General Assembly Republicans are heard from for a day

Except for a few Illinois General Assembly Republican stalwarts, most of the members are rarely heard from in any meaningful way. A couple of times a year, however, the newspapers are filled with quotes from Republican legislators saying wonderful things.

One such day occurred this week following Governor Pat Quinn’s budget address and his plan to increase the state income tax. These wonderful words from Republicans are always nice to hear – but they’re usually meaningless because they’re rarely followed up with any effective action.

Here are a few of the agreeable things spoken by our GOP contingent in Springfield about the Quinn plan:

“There’s no way I can support this, it’s just all-around disaster.”

“I hope this budget fails.”

“We can’t just tax our way out of this problem.”

Regarding Quinn’s plan to raise the annual registration fees for vehicles from $78 to $98, one Republican said:

“Twenty bucks is a lot of money to people.”

Another Republican said he’d vote “no” on the “massive” income tax increase.

Still another – “I’m very concerned that I see this as being an anti-jobs budget.”

“There’s no cutting of the budget. How can I go back home to my district where people are losing their jobs? Everyone has cut back and yet state government wants to spend more?”

The Republican caucus leaders were also quoted. One news report had House Republican leader Tom Cross calling the governor’s budget proposal “a breath of fresh air.” I’ll let you figure out what that means.

Both Cross and the Senate Leader Christine Radogno said that spending cuts are needed before taxes are raised. Neither Republican leader seemed adamantly opposed to raising taxes. Radogno was quoted saying:

“I can’t go home to my constituents and say, ‘Sorry, you’re just going to have to send money to the same old broken-down system.’ There are other things that need to happen first before we address the issue of tax increases.”

Don’t let anyone fool you. There are plenty of places that can be cut in a budget the size of our state’s. The question always comes down to political will and political competence. It takes a lot of both, and Republicans in Illinois (as well as nationally) have yet to get serious about developing either the will or the competence to get the job done.

Where can the money be found in the state budget? Bloated and run-away health care spending – especially in an unreformed Medicaid program; a public K-12 education and university system that is almost completely without adult supervision; and a state pension system that long ago became a Ponzi scheme.

It’s as simple as setting priorities and doing a little math. Dollars spent must not outnumber dollars received in tax revenues.

And more of our legislators need to join the modern world and approach their job in such a way that recognizes that priority one is moving public opinion in support of the right policies.

Oh, and to make the week complete, Illinois Republican Chairman Andy McKenna Jr. “blamed ‘Blagojevich Democrats’ for leading the state to a tax increase.” If that were only true.

The real problem in this state isn’t the Democratic Party. The problem is – there isn’t a credible alternative offered to the voters of Illinois.

Why am I so tough on most of our elected Republicans in the General Assembly? Because they have power and they’re not using it to inform voters about how Republicans want to clean up the state’s fiscal mess.

By the way, in case some of our legislators don’t realize it, this is where revitalized and professionally run GOP organizations at the ward, township, county and state level could provide a great assist. Regular readers of this website already understand that this is why we’re calling for the passage of SB600.

Unfortunately, the few legislators who do see what it’s going to take to win the support of a majority of Illinois voters are still outnumbered by those who’d rather just give the press a nice quote a few times a year.

©2009 John Francis Biver