For a while there, it seemed like Rod Blagojevich had come back as governor.
But no, it was just Gov. Pat Quinn doing his best Blago impression last week with concealed carry.
As a governor, when you act on a controversial, high-profile bill such as concealed carry and want to make some political points at the same time, you do it at a public ceremony.
And that’s what Quinn did.
The news media were summoned to an event in Chicago. The place was packed with people. There were law enforcement people. There were people from gun-control organizations. There were family members of gun-violence victims.
And, of course, there were the children. That was a common Blagojevich technique, to use children as props in his public events.
Then there was Quinn’s action on the bill itself. He didn’t use his amendatory veto powers to do a nip and tuck on concealed carry. He extensively rewrote the bill with stuff that wasn’t agreed to by negotiators during weeks of discussions.
That was also something out of the Blagojevich playbook.
Alas, Quinn ruined the comparison by showing up only about 10 minutes late to the event. For Blagojevich, that would have been considered arriving early.
Pretty much no one was surprised by what Quinn did with concealed carry, even if they weren’t happy about it.
Quinn doesn’t like concealed carry. He thought the federal court decision striking down Illinois’ ban was wrong, and he repeated that last week. He also pointedly noted that the ruling wasn’t appealed, which could be taken as a shot at Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who may or may not run against Quinn in the Democratic primary for governor next year.
Also, while Quinn downplayed any political motives for his amendatory veto, there’s little question it helped his standing among Cook County voters who take a different view of guns and concealed carry than downstate areas of Illinois.
There are those who would argue Quinn sealed his fate with downstate voters by making changes to the concealed-carry law. Maybe, but he wasn’t exactly popular with many downstaters to begin with.
And, as he showed in the last election, a Democrat doesn’t have to carry downstate in order to get elected here.
To clarify for those who don’t deal with the Legislature, lawmakers have to deal with Quinn’s changes in total. They can’t accept some and reject others. It’s all or nothing.
Does the figure “$17 million a day” ring any bells?
Of course it does. That’s how much the state’s pension debt was increasing every day during the last budget year. It was supposed to lend urgency to the idea of doing something to rein in pension costs.
Last week, with the start of the state’s new fiscal year, the Quinn administration revised that number.
Now, the state’s pension debt is climbing by $5 million a day. It’s still climbing, and the debt accumulated after decades of neglect is still there, but the pace of the increase is far slower than it was.
The administration said the improved number is the result of the state finally making its full pension payments. Keep in mind, the state can do that because it hiked the income tax by 67 percent. Without that money, it’s safe to assume the state would still be shorting the pensions.
The danger is that this comparatively good news could become bad news. The pension debt isn’t increasing as much as before. Lawmakers just put together a state budget that avoids further cuts to education because of a one-time influx of higher revenue in April.
All the state would need is for lawmakers to start thinking the pension problem is largely behind them now.