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National Editorial & Columnists

Bad luck haunts Illinois GOP

Party should dump excuses, give alternatives

If it weren’t for bad luck, Illinois Republicans wouldn’t have any luck at all.

At least, that’s the way a lot folks in the GOP feel after the election.

I keep hearing Republicans complain about The Map, The Money, The Unions, and The Madigan Machine.

Well, there is an old saying that goes like this: Excuses are like armpits; everybody has at least two, and they both stink.

At the end of the day, voters failed to see anything distinctly appealing about the GOP candidates who lost.

They ran on platforms like “Fire Madigan” rather than “Hire Us.”

People need to know why they should vote for someone, not just who they are voting against.

The ineffectiveness of the GOP strategy speaks for itself:

Senate Democrats picked up four seats and will have 40 seats after Jan. 8.

Senate Republicans will control a mere 19 seats.

Illinois House Republicans are down to 47 seats after losing seven spots, and House Speaker Mike Madigan will control a 71-seat veto-proof majority.

Here are some thoughts on how Republican lawmakers got themselves in this predicament:

n They voted against the temporary income tax hike, but in favor of budgets so big that it will be difficult for the tax to expire.

n They have failed to offer a detailed proposal for addressing the state pension crisis.

n They never presented an alternative to the governor’s spending proposal.

While it’s true those criticisms can be leveled at Democratic legislators as well, that’s the point. Voters often see little difference between candidates of either party.

And when they fail to differentiate themselves, other factors come into play: The Map, The Money, The Unions.

The next 2 years

Neither Illinois Senate President John Cullerton nor House Speaker Mike Madigan will have a Republican boogeyman to point to when they speak to interest groups or members of their own caucuses.

Blaming anything on a lack of Republican bipartisanship will be nearly impossible.

But here is the flipside to that: Republicans need no longer worry now about whether they will be invited to the table by the majority.

For the next 2 years, at least, they will be sitting alone at the legislative equivalent of a battered card table in the basement.

They can either sit at that table and sulk or use their time in the legislative wilderness to develop alternatives.

“We need to come with our proposals and plans,” said state Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon. “The Democrats are in the majority and don’t have to accept them. In fact, they can just ignore them. But we need to show our plans are different than theirs.”

Some of the hot-button issues likely to come up in the next 2 years are: 

n Raising the minimum wage

n Extending the income tax increase

n Addressing the state’s staggering pension debt

n Borrowing to pay the $9 billion in unpaid bills the state has piled up; and

n Expanding the sales tax.

Most of the fighting will happen within the Democratic caucuses.

Geography, rather than party affiliation, will mark the coming divide within the General Assembly.

Urban Democrats will continue to push a hard-left agenda, pitting them against suburban and downstate interests within their own party.

“The ball is really in the Democrats’ court now,” McCarter said. “They control everything.”

Note to readers – Scott Reeder’s column is underwritten by the Illinois Policy Institute.

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