Kacich: Dems up to GOP's old tricks
Whoever first said there are no new ideas in politics was right.
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Illinois Republicans and some of the state’s newspapers are upset about the Democratic-dominated Legislature stuffing advisory referenda on the November ballot to stimulate the turnout of Democratic voters.
The Nov. 4 ballot will include advisory questions on three issues that Democrats privately concede will gin up their political base that includes women and lower-income voters. The advisory — which means non-binding and virtually inconsequential — questions deal with raising the minimum wage, a special income tax on millionaires to fund schools and birth control being included in all prescription health insurance plans.
The Republicans and their allies are right to say that this is all a political smokescreen to boost Democratic turnout — at the same time Democrats worked to knock off the ballot two proposed constitutional amendments that most Republicans favored, term limits and an independent legislative redistricting plan.
Yes, the Democrats — including the man Republicans like to portray as a master manipulator, Democratic Party chief Michael Madigan — are guilty of political hypocrisy. But there was a time in state politics, not too long ago, when Republicans had their own great mastermind.
And the GOP had its own guy who used an advisory referendum to stimulate the turnout of GOP voters: Gov. James “Big Jim” Thompson.
In 1978, Thompson, running for another term as governor, got backers to pass petitions to put the modestly named Thompson Proposition on the ballot.
It was an advisory vote that asked, “Shall legislation be enacted and the Illinois Constitution be amended to impose ceilings on taxes and spending by the state of Illinois, units of local government and school districts?”
No one really knew what that meant, how it was to be interpreted and how it would be passed and enacted, but that wasn’t the important thing.
What was important was that Thompson’s name was on it, that he was a candidate on the ballot at the same time and that cutting taxes — a huge issue in California and nationally at the time with the June 1978 passage of the similarly named Proposition 13 — was a popular idea.
It was such a great idea that Thompson’s plan passed statewide with
83 percent of the vote
(75 percent in Champaign County).
More importantly for Thompson, he was re-elected with a remarkable 60 percent of the vote (73.29 percent in Champaign County; by comparison, Republican Bill Brady got 54.63 percent here in 2010).
Of course, this being Illinois, there never was a vote on a constitutional amendment to impose a ceiling on state or local taxes, although a modest state sales-tax cut was enacted in 1979.
And, four years later, Thompson had to push for an income-tax increase.
All of which is a reminder of two things in this election year: one, it wasn’t that long ago that Illinois was a Republican state and, two, Mike Madigan shouldn’t get the blame (or credit) for every political maneuver he makes.