When Rods Collide
I've said it openly in the past and I'll repeat it now. I actually respect the Governor for his strong desire to hold fast to his no income/sales tax hike pledge. I don't necessarily agree with it. I don't think that he needed to make it. But make it he did, and he has been steadfast in adhering to it.
And since I have criticized him for vacillating on other positions, fairness dictates that I give him credit for sticking to this one.
But the Governor now finds himself in a position where his philosophical mandates may have to yield to practical realities.
Case in point - mass transit funding, a critical issue for riders and non-riders alike. Rep. Hamos and others have been laboring to craft a funding bill that can provide a cash infusion to the RTA while providing for improved accountability and governance. And it appears that a piece of legislation that could stave off route cutbacks and fare increases is but days away.
Good news you say? It looks that way, but there's a catch. A critical part of the funding mechanism rests in a modest hike in the sales tax in those counties in which RTA operates. People benefiting from the RTA (and don't forget that even non-riders benefit) helping fund it. Sounds like a fair idea.
BUT, the Governor has repeatedly said that he will veto any budget sent to him that contains an income or sales tax increase.
AND, in something that I hadn't previously heard, the Governor has now said that if lawmakers override such a veto, he will call them into special session until they rescind the vote. I couldn't make this up if I wanted to.
So here's where we find ourselves - it's essentially a Clash of the Two Rods. (Sounds worse than it is, I think). On one hand, you have the Governor that has drawn such a deep line in the sand on the tax hike issue that he might strike oil. On the other hand, you have the Governor who has done more flips during the special session than Nadia Comaneci did in winning 5 gold medals.
Flipping on his no tax hike pledge would be big news but is, in my opinion, legitimately defensible in this case. If there was any issue to justify a local, targeted sales tax increase, mass transit would be it. He would be sacrificing his core beliefs for the greater good. Would he take hits for it? Almost assuredly, but I think that the majority of people, myself included, would support his decision.
But I'm just not sure that he could bring himself to do it. His no-tax stance has become more than just a pledge, it's something that he can point to with a legitimate sense of righteousness. Breaking it would just add fuel to the political climate at a time when what he needs is an extinguisher.
Conversely, holding his ground in this instance would guarantee the ire of a huge proportion of Chicago, Cook and collar county residents. He would likely be seen as grandstanding at the expense of the masses who rely on mass transit. People would be openly cursing the Governor every time they shelled out $3.00 for a ride.
I have no idea how this situation will play out. For all of the challenges that the Governor has faced, it's interesting that this one could be his biggest test to date.