WJBC Voices: Illinois’ gubernatorial paradox

By David Stanczak

The qualifications of any presidential candidate are suspect if one considers the size of the ego required of anyone who thinks he or she can do that job.  Even more suspect is the motivation of anyone who wants to run for Illinois governor this year. Given the political, governmental, and economic disaster that is now Illinois, running for governor is like seeking the captain’s job on the Titanic with full knowledge that the iceberg is out there waiting for it.  Consider too that three of the most prominent candidates for that job display a propensity to believe in things as real as Harry Potter’s wizardry.

The Democratic front-runner, J.B. Pritzker, is one of two candidates (the other is the incumbent governor) poised to pay obscene sums of money for the captain’s chair.  Two things in Pritzker’s TV ads are striking.  The first is that he’s going to bring us a graduated income tax, so the wealthy can “start to pay their fair share”.  That can’t happen unless and until the Illinois Constitution is amended to allow a graduated income tax; that, in turn, can’t happen until the change is approved by referendum.  It is doubtful whether Illinois voters, who are already disgusted with the level of state taxes, are going to go for that one; enough tax-the-rich schemes have boomeranged to make voters wary.  Approval of the amendment is problematical. His graduated income tax proposal also ignores the mobility of those who can pay their “fair share” compared to those of us who are less well-heeled. When they leave to avoid paying their “fair share” (Illinois consistently leads all states in outmigration) in increasing numbers with their higher tax base, the rest of us, who according to Pritzker already pay more than our fair share, will have to pay even more.  The second notable feature of Pritzker’s ads was his proposal to put Illinois in the health care business by making it a single-payer state. He made no mention of how much that will cost or where the money to pay for it will come from (other than presumably by increasing the amount of the wealthy’s “fair share”). That’s an ambitious plan for a state whose bonds are just one level above junk, one worthy of a finance degree from Hogwarts.

The second would-be Titanic captain is the current captain, Governor Bruce Rauner, who magically believes that the outcome of two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court will weaken the role of unions in Illinois.  When those cases are decided, “you watch us boom,” he said, forgetting about the tax hikes that are depleting Illinois’ tax base, the universal distrust of its politicians, the toxic politics; the budget deficits, that iceberg known as unfunded pensions, and the fact that in a recent poll, Illinois overwhelmingly “won” the crown as the state people are most unhappy to live in.  Other than that, what’s not to love about the state?

Then there is Rep. Jeanne Ives, Rauner’s challenger, recently declared by the Tribune to be a credible candidate.  To her credit, she is the only candidate who has devoted any more than a moment’s time to talk about the pension crisis that buries Illinois $13 million dollars further in debt every day.  But she doesn’t say how her solution (which is THE solution), converting existing defined-benefit pensions to 401(k) style pensions, could come about.  It can’t be imposed by fiat or even by legislation.  The guarantee of those pensions would have to be removed from the Illinois Constitution, a move which might itself trigger a violation of the U.S. Constitution; the change would have to come by way of some sort of agreed buyout.

The State of Illinois is a badly leaking ship whose crew has, for years now, been jettisoning the only materials that can plug the leak. For reasons known only to them, these three, as well as other Democrats, want to captain the ship. As Groucho Marx might have said, “I wouldn’t vote for anyone crazy enough to want that job.”

David Stanczak, a WJBC commentator since 1995, came to Bloomington in 1971. He served as the City of Bloomington’s first full-time legal counsel for over 18 years, before entering private practice. He is currently employed by the Snyder Companies and continues to reside in Bloomington with his family.

The opinions expressed within WJBC’s Voices are solely those of the Voices’ author, and are not necessarily those of WJBC or Cumulus Media, Inc.