Friday, March 26, 2010

A House (and Senate) of Brats

"As Speaker, I want every citizen of Illinois to know this is a people's Legislature -- we are here to serve the public, openly, honestly and with the highest standards. I am accountable only to you." Mike Madigan

“We’ve known for years that state pension systems and local pension systems are severely underfunded.” Mike Madigan

We are governed by petulant children. 

In the span of just a few hours this past Wednesday, significant legislation concerning the pension system of most state workers was introduced and passed by both houses of the IL legislature. 

 This was done, as the Chicago Tribune reports, in order to bypass the objections of state employee unions. Mind you, the bill in question is 39 pages, and the language was first seen by the Legislature the morning it was passed. Which doesn't really allow for careful consideration by those voting. In fact, every public reading of the bill required by the IL constitution, save for the last, happened last year and with text that was completely stripped from the final bill. And still it passed (remarkable given the polarization down in the Capitol) by 92-17 in the House, and 48-6 in the Senate. 

Why is this in any way thought of as acceptable behavior? Why can't our state government operate in anything resembling adult fashion? 

Speaker Madigan acknowledged the historical and systemic underfunding of state pensions in the quote above. As arguably the most influential person in state politics for the past 25 years, that funding situation happened on his watch, with budgets that he helped to pass. To let that slide for years, develop a half-assed job of "fixing" it, and then railroad it's passage within the span of a single working day shows considerable chutzpah. It's rather unfortunate that he doesn't use that political muscle in a more representative manner.

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