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Thursday, July 16, 2009 05:41 am

Mike Madigan’s agenda revealed

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Rep. Michael Madigan

“You guys are going to have to come up with a new conspiracy theory,” Attorney General Lisa Madigan told Rockford Register-Star columnist Wally Haas last week about her decision to go for reelection and forgo runs for governor or U.S. Senate.

“I had it from a pretty good source as recently as Friday that she was going to run [for governor],” state Sen. Brad Burzynski (R-Clare) told Haas about Ms. Madigan, adding, “It makes me wonder: What’s [House Speaker Michael] Madigan’s end game?”

So many people have assumed that Mike Madigan had sent this legislative session into overtime to somehow help his daughter become governor that they neglected to remember his long history as the House Speaker.

Former House GOP Leader Lee Daniels summed it up best to me not long ago: “Mike Madigan is Mike Madigan. He’s one of the brightest leaders the state has ever had, but he’s Mike Madigan. He’s always been the way he is today.”

Sure, Mike Madigan undercut Quinn this year, but that’s what he’s always done. He’s constantly been a frightening handful for governors. He probably got along “best” with former Gov. George Ryan, but Ryan was a former House speaker. The two men could easily relate. Plus, Ryan desperately needed friends because of his extremely low popularity, so he worked extra hard to please Madigan. Success resulted.

Speaker Madigan’s “real” end game has become pretty clear to me over the past weeks and months. He believes that a tax hike would be politically disastrous.

Next year is an “off-year” election, and down-ballot Democrats tend not to do as well during those years. The hugely unpopular Cook County sales tax hike makes a state income tax that much more politically dangerous. And the sorry mess created by Rod Blagojevich and his Senate appointee Roland Burris won’t help the Democratic brand much, either.

So, Madigan refused to put votes on a tax increase until the Republicans did so as well. It wasn’t because he wanted bipartisanship. Madigan wanted to shield as many of his more politically vulnerable Democratic members as possible. The more Republican votes, the fewer Democrats required for passage.

And since it’s now after May 31, when the Constitution requires a three-fifths majority to pass anything, there’s almost no way the Republicans can come up with the votes Madigan wants to reach that super-majority. Word is, Madigan wants as many as 20 Republican votes. Impossible. So, he’s most likely content to wait a while for a final resolution. With Madigan, it’s always about retaining control of — and over — his majority. Always.

Last week, House Republican Leader Tom Cross told Gov. Pat Quinn during a private meeting that he’d better be prepared to wait until January — when only a simple majority will be required to pass a tax hike — for a resolution to this horrific budget mess. Cross, who told Quinn that he has just eight votes for a tax hike, looks more right than wrong. And later in the week, Quinn said he could be “open” to extending the state budget for another five months if that’s what it took to reach an agreement.

And as for this widely assumed “grand scheme” by Mike Madigan to undercut Quinn in order to help get his daughter elected governor so they could control our state’s political world... How did that work out?

If you were one of those who believed that the “chess master” was really trying to help his kid, then you now have to admit that he made a horrible mess of things and isn’t much of a genius.

Instead of helping her, Speaker Madigan further poisoned an already toxic political atmosphere — making a gubernatorial campaign incredibly difficult for Lisa in the process. After this horrific session, the father would have been a constant and deadly anvil around his progeny’s political neck.

But, the tinfoil hat types won’t ever admit that. Instead, they’ll probably come up with yet another conspiracy theory about Lisa’s decision or her future, or, more likely, conveniently forget about their dark predictions and move on.

Mike Madigan is Mike Madigan. And Mike Madigan is all about his majority. Yes, he would have done everything possibly to help his daughter if she had announced for governor. But the speaker’s behavior during the past six months has been infinitely more about Mike Madigan than Lisa.


Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.

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