The Daily Parker

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Crain's asks, Who wants to move to Chicago?

A major Chicago company, we hear, is having a harder time persuading recruits to move here. Full employment, especially among the well-compensated professionals it's hiring, might seem to blame. But the company isn't struggling to attract talent in markets where jobless rates are even lower than metro Chicago's most recent rate of 4.3 percent. What's the problem then? It's the candidates' fear that Chicago and Illinois generally have become risky places in which to buy a home and raise a family.

When the General Assembly reconvenes June 21, it could put some of those worries to rest and pass an actual state budget for the first time in two years. That would require compromise from Gov. Bruce Rauner as well as his Democratic adversaries, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton. For far too long, they've put their own re-elections ahead of the commonweal. Meanwhile, the state stumbles along, spending far more than it's taking in. Meanwhile, too, the unthinkable becomes less improbable: Without state support, junk-rated governments in Illinois, including the city of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools and a half-dozen state universities, could essentially go under.

Unfortunately, the Crain's editorial board offers no solutions. Nor can they. Because they're in the same uncomfortable position Kansas Republicans are in: their guy is the one holding the state hostage. 

Yes, the legislature and the governor need to compromise. But only one of them is an ideological dead-ender.

Illinois still has no budget

Now in our first full week of the third straight year that Illinois has no budget, it's interesting watching people try to figure out who's to blame. In Crain's alone, we have three opinions.

Their editorial board blames Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan, because they blame him for everything. Also, their readership tend to be Republicans. Because it's Crain's.

Still, they haven't tried very hard to muzzle their opinion writers. Business columnist Joe Cahill, noticing that before we had Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and his naive belief that politics and business are the same thing (like most Republicans) we had a budget, blames the governor.

And Springfield columnist Rich Miller avoids blaming either one 100%, but does note that Rauner's ideological inflexibility and his inexperience as a politician led him to reject a workable compromise offered by Madigan.

But we still don't have a budget. And the gubernatorial election isn't for another 16 months.

Sigh.

Bruce Rauner does the impossible

Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg put the Rauner administration in context in a column a couple of weeks ago:

Not only did Rauner fail to make tangible progress, but he didn’t even tread water properly. The normal operation of the state, such as passing an annual budget, failed to occur, sacrificed on the altar of the governor’s hunger for term limits, union enfeeblement and other unrelated pet causes. He’s like an office manager getting himself hired by promising to expand a business who then promptly fails to pay the electric bill, as a point of principle against the electric company monopoly, so they turn the lights off. Now we’re sitting in the dark, listening to him explain.

But give credit where due: Rauner has accomplished something real, something that I would have thought impossible:

He makes Rod Blagojevich look good.

In 2014, Rauner won every county in Illinois except Cook, beating Pat Quinn by about 150,000 votes out of 3.6 million cast. That's not a huge mandate. But it has turned into a huge disaster. ("A yuge disaster?" Hm.)

Rauner wins either way

Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner believes in smaller government and lower taxes, so much so that he's blocked the state budget process since the last budget ended in June 2015. Since the state has no budget, we haven't paid our bills, so our IOUs just keep getting bigger:

Moody's Investors Service says the state's backlog of unpaid bills and other obligations now is rising roughly $450 million a month, hitting $6.6 billion as of Dec. 31.

Projections from Rauner's budget are that the total will hit $9 billion by the end of the fiscal year on June 30 and keep rising from there, assuming no budget deal is reached, Moody's says—almost what it was after [former Democratic governor Pat] Quinn took over and pushed through a 66 percent income tax hike that gradually reduced the list of IOUs.

State taxes dropped again on January 1st as earlier, "temporary" tax hikes declined; as a result, Illinois will have $3.6 billion less to spend even if we can pass a budget before June 30th.

So, as a Grover Norquist-inspired plutocrat, Rauner wins if the Democratic legislature passes his budget proposal, and he wins if the state's government remains hobbled. Meanwhile, we residents and taxpayers of Illinois would really like essential government services to resume.

Rauner gives the State of the State address in just a few minutes. It should be interesting.

More links

Too many interesting things to read today. I've got some time between work and Bel Canto to get through them:

I have not read Bel Canto, though I understand it's loosely based on an actual historical event. I also haven't ever heard anything from composer Jimmy López before, since it only permiered last month. Friends who work for the Lyric tell me it's pretty good. I'll find out in a few hours.