Thursday, December 11, 2014

Quinn gets chance to create one last political headache for his critics

Pat Quinn has just over one month left in his time as governor, yet he’s going to create such a political firestorm. There’s just no way he could leave on a quiet note.

It is because of the death early Wednesday of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka – one month before she was to be sworn in for her second term as head of the post that cuts the checks to pay the state’s bills.

BECAUSE OF THE fact that she’s in charge of the office that keeps state government running financially (the state treasurer oversees the state’s investments), there needs to be a comptroller to ensure the government keeps running.

So to those people who, for politically partisan reasons, want Quinn to sit back and do nothing and defer to Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner until he takes office Jan. 12, that ain’t a gonna happen.

Quinn gets to pick a new state comptroller to finish out the remainder of the term to which Topinka was elected to in 2010. None other than the Illinois Constitution gives him that authority.

Although ideologues usually don’t care what some stinkin’ piece of paper has to say – they’re going to rant and rage that Quinn has no right picking anybody because of his electoral loss in last month’s elections.

I ALREADY HAVE read assorted commentary about how, if Quinn does get to sign off on a “Comptroller for a Month” position, he ought to defer to whatever Rauner wants to do. Even though when then-Gov. James R. Thompson had a secretary of state appointment to fill in 1981 when Alan Dixon moved up to the U.S. Senate, he picked fellow Republican Jim Edgar for the post rather than respecting the fact that voters picked a Democrat for the post.

Which means the idea of respect for party politics isn’t going to happen. It’s ridiculous to presume it will happen.

You’d think the fact that Quinn’s appointment will only run through mid-January and that Rauner himself will take office with a major appointment to fill (who gets to be comptroller for the four-year term running through early 2019 that Topinka was just elected to) would please those people.

But it won’t. Some people, particularly those who are trying to rewrite state law to call for a special election, are just way too eager to pick issues to complain about.

I’M NOT ABOUT to predict here who’s going to become the new state comptroller – not for the next month, nor for the next four years.

I’ve heard the political wisecracks about how Quinn likely won’t pick Sheila Simon to fill the post that she ran for, and lost, last month. After all, her refusal to continue to serve as Quinn’s lieutenant governor was a fairly prominent snub – perhaps the biggest of the now-complete campaign season.

I’ve also heard the names of “Tom Cross,” “Dan Rutherford” and “Evelyn Sanguinetti” all tossed about as possible picks by Rauner, along with the possibility of putting Topinka's chief of staff in the constitutional post.

The idea being that Cross came so close to winning state election (running for treasurer) that he ought to get some sort of post, while Rutherford serving as state treasurer has some sense of what the state’s financial situation truly is.

THE IDEA OF Lt. Gov.-elect Sanguinetti as comptroller is the most amusing to me – one person suggests that it would save the state some money in salary because Rauner could then go without a lieutenant governor during his gubernatorial term.

Of course, if that happened and Rauner wound up being unable to finish his term in office, that would make state Attorney General Lisa Madigan next in line to become governor without having to be elected. A thought that I’m sure would make the ideologues wretch in disgust.

Personally, I'd rather have someone as inexperienced as Sanguinetti in a do-nothing position like lieutenant governor, than being in charge of making sure bills get paid close to being on time. But maybe that's just me.

It will be intriguing to see who Quinn picks for the “Comptroller for a Month” post. Somebody will get to be a state constitutional officer for 31 (or so) days.

SIMILAR TO THOSE people who remember the week-long stint that David Orr once served as Chicago mayor in between the death of Harold Washington and the appointment of Eugene Sawyer.

Which was only significant in that it makes him the answer to a trivia question for political geeks.


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