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Doug Finke

Who’s in charge of Illinois?

Not I, says the governor, but he still wants to be

Not I, says the governor, but he still wants to be

Guess Alexander Haig isn’t one of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s role models.

It was Haig, then secretary of state, who famously said he was in control after President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981.

Now compare that with Rauner, who said he’s not in control of Illinois government and won’t be as long as House Speaker Michael Madigan is around.

That’s because, of course, Madigan has complete control over the state and thwarts the governor at every turn.

As you might expect, the Democratic candidates for governor pounced on this as evidence there are better choices to lead the state.

Thing is, Rauner also provided fodder for his primary opponent, Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton, who essentially said the office of governor isn’t weak, just the person holding the office.

That’s got to smart.

That was last Monday. On Tuesday, Rauner was asked if he wanted to retract any of what he said on Monday about being powerless against Madigan. He declined to do that.

Why then, a reporter asked, should someone vote to re-elect the governor if Madigan is still going to be around to stymie the governor’s efforts.

Rauner responded that there is a “very, very high probability” that if he is re-elected, Madigan will no longer be speaker.

Well, OK. If Madigan had to run statewide, he’d likely be defeated, if various polls are correct in showing that he is disliked to the point of being despised. But Madigan doesn’t run statewide, and no one has filed to run against him in his legislative district.

That means that Madigan could be ousted if Republicans gain control of the House. They’d have to gain nine seats to so that, which seems unlikely under a map drawn by the Democrats.

The other possibility is that enough rank-and-file Democrats defect and elect someone other than Madigan as their leader. That may be less likely than Republicans getting control of the chamber.

Rauner might have to retool that “woe-is-me-and-we’re-all-helpless-until-Madigan-is-gone” theme.

State pension

debt went down?

Yes, a teeny bit

Could it possibly be? Did the state’s pension debt actually go down last year?

The answer is yes. Only by a teeny, tiny amount, but it did go down.

The annual report on the five state-funded pension systems from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability showed that as of June 30, the unfunded liability for the pension systems – money that is owed in benefits, but which aren’t covered by assets – is $129.1 billion.

At the same time last year, the debt stood at $129.8 billion.

That’s less than half a percent reduction, but it’s better than watching it increase.

Before anyone gets some delusion that the pension problem has been solved, it hasn’t.

The state’s pension systems benefited from better than expected returns on their investments. Perhaps you’ve heard that the stock markets have been doing pretty well for a while. That’s not going to continue forever.

The long-term projections for the pension systems show the unfunded liabilities continuing to grow for another decade or so before they start gradually declining. It still means the systems together won’t be 90 percent funded until 2045.

And all of that is assuming investment returns hit their targets, and state officials resist the temptation to again short the pension systems to use the money for some other program. For the next 28 years.

Who’s in charge of Illinois? Statehouse Insider: Rauner says he's not in charge of Illinois governmentbd31a180-3228-439c-96bb-824244283dd2/image-pv_web.jpgshaw-push-component-1

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