You may remember that my fair state operated without a budget for a LONG time. In fact, the state has now missed two annual payments they owe the public schools, leaving many schools unable to hire their new staff even though my school, for instance, has been in session for over a week.
Well, His Highness Princess Rod has now deigned to sign the budget. However, he's still upset that his socialized medicine scheme (free health care and bunnies for every Illinois resident!) died an ignoble, 107 to ZERO death in the Illinois House. So he decided that he would cut $500 million in "pork" and civic projects, and then use that money to pay for the medical scheme.
Some of you are probably wondering whether he has the power to change the budget to fund a project that the legislature has already refused to fund. The consensus answer from the law professors seems to be that this is blatantly unconstitutional in Illinois, but he'll probably get away with it. Color me shocked.
Anyway, Blagojevich doesn't really get the concept that there are other elected politicians in this state, so he tends to steamroll them and simply demand what he wants. If he doesn't get it, he tells a lie or throws a tantrum. But not this time! This time, Rod decided, he was going to be a classic Illinois politician. He would punish his enemies and reward his friends, and he would Make Friends and Influence People. He would be a uniter, not a divider.
To that end, he cut funding only from projects sponsored by legislators he figures he doesn't need. Incidentally, this actually hit people from his own party the hardest; he seems determined to punish the House Democrats in particular. Again I feel compelled to point out that party affiliation is only a small part of what makes a politician on the state level in Illinois.
At the same time, Princess Rod decided, he would reward the people he's going to need later by funding their projects. It's almost as if he read Boss or some other book about the old Chicago machine and thought, "How hard is that? I can do that!"
Wrong, Blago. Machine politics only looks easy, which is why so many waves have crashed into mist against the rocks of the Daleys over the last 50 years or so.
You see, Blago made some amateurish mistakes:
1. He was absolutely, totally transparent about what he was doing (which is normally OK in Illinois politics.) However, in this case, Blago didn't give rewards to his allies. He doesn't have many allies besides Emil Jones. Instead, he "gave rewards" to people who are on a committee he's going to need in the future, because for his schemes to work, they'll have to look the other way. The problem is that these people are NOT currently his allies. In fact, many of them really dislike him, and others know that publicly disliking him is good for their political careers. Moreover, none of them are stupid enough to think that toadying to the Governor because he "gave" them something is going to get them any votes at home with their constituents, who clearly hate Blagojevich and are going to hate him more before it's all over.
2. Why is the word "gave" in quotation marks? Because Blago is actually too dumb to give a bribe. He didn't "give" these people anything they need a Governor to get. Their pet projects were already in the budget as passed by the Legislature. All he did was refrain from cutting their projects out of spite. For this, he expects gratitude and loyalty? That doesn't seem likely.
3. He apparently didn't arrange these bribes ahead of time, but sprung them on the recipients so that they seem to have learned about them from the Associated Press:
"It's so transparent what the governor's doing, what his motives are. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite so political."That's Senator Burzynski, a Republican--and he's one of the people whose projects were NOT cut! Wouldn't you think a simple phone call would have avoided that kind of humiliation?
4. Blagojevich was so incautious that he really, truly, no fooling, approved half the funding for several projects, especially bridges. You see, often a bridge or other big infrastructure project takes more money than one legislator wants to spend, so two or more will put in for part of the money. In several cases, Blago found obviously went down one legislator's list and approved everything (that would be everyone who sits on JCAR, the committee that he wants to pretend he has the power to fund new projects.) In other cases, he clearly cut everything without checking. How can we tell? Because on several of those shared projects, half the financing got cut and half was approved! Congratulations, St. Charles, you can repair half the bridge over the Fox River. Good luck with that.
5. I think most of the JCAR members are going to agree with Maggie Crotty, who is only the Chair of JCAR:
"That, to me, is so insulting. I don't think I have ever, ever felt so embarrassed,"
That says it all, doesn't it? I don't think people are supposed to be humiliated when you try to bribe them, Rod. Perhaps a different tack would have worked out better. You could have tried something crazy like negotiating the budget in good faith in January, for instance.
Naw, that would never work.