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I just returned from the annual Governor's Day (aka Democrat Day) rally at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. The event is usually a pep-rally for Democratic candidates attended by party activists. This year: Worst Dem Day rally ever.

Democratic Governor Pat Quinn was greeted by loud booing when he approached the grounds. No one heard a word of his speech over the crowd of state employees angry about proposed pension cuts and closures of state facilities. Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan was jeered just as heavily when his name was mentioned. Congressman Danny Davis tried to put in a good word for Quinn and was quickly drowned out.

Only Secretary of State Jesse White and Congressional candidate David Gill were enthusiastically cheered. The biggest applause came when a plane passed overhead with a banner reading "Quinn unfair to workers."

The crowd size seemed average for an election year but at least half were state employee union members booing the Governor. Quinn finished quickly to make this the shortest Democrat Day rally I've ever seen. Hundreds more workers held signs outside the fairground gates. Not even Rod Blagojevich was ever booed like this after his attacks on state workers. It was in stark contrast to the wildly enthusiastic, large crowd that greeted Barack Obama in 2004 after his famous Democratic convention speech.

Even Quinn supporters in the crowd had a hard time blaming union members for being angry. The union endorsed Quinn and did a lot of work to get him elected in a very close race. They feel betrayed by his push for pension reform. The problem only exists because previous legislatures and Governors chose not to fully fund the state pension system. Now, state workers are being punished for bad decisions made by politicians.

Some people were sporting "This is not Wisconsin" t-shirts. Democrats aren't supposed to treat public employees this way.

Chicago area legislators are isolated from the depth of anxiety and anger state workers are feeling right now since most state jobs are located downstate. Maybe this will serve as a wake-up call. State government is the top employer in Illinois. If Quinn moves forward with a pension plan that the union doesn't support, he'll have to craft a re-election strategy that involves getting far fewer votes from downstate Illinois than he did last time.

Originally posted to Willinois on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 01:40 PM PDT.

Also republished by Land of Lincoln Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I do feel bad for the man (10+ / 0-)

    The state budget is one stinking mess and the pensions are the worst part. The state ledge has not been putting the money in year after year and now there is a hole that has no hope of being filled.

    •  well (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, cotterperson, allergywoman

      I'm not sure state pensions are really the worst part of the budget but you've got Koch funded groups like the Illinois Policy Institute pushing pension "reform" pretty hard.

      I don't think he went into office with the idea of attacking state workers. This wouldn't be necessary if the legislature had passed the tax increase Quinn asked for last year.

      •  Didn't we get the tax increase? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Norm in Chicago, PatriciaVa

        Didn't income tax rates go from 3% to 5%?  I think they did.  What other taxes were voted down?

        •  Yes, but (0+ / 0-)

          not one big enough to pay for debt and spending, apparently.

          •  Then Ill. is stuck between a rock and hard place. (3+ / 0-)

            You can't raise taxes, then declare a shortfall.

            What was the reason for tax increase, if not to fund these pensions?

            •  keep teachers teaching, etc... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Woody, splintersawry

              I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

              by Satya1 on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 04:17:41 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I'm beginning to believe that many States made (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                promises they just can't keep.

                I know it's not right, but the situation is what it is, and tax increases are not popular.

                •  It was the Great Recession that hurt (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  Granted legislators weren't always doing their jobs before it but the lost revenue and need from more people for state programs really hurt.  Taxes were raised to try to meet most operational types of expenses but growth did not kick in as much as hoped and cuts have been very controversial.

                  I piped up on this diary because a lot of the RWers are trying to call this a "pension problem".  That tends to imply the whole "public employees are spoiled by excessive benefits" crap.  The problems are not with the pensions.  It is with revenue problems like a regressive tax system and with treating a pension fund like a slush fund.

                  I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

                  by Satya1 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 12:39:51 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  If you have to rob one to pay another, there is a (0+ / 0-)

                    fundamental flaw in your revenue stream.  These shortages didn't happen overnite and have been building for years, sometimes decades.

                    I agree the GR played a role in worsening the situation, but most of these are a long-term underfunding issue, not just a short-term shortage.

                    The only true solution at this point to avoiding more cuts is economic growth.  Raising taxes in this environment is just not politically feasible.

                    Hence, the rock and hard place.

      •  The worst of it has not been the pensions per se (7+ / 0-)

        but the lack of honesty from state pols in funding the pensions.  Our state legislature is 10+ years behind in addressing this.  It didn't help that Blago was a big do-nothing and let the whole problem go unaddressed.  So Quinn inherited a big mess and I don't blame him that much for that.  

        So there is a state worker pension into which state workers contribute and into which the state was supposed to contribute its share every year and instead they used what should have been the contribution to pay for other things in the budget.  They wrote the pension system an IOU instead.

        Now there are ways the pension system is abused and ways it should be made more efficient.  And those are serious issues - but still secondary to a cowardly legislature (hello Mike Madigan) IMHO.

        I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

        by Satya1 on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 02:38:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The solution for these pension plans (7+ / 0-)

      perhaps is to do the only thing that can be done: nationalize them. The Federal government could acquire all of the State pension plans into a national public employee pension system under conditions where the assurances and promises that were made could be honored to the greatest extent possible. Then they would not be a huge drag on the State and local budgets, and would be backed by a combination of State contributions and Federal contributions secured by a new type of Muni-style bond. We now have a situation where the Treasury has people pushing money at them at less than zero interest.

      Anyway, I am not an economist, so just a thought.

      The universe may have a meaning and a purpose, but it may just specifically not include you.

      by Anne Elk on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 02:15:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're not an economist, that's why (3+ / 0-)

        you're still capable of having a thought. Pensions should definitely be federalized. When it remains a state issue, pols are left in the position of either reneging on their legal obligations or raising taxes, which will be used as excuses for businesses to threaten to move out -- the race to the bottom that the Paul Ryan types love to see. The Feds can raise revenues. The states can't do it easily, and there ae few pols willing to risk the kind of threats and attacks they'd get from Koch/Ryan plutocrats.

        Remember what happened when we turned the country over to that dumbass rich kid? So now we're thinking about doing it again? Really?

        by DaveW on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 03:32:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The Grand Bargain Redux (0+ / 0-)

        The federal government assumes the pensions, but local/state governments cede sovereignty.

        For example, if the federal government assumes the pensions of teachers, than the federal government has the power to consolidate school districts, unilaterally.  And if that means consolidating four school districts into one, preserving the same number of teachers, but slashing administrative expenses by 75%, then so be it.

        From that point on, school superintendents are appointed by DC, with local input as needed.  Curriculum is also imposed by DC.

        Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project.

        by PatriciaVa on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 03:50:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  These so-called pensions are our social security (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        codairem, Woody

        We pay into the state retirement system instead of into social security. At a higher rate I might add, 8% instead of 6.5%. So a proposal to nationalize our "pensions" would mean to bring us back into the social security system. Which is probably more solvent than the Illinois retirement system at this point. But Illinois would still have to come up with a chunk of money that it doesn't have to buy back into social security.

        Strange days indeed. ~John Lennon

        by joanil on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 04:17:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Now I am definitely out of ideas! LOL. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I am guessing that this is all going to come to a head as the entire Muni bond system hits a wall. It's coming to States like CA, perhaps by the end of the year. But they have been shifting the deck chairs around for a while, repainting some, calling others mini-sofas, renting out some chairs, asking people to pretend they are sitting on a chair, that kind of thing. But we are getting to a pretty brutal situation in which pension obligations are tossed out, everything that can be cut has been, and you still cannot service your loans.

          California becomes Greece. California asks the USA for a bailout. In fact, had the federal government not spent the stimulus money on federal projects but had just given money directly to the States to prevent layoffs, then we might never have had the persistent unemployment and State budget woes that we do. Water under the bridge, I know.

          The universe may have a meaning and a purpose, but it may just specifically not include you.

          by Anne Elk on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 04:35:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Such messes all over. (0+ / 0-)

            I wish Illinois could somehow buy back into Social Security, but I don't think the Feds have ever offered. :)

            We live in tumultuous times don't we? Are you in CA? Best of luck to you out there.

            Strange days indeed. ~John Lennon

            by joanil on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 05:10:01 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Legislators all over the country seem to be (9+ / 0-)

    under the impression that their job is to exercise control over the population in the event religion fails to persuade them to be obedient. That their real task is to provide stewardship over our natural and man-made resources and promote the welfare of the people has somehow escaped their ken.  I suspect it's because for a couple of centuries, legislators were elected mainly to dole out rights and goodies to their supporters:

    water rights
    mineral rights
    property rights
    fishing rights
    hunting rights
    Then, when the natural resources started to run out, they turned to contracting goods and services, again to their friends and supporters. Various requirements as to fairness and quality that were imposed during the second half of the 20th century really put a crimp into their operations. So, they turned to privatization and focused their attention on managing the people who had been presumptuous enough to tell them what to do.  The so-called social issues movement is their revenge.

    "If you don't like the job I'm doing, just watch how much worse it can be."

    We need better legislators.

    Willard's forte = "catch 'n' cage". He's not into "catch and release."

    by hannah on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 02:04:00 PM PDT

  •  Apropos of nothing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PatriciaVa, shaharazade

    I went to law school with Pat Quinn.  He was an odd duck back then.  I am stunned that he is the Governor of Illinois, even though he was very involved in Chicago politics back then.  

  •  They are booing the wrong guy. (12+ / 0-)

    They should be booing Michael Madigan who is most responsible for the pension mess.  He has run the state from the Speaker's Chair for thirty years.  In that time he has pushed Potemkin budget which relied on using the pension money to fill gaps in the budget.  Quinn is just trying to clean up his mess.

    •  According to the diary (5+ / 0-)

      He got his share too.

      from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

      by Catte Nappe on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 02:12:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Madigan was also booed. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      majcmb1, Satya1, Norm in Chicago

      Madigan can also be blamed for blocking a bigger tax increase last year that would have made most of these cuts unnecessary.
      But, Quinn is still making his own choices about what to advocate. There are other options.

    •  Spot on (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, Woody

      But there are a couple of hot issues AFSCME and others are hot about now.  Madigan has been playing it safe for decades.  No political courage there at all from what I can see.  I think his daughter has 10X the integrity.

      Still unions want to help work out the problems if the state legislators are willing to stop stealing pension money to pay for their pork:

      "The employees didn't cause the crisis, but we're going on record today to say our members are willing to help fix it if the state will guarantee that the politicians will never again divert our pension money to other expenses," said Coalition spokesperson Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

      I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

      by Satya1 on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 02:54:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Let us see the first wise politician who (4+ / 0-)

    figures out that while austerity is demanded on the one hand, extraordinary and criminal greed is occurring on the other.

    There is only one focus any government leader should have these days.  Figure out how to get what has been stolen by one hand gets back in the other hand, where it belongs.

    “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” - Harriet Tubman

    by Publius2008 on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 02:25:45 PM PDT

  •  Hate to see this. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Satya1, lina, Bush Bites, jan4insight, codairem
    Now, state workers are being punished for bad decisions made by politicians.
    Well of course... it is axiomatic that bad political decisions punish people.  The idea that it is possible for later politicians to just wave a magic wand and shelter the people from all the negative effects of previous bad decisions is just plain naive.  It sucks, but blaming the guy who inherited the mess and is trying to deal with it just gives the folks who really caused the problem a pass and doesn't solve anything.  
  •  Unions aren't blameless. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Julia Grey, auapplemac

    They never demanded that the funds be replenished through years of bargaining agreements.

    They were perfectly happy to negotiate raises and totally ignore the pension problem, even though they knew better.

    Romney-Ryan is like Dole-Kemp for amateurs..

    by Bush Bites on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 02:51:29 PM PDT

  •  Quinn gets to be the scapegoat (5+ / 0-)

    for all the pols of all parties who year after year steal the pension money they are legally required to reserve to pay the state's legal obligations to its employees. Like Obama, he inherited the fruits of vast corruption just when the pyramid scheme came crashing down. I'm not defending him, but keep in mind that what the state Reps wanted would have been absolute disaster and destroyed many lives.

    In IL, teachers and other employees were not allowed to contribute to Social Security or benefit from it, so the ongoing threat of pension "reform" puts many in danger of losing everything they were counting on for retirement.

    The IL pension issue is one of the most disgusting, shameful official crimes anywhere in the country. It's understandable that Quinn gets booed, but it will be a disaster if he gets replaced by a Republican next time around. In the meantime IL needs to find a way to sweep every single incumbent in the legislature out of office and start investigating and prosecuting the thefts that have been going on over the past many decades. There are hundreds more IL pols who belong in the slammer along with Blag and Ryan.

    Remember what happened when we turned the country over to that dumbass rich kid? So now we're thinking about doing it again? Really?

    by DaveW on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 03:26:49 PM PDT

  •  this is just my opinion Im a illinois progressive (0+ / 0-)

    The budget has to get put in order they raise taxes from 3 percent to 9 percent in illinois and its a flat tax the most regressive tax possible I work 38 hours ever 2 week and my check is around 350 before taxes I cant afford another couple percentage points out of my check or Im going to have to steal my food to eat

     the State workers are going to have to take a hair cut or other wise a republican is going to win the govenorship and he is going to cut there head off and I dont want to see that

    " Pain is the cracking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Its bitter potion your inner physcians uses to heal its sick self.

    by itsnotmyfault on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 04:55:56 PM PDT

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