Craver: One small column, one big March primary

Published: Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 11:09 p.m. CDT

So much political hay to cut before the March 18 primary, and only one column in which to do it.

A gubernatorial race with the future of Illinois at stake. A broke state government trying to deal with the 800-pound gorilla of a huge tax increase they swore on their mothers’ graves would start going away next year as scheduled.

My next column will run days before Gov. Pat Quinn’s now-delayed budget address, and as details of it emerge, Quinn will be unwittingly writing my column for me, as well. But until then, I’ll touch on some pre-primary issues.

• • •

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? Regardless of how you feel about Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, you have to acknowledge that his shaking up the GOP race has made it something it hasn’t been for a long time: Interesting.

It’s been fun watching the Republican establishment pitch a fit over the audacity of a usurper to mess up the party’s tried-and-true strategy of nominating insiders because they put in their time and it’s their turn to lose.

By nature, venture capitalists such as Rauner see opportunities and seize them, hence the word “venture.”

As for opportunities? Quinn’s approval ratings are dismal, and the Illinois Republican Party is utterly dysfunctional.

• • •

KEEP THE TIP: Confidential to GOP candidates cuddling up to unions that want to stop Rauner – if you win the primary, labor will stop returning your calls effective March 19.

• • •

DODGING THE ANSWER: The party that controls the Illinois House and Senate with veto-proof supermajorities seems to think it’s up to Republican gubernatorial candidates to come up with solutions to the state’s budget woes.

When asked last week whether the “temporary” 67 percent income tax hike should be extended, Senate President John Cullerton instead put the question on governor candidates and fellow Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady. He said the two “presumably” have solutions because they’ve been running for Quinn’s seat since he inherited it from his predecessor, Federal Inmate No. 40892-424.

Blaming the Republicans for the state’s budget mess a losing proposition. Yes, the GOP bears equal culpability for spending Illinois into oblivion. But let me be clear – the party with the supermajority owns the solution, or the lack of one.

• • •

LOCAL “TEMPORARY” TAXES: At least two McHenry County taxing bodies are asking voters to extend bonds that are scheduled to be retired.

The Huntley Park District wants to borrow $18.75 million to build an aquatic center, and Johnsburg District 12 wants to borrow up to $41 million for building improvements. Tax bills won’t go up, they argue, which sounds better than saying the tax rate won’t decrease with the retirement of the bonds.

Where do people get the crazy idea that once a tax increase is approved, we’re stuck with it forever?

• • •

THE 377 BOARD BILLY GOAT: Will the Curse of the McHenry County Mental Health Board defeat another referendum?

Kane County voters will decide whether to create a developmental disabilities board, often called a “377 board,” and a corresponding tax increase.

It’s the same referendum question that McHenry County voters crushed last April by a 2-to-1 margin. There was more to that defeat than the fact that taxpayers in this county are fed up.

The referendum came smack in the middle of the controversy over the size and spending of the Mental Health Board, which at its peak swelled to more than 50 employees and built a $4 million, 22,000-square-foot expansion that sits more than 60 percent vacant.

For the record, the board is under all-new leadership with reform on its mind. But I’m sure more than one McHenry County voter had nightmares of a 377 board Taj Mahal going up next door to the Mental Health Board’s Taj Mahal.

If Kane County’s referendum fails, I have no doubt that the goings-on with our Mental Health Board will play a role.

• • •

MARKETING IS EVERYTHING: Speaking of referendums, a great way to get me to vote “no” is for a pro-referendum group to choose a name or a slogan that insinuates that I’m an uncaring lout should I not want a tax increase.

Show You Care Kane, I’m talking to you. Ditto for last year’s failed “McHenry County Cares” campaign.

I do care. I also don’t want to feed my daughter peanut butter sandwiches for dinner so I can afford my taxes. And McHenry County residents cared when they raised their taxes to create a mental health board, a conservation district, a senior services grant and a county nursing home.

These names and slogans are insulting, not catchy. They tell me that yes, I cared before, but if I really, really care, I’ll vote for this tax increase. That earns a “no” vote on general principle.

I’m Kevin Craver, and I approved this message. Now work on your messaging, lest I vote “no” again.

• Kevin P. Craver is senior reporter for the Northwest Herald. He has won more than 70 state and national journalism awards during his 13 years with the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4618 or at kcraver@shawmedia.com.

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