Capitol Report | Winter 2017
In the Best Interest of the State
The importance of voter literacy, and the coming 2018 midterm elections, should not be overlooked by Illinois voters.
Marty Green, Esq.
Senior VP and Legislative Counsel, Illinois CPA Society
Victims of the state’s budget deadlock weren’t only the service providers and vendors that
went unpaid, or the Illinois residents who suffered as a result—more than two-dozen veteran
Illinois legislators are now retiring or resigning. While “disruption” has become a trendy term,
typically proffering a bright, techy future, the loss of these veteran lawmakers will only further
disrupt Illinois’ dysfunctional legislative and policy-making processes.
I highlighted this dysfunction in my fall column, “Compromise Polarized
,” where I stressed
that the polarization of our political processes has deeply impacted our government’s ability
to solve both contemporary and long-standing problems. Unfortunately, the loss of two dozen
or more veteran lawmakers most likely will only further entrench political polarization and
an unwillingness to compromise.
Leaving the General Assembly are prominent figures, such as the majority leaders of the Senate
and House and the spokesman of the House Revenue Committee, to name of few. Also
included in the exodus are several junior legislators completing just their first or second terms.
The consistent reasoning for their departure? The polarized legislative environment, lack of
cooperation among the caucuses and the executive branch, and the inability to solve problems.
It is an open question whether this disruption of the legislative benches is a good thing. On
one hand, we as Illinois voters have the chance to elect fresh talent with new perspectives;
on the other, the legislative and political environment appears to have reached a point where
committed public servants are no longer willing to serve.
My initial reaction is that the large exodus of legislators will intensify politics. House and Senate
Democrats will have to select new majority leaders in January 2019 when the 101st General
Assembly is convened. New committee chairs and minority spokespersons will also be
selected. Jockeying has already begun among the remaining legislators hopeful to fill vacant
leadership positions. This jockeying includes pecking order of seniority, campaign contribution
promises, lobbying of legislators by other legislators, and more—all of which reduce the
time and focus of legislators dealing with real issues facing the state today.
From an electoral perspective, many of the departing legislators are party moderates feeling
pressure from the far right and left. Of the 24 legislators who have either quit or announced
they are not running again, 12 are Democrats and 12 are Republicans. No other General Assembly in recent times has had so many
departing legislators. Of the 12 departing
Republicans, nine broke ranks with their
governor and their caucus when voting on
the budget agreement. There’s a feeling
that Gov. Rauner will finance candidates
to oppose those who broke ranks and
challenge incumbent Democrats.
At the end of November, candidates for the
General Assembly and state executive
offices will file their petitions to appear on
the March primary ballot. The decisions
made during the March primary election,
and ultimately during the November 2018
election, will greatly contribute to the tone
and atmosphere of Illinois’ legislative
process moving forward. We can impact
this process by being educated and active,
Our republic form of government, as provided
by the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions,
has 17th century origins that inspires
“an avowed concern for common good
and for participation.”
Ensuring that we elect candidates that possess
“an avowed concern for the common
good” is something that gets lost in our
highly intensified political processes. But
now, more than ever, we need leaders
throughout government who are committed
to collectively working together to
In commenting on Illinois’ low credit rating,
Fitch Ratings stated “the lack of coherent
fiscal policymaking over multiple
years has materially damaged Illinois. …
The state’s repeated failure to address fiscal
policy challenges is the primary driver
of our negative bond rating.”
History has shown there has been no better
Illinois governor in a more tempestuous
era in modern Illinois than Richard
Ogilvie. During his single term in office
from 1969 to 1973, Ogilvie presided over
the most significant reforms enacted in
Illinois for more than a century. He proposed
the state’s first income tax, which
saved the state from fiscal disaster, but cost
Ogilvie’s biography is titled “In the Interest
of the State.” Now, more than ever, we
need officials committed to the best interests
of the state. And now, more than ever,
we need to ensure we’re making the best
choices at the ballot box.
Author’s Note: This column includes my
personal observations of the evolution of
the legislative environment and are not necessarily
the views of the Illinois CPA Society.