Proft: Grand Bargain "neither grand nor is it a bargain"
Dan Proft summed up his thoughts on the state's so-called Grand Bargain compromise budget plan this way: "It is neither grand nor is it a bargain."
Proft is the president of Liberty Principles PAC and co-founder of Local Government Information Services (LGIS), which owns this publication. He is a well-known radio show host and businessman who recently stressed his disdain for the proposed budget as the Illinois Senate began voting on elements of it.
The budget package consists of 12 bills that must all pass for the budget to move forward to the House and eventually to Gov. Bruce Rauner. Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Republican Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) hammered out the compromise in a series of meetings after the "stopgap" budget of 2016 expired.
“This is the classic compromise,” Cullerton said. “So, you get as much as you can, and you don’t overestimate how much you think you’re entitled to."
While Cullerton called the budget a compromise, Proft pointed to Cullerton and Speaker of the House Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) as the bosses of a Chicago political machine that is presenting the same old choices to lawmakers.
The budget includes a more than 30 percent income tax increase that would raise the taxpayers' rate from 3.75 percent to 4.99 percent. It also includes a $0.01 per ounce tax on sugary drinks and a $215 million bailout of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers' pension fund in 2017 and more than $200 million every year afterward.
In his mid-February address to the General Assembly, Rauner said that while the budget did make a token effort at pension and workers' compensation reform and included a two-year property tax freeze, it wasn't enough. He called for a permanent freeze on property taxes and other reforms to make Illinois more business-friendly.
Proft said if the budget passes the Senate and House, it leaves the governor with two hard choices: If he signs the budget, he betrays his campaign promises to provide tax relief to Illinois' long-suffering taxpayers. Signing the bill might even destroy his chances at re-election.
If he vetoes it, he will be vilified as the governor who refused to compromise with the Democratic majority and moderate Republicans. He will be blamed for the failure of the budget, despite its massive tax hike and lack of cost-cutting reforms.
But he also will fulfill his campaign promises and have an opportunity to reach out to his base supporters as he runs for re-election in 2018.
Proft recalled previous Republican governors who faced similar choices and signed budget bills into law. He blamed James Robert "Jim" Thompson Jr. and James "Jim" Edgar, who served from 1977-91 and 1991-99, respectively, for the Republican Party's descent from power and Illinois' reputation as the worst-governed state in America.
As the Senate considers the collection of budget bills, critics including the Illinois Policy Institute and Illinois Manufacturers' Association CEO Greg Baise point to the state's overspending as the deal-breaker. If lawmakers raise taxes without incorporating cost-cutting measures and reforms, the state will continue its downward spiral.
"GOP state senators who vote for the not grand non-bargain are in effect saying they want Chicago Democrat bosses to continue to run this state and run it into the ground for their benefit," Proft said. "GOP state senators who vote for this not grand non-bargain are in effect saying they do not want Gov. Rauner re-elected. GOP state senators who vote for this not grand non-bargain are actually in effect saying they don't want to be re-elected," he said.