Monday, January 12, 2015

Things got done during Quinn administration despite General Assembly preference for inaction

I can already hear the trash talk that will be spewed about Pat Quinn – the governor whose term ends Monday at Noon was a failure who brought down Illinois and whose very existence must be eradicated (along with that of Barack Obama) from history.

They’re the people who literally will be praying that Quinn gets smacked on the behind by the door that closes behind him when he leaves!

NOW ANYBODY WITH sense realizes how over the top that kind of rhetoric is. Because if anything, Quinn was the governor who managed to get a few things done despite the General Assembly’s desire at times to do nothing.

That attitude was most blatant with what Quinn had hoped would be the farewell gesture of his six years as Illinois governor – a significant increase in the minimum wage required of companies that operate in this state.

Anybody who ever claims that Democrats run roughshod over the desires of the people is absurd, and the minimum wage issue is probably Exhibit A in that argument. The Quinn years were nothing like 1995-96 when Republicans dominated state government, and it took the state Supreme Court to strike down the most egregious measures.

There was that referendum question that showed two-thirds of Illinoisans would have supported an increase. Yet the Legislature felt compelled to do nothing. There wasn’t even a token effort made on the issue.

IT IS BECAUSE Democrats, by their nature, are capable of being an ornery lot who can’t get along with themselves. The idea of Quinn leading some plot to impose his own will with a sympathetic Legislature doing his bidding is ridiculous.

It seems some people have watched the City Council way too much. Quinn is not Mayor Rahm Emanuel by any means!

There are the two issues that many political observers are citing as the key parts of the Quinn gubernatorial legacy – abolishing the death penalty in Illinois and actually approving the concept of legitimate marriage for gay couples (rather than having a court strike down the existing laws that banned such marriages).

Yet let’s be honest. Who thinks that Quinn came up with those ideas and gave them to us?

ELIMINATING CAPITAL PUNISHMENT in Illinois was an idea that had lingered for more than a decade since the days of George Ryan. Gay marriage came to other states, including some in the Midwestern U.S., long before it came to the Land of Lincoln.

It was when the Legislature could no longer resist the national trends that they finally acted as they did – and I’m sure there are a few people who believe now that there’s a Republican as governor, it is the first step toward repealing gay marriage and bringing back lethal injection.

Let’s also consider the ample problems our state faces in funding the pension programs maintained for state workers and educators.

How many years was the Legislature willing to ignore all the talk about how severe the debt had grown? How many “drop dead” dates passed before the Legislature finally went along with a Quinn desire.

AND HOW MANY of the legislators are secretly hoping that resolution manages to get shot down by the Supreme Court of Illinois – leaving state government (let alone the city and Cook County government problems that the Legislature also has to address) in just as big a mess as ever.

My own view of Quinn’s “legacy” is that he carried on his mentality of being the gadfly of Illinois government – the pain-in-the-behind who constantly pointed out the problems.

Back in those days, he often was laughed at, if not outright ignored, by legislators – who kept that same mentality in place once he became the head of the state’s executive branch.

I remember one legislator (a Democrat and member in good standing with the black caucus) once telling me that Quinn’s temperament was so quirky that he couldn’t be trusted to stand up in support for them. So they felt no compulsion to support him in return!

SO THAT IS most likely the Quinn “legacy;” not fully appreciated until after he’s gone and we see how much worse things can become (You know they will!).

And that date back in January of 2009 when Quinn entered the state Senate chambers to cheers from legislators in the moments following the impeachment of Rod Blagojevich now feels like it was even more distant in time than the Chicago Cubs’ last World Series title.


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