By John Biver
Supporters of the Republican platform are being told that Judy Barr Topinka is to be preferred over Rod Blagojevich. That certainly isn’t the case on important social issues, where both are pro-abortion and pro-moral-confusion regarding “gay rights.” How about on issues like education and taxes?
On education, we have yet to hear any Republican member of the General Assembly speak out seriously in favor school choice. So it’s a safe bet that Topinka won’t summon the courage to oppose the “blob” and actively support the only solution to what ails the Illinois public schools.
Education policy runs right into fiscal policy when it comes to the proposed 66.6% increase in the state income tax on both businesses and individuals. This attempted money grab is the inevitable result of the inept public education establishment’s inability to get by even with huge funding increases.
If Judy Topinka becomes Governor of Illinois she will raise the income tax. How do I know that? Because liberal and moderate Illinois Republicans believe the problem is revenue, not spending. Ogilvie, Thompson and Edgar did. Why would Topinka be different?
In 2002 candidate Rod Blagojevich said he wouldn’t raise income or sales taxes and so far he hasn’t. Topinka won’t make such a pledge, “calling it a ‘phony-baloney’ tactic.”
Her primary campaign manager told a WLS radio audience on Sunday, April 2, 2006, that Judy views a no tax increase pledge as irresponsible. He also said that Topinka would “only raise taxes as a last resort.” I believe it was Peggy Noonan who wrote that when you hear those words – you know that’s one resort they’ll be checking into.
In a great piece in American Spectator last year, the Illinois Policy Institute’s Greg Blankenship summed it up nicely:
If you want to raise taxes…vote Republican. At least in Illinois you do. That frank advice was recently delivered by [former Edgar press secretary] Mike Lawrence, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, at a Chicago forum on school funding. Lawrence, responding to a question about school funding reform (Illinois’ euphemism for tax hikes), answered the query about how to raise taxes by stating, “I think we need to start out by electing a moderate Republican as governor.”
He then reminded us, after all, that it was a Republican governor, Richard Ogilvie, who instituted the income tax in 1969 and that “All income tax increases in Illinois have occurred under Republican governors.”
Blankenship predicted what we now face – a match-up “between a pro-tax Republican and a Democrat who kept a pledge to not hike general income and sales taxes.”
Maybe Topinka would “compromise” and only increase the income tax by 33.3% instead of the 66.6% sought by the taxeaters. That would just be another manifestation of what we see all the time. It is compromise between bad policy and really bad policy, while good policy is kept out of the room during negotiations. It is how government spending continues out of control.
So what are conservatives to do in the general election this November? Seems obvious that if you want Illinois voters to see how Republicans would govern differently, you shouldn’t elect a Republican who won’t.
All those who talk about how the Illinois sky is falling because of Gov. Blagojevich seemed to have slept through the Thompson, Edgar, and Ryan years. We’ve been on the wrong path for decades. Blagojevich’s predecessors set the course on ever increasing spending and under-funding state pensions. Rod merely maintains that course, albeit with creative accounting and increasing debt levels.
If we’re going to get to solutions, a few obvious things are necessary. First, Republicans have to rediscover their principles. Second, they need to develop specific alternative plans for governance. (I like Greg Blankenship’s line about the difference between the Illinois Rs and Ds: one party wants a $6 billion dollar Medicaid program, the other wants a $5.8 billion dollar Medicaid program.) Third, they need to figure out how to communicate with an intelligent and busy population.
On these three Topinka strikes out. She openly disdains conservatives and their governing principles. She has no plan. And even if she did figure out how to communicate, Illinoisans have already experienced her brand of Republican leadership. That’s why they voted for Blagojevich in the first place.
John Biver is a veteran of politics and government and is a resident of Illinois.