As 2019 comes to a close, Gov. Pritzker, Speaker Madigan, and the Democrats who control every level of state government have demonstrated who they are and who they care about.
The year began full of hope and optimism. Newly elected Governor J.B. Pritzker promised to help make Illinois the “fastest growing big state economy in the nation.” The swearing in of the supermajority of Democrats in the House and Senate was heralded as “a new era”. And even Speaker Madigan, despite being in office for over 40 years, got in on the act, running TV ads claiming A New Day had arrived.
But voters quickly learned what all that optimistic talk translates into as the Democrat majority and Gov. Pritzker set out to fulfill their campaign promises.
The first of those was raising the minimum wage state-wide to $15. Along the way, they rejected compromises that would include regional consideration and instead chose to muscle through legislation that already has small business owners worried about how they are going to be able to keep up with operational costs.
As the summer approached, the Democrats kicked the “new era” into high gear, passing a graduated income tax hike amendment, doubling the gas tax, and passing the highest operating budget in state history.
As legislators gleefully celebrated the end of session, Illinois residents were hit with 19 new tax hikes and fees. The most tangible tax increase was the doubling of the gas tax that hits drivers every time they fill up. Illinoisans have more taxes and higher fees to look forward to with the new year, including a vehicle registration fee hike, a trade in vehicle tax hike, and an expansion of online sales tax.
But bad policy accompanied with higher taxes and fees was only half the story of 2019.
2019 was truly the “Year Of Corruption” in the state. Illinois politicians are no strangers to corruption with prison stints by four of the last seven governors.
Over the past year, villages and Chicagoland suburbs have been raided by the FBI as well as an indictment of powerful alderman Ed Burke, and an investigation of Alderman Carrie Austin.
The statehouse has been embroiled with numerous investigations as well. In August, Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) was indicted with fraud for receiving payments and benefits from Local Teamsters for doing little to no work, but he remains in the Senate. Another Senator, Martin Sandoval, the architect of the $45 billion capital plan had his offices raided by the FBI and has since resigned.
Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago) was indicted for bribery in relation to legalized betting in Illinois and has also since resigned.
But all eyes remain on Speaker Mike Madigan. There have been multiple FBI raids surrounding Madigan, including three aimed at his closest confidants, Mike McClain, former State Representative and lobbyist, Mike Zalewski, former Chicago Alderman, and Kevin Quinn, Madigan’s loyal political operative.
One of the most shocking and revealing allegations that has surfaced from the investigations are the under the table payments sent to disgraced Madigan political operative Quinn. It took the National #MeToo movement to sweep through Springfield for politicians to start pretending to care. Kevin Quinn was fired because of his harassment and unwanted advances to another young, female campaign staffer.
Despite all the talk of reform and sexual harassment awareness and training, Madigan’s most trusted allies routed thousands of dollars to Quinn to ensure he wasn’t harmed by his behavior.
The investigations and raids that took place this year seem to be only the tip of the iceberg for finally unraveling the corruption that has consumed our state for decades.
Entrusted with near record levels of power, Gov. Pritzker and Speaker Madigan have used that power to hike taxes and allow corruption to flourish. It isn’t a new era, it is the same broken government on steroids.
Voters in 2020 not only have the choice to elect new State Representatives to hold Mike Madigan and the Democratic Majority accountable but they also have the power to say no to more tax hikes.
With a graduated income tax hike on the ballot, you can reject the politicians’ demand for a blank check. You can prevent Chicago from changing the constitution.
In 2019, the Democrats showed us who they are and who they are serving.
With your help, in 2020 we can show them who we are and how we feel about their behavior and their failed governance. We can defeat the graduated income tax and elect reform-minded legislators who are going to Springfield to advance pro-growth policies and serve as a check on Madigan and the corruption that consumes Springfield.
Would you chip in $25, $50, or $100 as an end of the year gift to hold corrupt politicians accountable in 2020?
In the words of the late Dennis Green “They are who we thought they were.” The question for all of us is, will we let them off the hook?
Matthew Besler, President