Sen. Radogno deserves credit on two battlefronts this week

Illinois Republican state Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno and I don’t agree on several important issues, and I was disappointed to see her take the helm of the GOP state senate caucus last year following Sen. Frank Watson’s retirement. Chances are we will continue to disagree on very important planks of the Republican Party Platform – but this week she deserves kudos for two important things – a proposal, and a vote.

First the proposal. After waiting over six years – rank-and-file Republican voters can finally read how their elected state senators would address the state’s fiscal mess. On this website and in this column we have been hammering on the need for Illinois voters to be presented with an alternative plan from Republican legislators to balance the budget. The long wait is over.

On April Fools Day, jokes aside, the Republicans in the state senate put forward the outline of a budget proposal that can be read here in full, with a summary here. The senate GOP caucus website has a write-up on the package here. It’s not perfect – the gambling expansion is a non-starter, the proposal even admits that item lacks the support of many Republicans. Notwithstanding, overall it’s a good start.

This is an incredibly important step. I have always been ready to applaud right action and assist in spreading a credible message. The next step will be for the men and women of the senate to drive as much attention to the worthy aspects of this proposal as is humanly possible.

If senate Republicans are serious about much of the material in there, and it would appear from reading it they are, they should seek out every like-minded interest group in the state and rally them to action. They should hold town hall meetings and press conferences in every part of the state. They should do as much talk radio as time permits.

The media hasn’t had a story like this in a while – so my guess is that today’s decent coverage of the Republican’s proposal will only be a beginning. In a state as messed up as ours is financially, even an impaired group of journalists and editorial writers can see value in this news.

Regarding this proposal, my guess is that Radogno’s Chief of Staff Tim Nuding had a lot to do with drafting and presenting the plan. When Tim was the Senate Appropriations Staff Director he always impressed me as a professional who wasn’t afraid of dealing with reality. In the case of tax revenues and government expenditures, reality isn’t optional. Unfortunately in government today, it’s all too rare.

Courage is also rare, and it’s my personal view that some senate staffers have better instincts than those they work for.

Second, the vote. In a very hard-hitting piece I wrote last December blasting the senate GOP caucus for elevating Radogno to the leadership spot, I included this:

“We’ve been firing off warning flares and showing what’s needed when it comes to Party reform –beginning with the need to reinstitute direct elections…

A revitalized and invigorated state GOP is the only way to get from where we are to where we need to be.”

An important step was taken today with the passage of the direct elections bill SB600 out of the state senate. It happened because of the leadership of state Senator Chris Lauzen and the affirmative vote of seven of his colleagues, including Minority Leader Sen. Radogno.

Knowing the opponents of SB600 as we do, it’s a safe bet Radogno was under a lot of pressure from state party chairman Andy McKenna and his band of losers. That bunch has been spending hundreds of thousands of GOP donor dollars to purchase the loyalty of certain Republican senators. They have also, no doubt, promised even more cash to would-be state wide candidates.

Now the bill moves onto the state house. But the fact that eight Republican senators voted for it along with all but one Democrat bodes well for the bill’s prospects. The bill came within 3 switched votes of winning a majority of Republicans senators.

The fact that SB600 had the support today of the senate Republican leader is also very big as it heads over to the house. Party reformers across Illinois owe Sen. Radogno thanks. She certainly has mine.

©2009 John Francis  Biver