The Democratic Party of Illinois has sent out what could wind up being the most unintentionally hilarious campaign mailer of the season.
“Mica Freeman’s Plan: No Budget, No Pay,” the DPI mailer blares on behalf of the Democratic candidate challenging Representative Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield).
“If politicians in Springfield don’t do their job and balance the budget, they shouldn’t get paid,” the mailer claims. “Period. Mica Freeman is outraged Governor Bruce Rauner and Springfield politicians continued collecting taxpayer-funded paychecks while failing to balance the budget for more than 700 days, putting critical services like breast cancer screenings and domestic violence shelters at risk.”
The other side of the mailer has a photo of a bespectacled, cross-armed Freeman staring at the camera. “If you don’t do your job, you don’t get paid. Even my kids understand that. But Springfield politicians who fail to pass a budget still collect a paycheck. I say that’s wrong and I’m going to stop it.”
House Speaker Michael Madigan’s top attorney Mike Kasper filed a lawsuit on behalf of several of Madigan’s House Democratic members in 2016 against Comptroller Leslie Munger for withholding legislators’ paychecks during the two-year budget impasse. The Republican Munger’s special election campaign that year centered around her “No budget, no pay” slogan, and she got backup from Governor Rauner, who, by the way, doesn’t accept a salary.
So I about died laughing when I saw that Democratic Party mailer.
Representative Batinick himself co-sponsored legislation in 2015 that would’ve repealed a state law enacting a continuing appropriation for legislator salaries and General Assembly operations. That 2014 law was pushed by Madigan after Governor Pat Quinn vetoed legislator salaries out of a budget bill in a failed effort to force the GA to take up a pension reform bill. Madigan himself sued Quinn over the paychecks and won in 2013.
Representative Batinick also sent a letter along with several of his colleagues to incoming Comptroller Susana Mendoza in December of 2016 offering their advice on how to counter the Madigan-backed lawsuit. Batinick even owns the NoBudgetNoPayIL.com Web site.
The issue definitely polls well, which is why the Democrats are using it. Munger received far more votes than the other two statewide Republican candidates in 2016 (President Donald Trump and Senator Mark Kirk). “They’re hurting Illinois, so why should they get paid?” Munger asked in a TV ad focusing on the issue. And it was extremely telling that Madigan’s members waited until after the election ended to file their lawsuit. Madigan’s side prevailed in court, however, and the issue was dropped after Comptroller Mendoza decided against an appeal.
I asked Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown if this meant Madigan was now in favor of the concept. “As I recall,” Brown wrote in an e-mail, “Madigan opposed efforts to block pay because it was being used as an economic weapon.”
Okay, but that issue would be weaponized yet again if Representative Batinick and now his Democratic opponent have their way.
“It's sad that candidates are so far from policy and at a place where some do anything to win,” Representative Batinick said. “It's a big reason we are in the mess we are in.”
The Democratic Party of Illinois is also using the “Invest in Kids Tax Credit” program to bash a Republican House candidate.
The 75-percent tax credit on donations to a fund to help lower-income families send their kids to private or out of district schools was passed as part of the school funding reform bill. It was hotly opposed by teachers unions, but backed to the hilt by folks such as Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich.
So far, contributions have not met expectations. Less than $41 million has been donated, even though the program is capped at $100 million. Democratic gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker has said he will end the program if elected.
“Tonia Khouri’s extreme agenda would strip millions in funding from our schools,” the mailer blares. Khouri “supports a plan to strip 75 million dollars from our public schools in a voucher-style scheme that diverts tax money to private schools,” according to the mailer.
The mailer is interesting mainly because this plan was supposed to be popular with suburbanites, and Khouri is vying to replace retiring suburban Representative Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago). But apparently, the polling works on this hit.
As usual with these things, it’s also more than a bit misleading. The “extreme” plan was backed by DPI’s chairman Speaker Madigan, passed by both Democratic-controlled legislative chambers and signed into law a year ago.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.