Saturday, January 8, 2011



The Illinois state legislature adjourned yesterday without passing the largest tax hike in the history of the state; apparently, the votes weren’t there, and that might indeed be true in the Senate. But Governor Pat Quinn (no relation) and other proponents of digging deeper into taxpayers’ pockets in order to assure that anyone dependent on the state in any way be spared any sacrifice whatsoever need not worry; Speaker Madigan and his north side errand boy Senate President John Cullerton are planning an even bigger tax hike, and it will be voted on tomorrow (i.e., Sunday, 1/9/11). Now, instead of the “temporary” 5.25% income tax falling to 3.75% after four years, the “temporary” hike will fall to 4.00% after four years, under the revised plan, with the additional 25 basis points going for, according to the Chicago Tribune, “social services,” presumably to mollify minority voters and “schools,” presumably to mollify those suburban Republicans who hate all spending that does not benefit them. From a practical standpoint, this alteration to the original plan makes no difference; what do you think the chances are that the 5.25% rate will indeed be temporary? At any rate, it looks like one of the few attractions for businesses in the state of Illinois, a low, flat personal income tax, will soon be eliminated and our corporations will pay, according to today’s Wall Street Journal, “the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world.” Messrs. Madigan, Cullerton, and Quinn (no relation), along with their enablers on the GOP side of the aisle, have to be counting on the prodigious snowfalls in northwest Indiana and southwestern Michigan to prevent an exodus of the productive from the Land of Lincoln, but I digress. As a point of further digression, I would refer readers to yesterday’s post, YOU MEAN ALL THAT STUFF GOVERNMENT DOES TO US ISN’T FREE?! and point out that those who are incensed about this tax increase should have shown at least a little resistance when the spending and the pension deals that necessitated it, or at least some of it, were being cut. They should also look in the mirror; we are the people who elect these distinguished legislators and the notables who have “served” as governors for the last, oh, 35 years or so.

This being Illinois, political enthusiasts are looking at the politics of this tax increase. One of the older theories that will surface, or has already surfaced, is that Mike Madigan is pushing this tax increase through the lame duck session, with its stronger Democratic majority than will prevail when the new legislature sits, in order to stick Pat Quinn (no relation) with responsibility for the tax increase so that his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, will have an easier time in 2014 wresting the office from the hapless Quinn (no relation) who has, until recently, never been much of a friend of guys like Mike Madigan. This is indeed an intriguing theory, but it presupposes that Mike Madigan, who, despite what you might think of him, is one of the smartest politicians in the history of this state, if not the world, is willing to sacrifice his soon to be thinner House Majority in order to facilitate his daughter’s race for governor, a race that might not even take place.

Lisa Madigan is no fool, either, and she and her father doubtless realize how difficult it is to run against an incumbent of one’s own party, especially for the office of governor of Illinois. Though there were numerous primary challenges to GOP Governors Thompson and Edgar from the right, these were quixotic quests that ultimately proved quisquilian and quiescent. The only serious challenges to sitting governors in this state in recent years came on the Democratic side. The most recent was young Dan Hynes’ challenge to Pat Quinn in 2010, a year in which Mr. Quinn (no relation) was an accidental incumbent. Hynes, even with the help of some very powerful ward organizations in Chicago, came close but failed to topple the quasi-incumbent Quinn (no relation).

The more interesting race came in 1976, when Secretary of State Mike Howlett was effectively told by Mayor Richard J. Daley to challenge incumbent Governor Dan Walker in order to get Mr. Walker, who had so infuriated Mayor Daley with his Walker Report on the 1968 Democratic convention, out of office with as much dispatch as possible. Mr. Howlett, with the full backing of the Daley Machine and riding a wave of disgust at the ingénue Mr. Walker, won the primary. Mr. Howlett lost the general election, however, after being virtually abandoned by Mayor Daley after the primary objective of eliminating Mr. Walker had been achieved and Mr. Daley decided that it made little sense to have a potential rival (no matter how remote that potential was; Mike Howlett, though a much loved politician in Chicago and Illinois, was very much a loyal Daley soldier) for leadership of the Democratic Party in Springfield when Mr. Thompson was, like Bill Stratton and Dick Ogilvie before him, a Republican with whom Mr. Daley could work.

One presumes that Lisa Madigan would not experience the type of knifing in the back that Mr. Howlett had to endure, especially given that the closest thing to Richard J. Daley in the Illinois Democratic Party in 2014 will be her own father. However, both Madigans are smart enough to know that a challenge to an incumbent, even one hobbled by having signed the largest tax increase in state history, would be difficult, bordering on the impossible, and even a primary victory would likely be a Pyrrhic one. So why would the Speaker risk his majority in two years for a race that might, but probably won’t, happen in four years? Mr. Madigan is too smart, and too protective of his majority and the speakership that comes with it, to take such a chance.

One could argue that the reason Mr. Madigan wants the tax increase NOW is because he wants to have nearly a full two years before his underlings in the legislature have to face the voters, thus minimizing the risk of losing his majority. There is clearly something to this argument, but if this tax increase is the result of political, rather than budget, machinations, the safest path would be to fight any tax increase or at least to minimize the tax increase. Increasing the size of the tax increase, as reportedly is being discussed, even if the spending goes for “social services” and “schools” in order to appease the gullible, does not seem to be advisable if one wants to keep one’s grip on the speakership, even if the day of reckoning can be postponed.

One has to conclude, as much as the conspiracy theorists won’t like this, that the tax increase is being ramrodded through for budget, rather than political, reasons; the income tax, as I said in yesterday’s post, YOU MEAN ALL THAT STUFF GOVERNMENT DOES TO US ISN’T FREE?!, “became inevitable once the money was spent at the prodigious rate it has been excreted away by the pols we routinely send to Springfield to build their little, and in a few cases huge, empires.”

This, of course, does not in any way absolve Speaker Madigan. He has been in charge, and had made sure everyone knew he was in charge, for the last quarter century in Springfield. The spending that necessitated this tax increase took place under the reign of Speaker Madigan and he thus should be held accountable. Let’s see if anyone remembers this tax increase in two years rather than being distracted by, say, social issues about which the state can do nothing or the compelling fare with which the television networks routinely rot the American mind.

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