And the factual basis of those ads will be rooted in the activity of the past couple of days, along with the next couple of weeks.
That really is the way to view Gov. Pat Quinn’s speech to the City Club of Chicago on Monday – the one where he gave his “doomsday” budget.
That’s the one with severe cuts to everybody’s spending – the one that will leave college students receiving less financial aid to cover their tuition and lower-income people with less medical coverage than the little they have right now.
It also is the speech where we got the ultimate Quinn quip – the one about legislators needing to take prison inmates home with them to live, since the Corrections Department budget also would have to be cut and some 6,000 inmates would have to be released because the state couldn’t properly care for them.
I DON’T THINK Quinn expects to have to make these cuts. He expects something to give in the next couple of weeks. This speech was all about scare tactics – and I don’t mean trying to scare the politicians. Not directly, at least.
Quinn knows if he tries to make threats directly to the General Assembly, they are of a feisty enough mood that they likely would pass something directly to spite him. Whatever solution Quinn finds to the potential state budget shortfall, he needs Legislative support.
But the Legislature is the body that is reluctant to go along with Quinn’s solution from earlier this year – a significant increase in the state income tax.
Legislators fear that voters will turn them out on their keisters if they dare vote “yes” for a higher tax of any type. So Quinn is trying to scare those same voters into being afraid of a prison inmate living near them, or their kid getting less financial help for their rising tuition bills.
I DON’T KNOW if it will work. But I can envision the ads that will run against people who don’t side with Quinn when the General Assembly votes later this month to approve a state budget – it will be something with ominous music that says Rep.______________ was willing to let prison inmates out early. Vote for __________ (insert name of Quinn ally here).
Of course, Quinn will be hit with ads something along the line of, “At a time when the economic troubles were hitting you hard enough, Pat Quinn wanted to take what little money you had left to cover state taxes.”
It was the same thing on Tuesday when the Cook County Board officially tried (and failed) to overturn President Todd Stroger’s veto of their attempt to overturn the county sales tax hike that was approved last year at Stroger’s insistence.
County board members who voted for this tax hike last year, but can’t stand the idea of negative ads bashing them about, now want to be able to point to an action that says they really didn’t mean it when they voted “yes” for a sales tax hike.
SO BY VOTING earlier this month to repeal, and on Tuesday to override Stroger’s veto of the repeal, they’re hoping that people will overlook the fact that Stroger didn’t get the sales tax hike (the one that gives the county the highest sales tax rate in the nation) in place all by himself.
And as for Stroger, even his actions are motivated by trying to create a factual basis for the political spin he will put on the issue when he seeks election to a second term as county president.
He will try to claim that the people who voted to repeal the tax hike were willing to put up with drastic spending cuts on the county level, similar to what Quinn offered up for the entire state.
The only difference is that Stroger was unwilling to offer up a list of cuts. He would put full blame on the people whose interests get slashed all on the county board members.
HOW WILL ALL this play out?
I’m not sure the county board officials have much to lose. Too many people are looking for any excuse they can concoct to make Stroger sound bad (they’re still bitter about the circumstances under which he was elected, although I still say he won because he was the better candidate). This tax trash talk is everything Stroger’s enemies could have wished for.
For Quinn, he might fare better. Because I can picture many people getting scared at the thought of some 6,000 fewer prison inmates.
But the bottom line is that for anyone who didn’t yet realize it, Campaign ’10 is now under way. Give me some aspirin. I already have a headache.
EDITOR’S NOTES: This is all nothing more than purely partisan political (http://thecapitolfaxblog.com/2009/05/18/governor-quinns-full-slash-and-burn-explanation/) rhetoric.
Somebody ought to use video from Tuesday’s Cook County board session in their campaign (http://nwi.com/articles/2009/05/20/news/illinois/doc5e28c0499f9d33ca862575bb007c447e.txt) advertisements for next year.