With Democrats now holding a supermajority in the Illinois House and Senate as well as the governor's office, one might suppose a Democratic agenda would be a slam dunk in Springfield.
As recent years have shown, however, single-party control doesn't guarantee the wheels of government grind smoothly.
And former Gov. Jim Edgar, who served from 1991 to 1999, suggests that probably won't change anytime soon.
In a wide-ranging interview with the new website Reboot Illinois, Edgar says Springfield is less dysfunctional when the two parties share power.
"More times than not I think split government works pretty well. The reason is to make the tough decisions you need both parties. It’s hard to get one party to put up all the votes and take all the blame, so they don’t make the tough decisions. If you’re in the minority, you don’t have to be responsible. If one of the houses or the governor is in your party, then you have a responsibility to be part of the solution. ...
"What happens is your party gets complete control and then the extremes in the party say, “Hey, we have control. Let’s go!” Dealing with Pate Phillip (Republican Illinois Senate president from 1993 to 2003), when we had a split government he knew he had to compromise. When we had complete control he wanted to go to the right so far. When I had a House Democrat and a Senate Republican everyone knew we had to compromise from the word go."
Edgar, who might have been the last effective, respected governor to serve the state of Illinois, had some interesting things to say about other thorny problems, including how much income tax you should be paying.
Raise Income Taxes: "Until we double the income tax, Illinois is a very low-taxing state. We’re still not that high for an industrial state. And so for years the people of Illinois have got off pretty cheap, what they pay for state government compared with other states. So I think one of the realities is, you can only cut so much and we need to cut. But it’s not going to be that easy. But I think we’re going to have to pay more because for too long we kind of got a free ride in Illinois."
No New Programs: "First of all, no new programs. I don’t care how wonderful they are, we don’t have any money. I think you have sit the leaders down and the governor is going to have to probably be a little more flexible from the point of view that we’ve to figure out how we’re going to cut spending and we’re going to have to not create new programs."
The All-Powerful Mike Madigan: "Well, if the speaker’s the most powerful person in Springfield, something’s not working. Because the governor should be the most powerful. And I don’t blame all the problems on Mike Madigan."
Cut Good Programs: "We’re at the point where you’re going to have to cut some good programs. You have to determine what’s essential and what’s just good. That’s a tough decision. I had to go through that in the early '90s and it’s not an easy decision. But the governor has to just continue to work with the four leaders and put aside personal animosities and he’s going to have to put aside some of his personal wish list and work with them."
Up to this point, however, Gov. Pat Quinn hasn't shown much ability to work with the legislative leaders. His latest big idea is Squeezy the Pension Python, a cartoon mascot designed to rally Illinoisans around pension reform. Apparently, the governor imagines a groundswell of popular support via Facebook and Twitter will persuade lawmakers to spontaneously think up a solution.
Members of his own party mocked the idea as "juvenile," reports the Chicago Tribune.
This post is published throughout the Patch network in the Chicago area.