"NOT SINCE GOVERNOR BLAGOJEVICH..." House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton begin their lawsuit against Gov. Pat Quinn by invoking the name of Rod Blagojevich, who in 2003 tried to reduce salaries of Illinois judges. He was rebuffed by the Illinois Supreme Court. If you're governor of Illinois, one thing you don't want is a comparison to Blagojevich. Madigan and Cullerton say Quinn violated the state constitution's separation of powers principle by using executive power to cancel legislative salaries, just as Blagojevich tried to do with the judicial branch. Quinn, meanwhile, is sticking with his message that he vetoed lawmaker paychecks to quicken the pace of pension reform negotiations. Read the full text of the lawsuit and reaction here.
SORRY SIDESHOW What a sad and sorry mess. Our state government, run entirely by Democrats, is nearly as dysfunctional as it was when Rod Blagojevich was playing with the executive branch. The irony here? Both sides in Cullerton/Madigan v. Quinn have a point. Hard to argue that Quinn didn't score points with the public and keep a bright spotlight on the pension crisis when he vetoed paychecks for legislators. But plaintiffs Madigan and Cullerton are correct in pointing out the danger of Quinn's action and seeking to nullify it. Can you imagine if we had this fight every time a governor and General Assembly disagreed on something? Oh, and by the way, the pension crisis continues unabated. Our take on this episode is here.
CARTOON VIEW A governor vetoes his adversaries' paychecks and they sue to get them back. If ever a situation was custom-made for cartoon treatment, it is this one. Chicago Tribune cartoonist is up to the task, observing the tough times legislators face as their miss their first paycheck tomorrow. Click to see the whole cartoon.
PENSION DRAIN We appreciate Scott Stantis' comic relief, but the crisis at the heart of Tuesday's lawsuit is no laughing matter. Nearly one-fourth of our tax dollars go into keeping our failing state pension systems afloat. And it only will get worse. Help us keep the pressure on our lawmakers to reform the pension system and protect Illinois' economy, its state budget and the retirement security of hundreds of thousands of public workers and retirees. Click here to make a difference and to see a timeline of how this disaster unfolded.
SWEET DEAL The Metra scandal has made the suburban commuter railroad synonymous statewide with "patronage" as allegations of influence-peddling by House Speaker Michael formeran and others have seeped out. The case of former Metra employee and longtime Madigan political supporter Patrick Ward has become a particularly clear window into the politically connected world of Illinois politics. Ward is the Metra employee for whom Madigan tried to obtain a raise. But there's a lot more to it than that. Public pensions, public jobs, ever-increasing income... Our chart today explores the employment and salary history of the employee who has put the state's most powerful politician in the patronage spotlight.
MAKE IT FAIR We trace the roots of scandals like the Metra affair to a system that lets politicians put themselves into office for life -- as long as their party wins the right to draw up the state's legislative maps. We want to stop the gerrymandering that has set the tone of Illinois politics and driven the state into the financial abyss, but this promises to be a Herculean effort. We need your help. Find out more about the Yes for Independent Maps effort and how you can get involved. It's the biggest reform of all in Illinois government and we can't expect any help from lawmakers making it happen. Join us!
TAX TALK Is it time for Illinois to scrap its flat-rate income tax for a progressive system in which wealthy taxpayers pay a higher percentage of their income? Is the progressive tax movement a tax increase movement in disguise? How did Illinois go from a $1.1 billion budget surplus in 1998 to billions in debt in a few short years? Those are just a few of the questions that will be discussed by two prominent experts on Illinois' financial state at our Aug. 15 tax forum in Springfield. Reboot Illinois and the Citizens Club of Springfield will host progressive tax advocate Ralph Martire of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and opponent Ted Dabrowski of the Illinois Policy Institute for a discussion of Illinois' income tax future. We hope you'll join us. Find out more here.
TODAY'S TOP 7 Here are links to 7important Illinois news and opinion items you should be aware of today. You'll find links to and summaries of many more in the Daily Tip-Off section of our website.
• 7. Despite House Speaker Michael Madigan's best efforts at redistricting to keep the Democrats in power, Illinois' Congressional races in 2014 could be very competitive. (NBC Chicago)
6. An ethics investigation into Madigan's role in the Metra scandal should shed light on the need to strengthen the ethics law, the state's legislative inspector general hopes. (Pantagraph)
5. A second Metra board member has stepped down in the wake of the scandal. (Chicago Tribune)
4. Detroit's bankruptcy is bringing more scrutiny to Chicago's financial situation. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
3. Opinion: Pat Quinn's suspension of legislators' pay was the wrong move and the lawsuit filed against it was the right move. (Chicago Tribune)
2. Opinion: The lawsuit is understandable, but Quinn's move was still the right one. (Chicago Sun-Times)
1. Opinion: Finally, an emergency state lawmakers take action on. (Chicago Tribune)