Last week, state Representative Steve Andersson (R-Geneva) proudly wore a purple necktie, symbolizing bipartisanship, on the house floor.
On Monday, Andersson was the guest of honor at a legislative version of an old fashioned “necktie party,” thrown by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin.
Following the conclusion of the spring and early summer legislative session, I decided that it would be in the best interest of the Republican Caucus to go in a new direction with the position of our Floor Leader. This afternoon, I asked Representative Andersson to step down from the position.
We don’t know whether Durkin whacked Andersson on a command from Governor Bruce Rauner, but we are certain the governor approved.
Andersson lost his position because of a hearing problem.
There is nothing wrong with Andersson’s hearing.
It’s quite good. Excellent, in fact.
Unlike most of his fellow Republican legislators, Andersson could hear the cries from agencies serving Illinois’ poor, aged, sick and children. Service providers that were being financially strangled by the state’s failure to pass a budget since 2015.
Andersson also heard the pleas from Illinois colleges and universities that were forced to cut staff and programs, right and left, due to the budget impasse.
So acute was his hearing, that Andersson unashamedly backed budget bills proposed by House Democrats because he believed ending the impasse was in the best interests of the people of Illinois.
“I want to reemphasize the good — the things we are going to help. We’re going to reinstitute the funding for those needed human services. We’re going fund autism. We’re going to fund breast cancer screenings. We’re going to fund at-risk youths. We’re going to make that happen again. We’re going to stabilize our state. We’re going to let our businesses grow because they know there will be a state tomorrow and the next day and the next day. We’re going to make all of that happen and more.”
When Gov. Rauner, whose hearing seems quite inferior to Andersson’s, vetoed the bills, the legislator not only voted to override, he encouraged colleagues to do the same.
The override was successful. Illinois has a budget for the first time since 2015. People who are owed are being paid. Illinois’ finances, while still very shaky, are not getting worse as quickly as they were when we had no budget.
No one, regardless of poor hearing or eyesight, will misinterpret the message being sent by Durkin to Republicans who think they should vote for what’s good for Illinois regardless of whether it’s good for Gov. Rauner.
On the same day the hammer came down on Andersson, Gov. Rauner peeled away the last of the “moderate” make-up he wore as a first time candidate in 2014.
As Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown put it,
For those who thought Bruce Rauner has governed Illinois like a conservative ideologue, and a pigheaded one at that, it looks as if we ain’t seen nothing yet.
The governor announced his new chief of staff would be Kristina Rasmussen, president of a phony “think tank” (funded by the Koch brothers and other far-right extremists) that has received huge infusions of cash from Rauner over the years.
Her lobbying group, the disingenuously named “Illinois Policy Institute,” is dedicated to:
- Crushing unions
- Privatizing public education
- Cutting services to the needy in order to lower taxes
- Generally beating the hell out of working people in order to enrich the already wealthy and powerful
The IPI rejects the basic math that clearly shows that some kind of revenue increase is needed to help solve the Illinois budget problem. A few months ago, the lobbying group, apparently with a straight face, issued a no tax, balanced budget proposal.
It would do so by, among other things, removing 600,000 people from Medicaid; slashing the state payroll 10 percent; keeping $1.75 billion a year in income tax revenues that the state now shares with local governments; forcing local school districts to pick up $1 billion a year in teacher pensions that the state now pays; and effectively eliminating collective bargaining for all public workers by allowing officials to impose take-it-or-leave-it terms.
Finally, change Monty Burns can believe in.
As Crain’s columnist Greg Hinz put it,
“If you think Illinois’ budget wars have been mean and nasty so far, just wait.
Between now and November of 2018, we’ll find out who among our leaders is listening.
Rasmussen is bringing ear plugs to the Statehouse. We had better be prepared to shout.
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McBarronBlog Bonus: Ralph Martire analyzes IPI’s budget proposal