Madigan tells Black lawmakers his strong leadership needed for tax hike, legislative map

Madigan tells Black lawmakers his strong leadership needed for tax hike, legislative map

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan made a pitch for keeping his leadership despite a federal corruption probe. He told Black state lawmakers he can deliver a tax hike and a new legislative map, again favoring Democrats.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan made his pitch to his chamber’s Black Caucus on Dec. 5 for why he should win another term as speaker despite being wrapped up in a federal bribery scandal.

In his speech, Madigan told caucus members he was ready to help pass a state income tax increase if Gov. J.B. Pritzker wanted one. He said his strong leadership abilities are the reason lawmakers should choose him to lead the General Assembly through that task.

“My pledge to the caucus, on state finances and also on redistricting, is to provide the same type of strong leadership that I provided to our caucus when we were fighting against Gov. [Bruce] Rauner,” Madigan said.

Madigan has had his hand in redistricting and tax increases in Illinois since 1983. Madigan’s power over the legislative maps has meant Democrats often don’t face a Republican opponent, as was the case in nearly 40% of the House races Nov. 3.

In 2016, Madigan’s lawyer sued to block a voter initiative to amend the constitution to require Illinois’ maps to be drawn independently. Madigan will again be able to control the map-making process in 2021 if he is reelected speaker.

In 2017, Madigan was able to push through a massive tax increase on Illinoisans, raising the income tax rate to 4.95%. State leaders still wanted more: Madigan was a supporter of the progressive income tax amendment, which would have given him greater power to manipulate Illinois’ tax rates.

With the failure of the progressive income tax amendment Nov. 3, Pritzker has promised difficult choices will be made and a tax increase is likely coming. Prior to the election, his administration threatened Illinoisans with a 20% tax increaseif voters did not approve his “fair tax.” Voters resoundingly rejected the amendment, leaving Pritzker vowing to find different ways to fund his budget.

Madigan is not shying away from the political challenge and has demonstrated throughout his career he is willing to hit Illinoisans with disastrous policies. Madigan also has the power of the purse and directs campaign funds for Democrats throughout the state, ensuring loyalty and the ability to outspend Republicans, as happened during the Nov. 3 election with mixed results. Democrat losses prompted both of Illinois’ U.S. Senate members and Pritzker to ask that Madigan step down as party chair.

Lawmakers do have another choice, however. State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, also appeared before the House Black Caucus to pitch herself as an alternative to Madigan.

“I know that change can be scary,” Kifowit said. “But, together – working together – I think we can make good change… and help people.”

Since being implicated in bribery charges filed against ComEd that also resulted in charges against his closest allies, Madigan has lost the support of 19 House Democrats, six more than needed to stop him from reaching the necessary 60 votes to be reelected speaker of the House.

On the House Black Caucus, only state Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, has said he will not be voting for Madigan.

State lawmakers should be looking at a constitutional amendment allowing them to change future, unearned public pension benefits as a way to control state spending, not turning to a tax increase after voters clearly opposed the “fair tax” hike. They also should pass reforms to take the redistricting process out of the hands of lawmakers, to reform the House Rules, to strengthen ethics rules to mandate transparency and hold lawmakers accountable for their conflicts of interest, and to free the legislative inspector general to investigate and publicize wrongdoing without hindrance from lawmakers.

Keeping Madigan would be a mistake. Replacing him without reforms would be the same mistake.

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