Talk to Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot’s financial team about how they’re going to fill that staggering $740 million projected hole in the city’s 2020 budget, and one of the first things out of their mouths is how the mayor who will take office May 20 looks forward to a "partnership" with Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Translation: Lightfoot needs Pritzker, for money and any number of other things. And Pritzker will need Lightfoot to help corral votes in Springfield and sell his graduated income tax amendment.
Much as the media is focused on the relationship between Lightfoot and a newly left-leaning City Council, and Pritzker’s continuing reliance on House Speaker Mike Madigan, the relationship between the two most important government chief executives in Illinois is at least equally important. We in Illinois are used to effectively turning over our government to strong figures who get stuff done. When they don’t, there are problems.
Problems certainly existed between outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel and ex-Gov. Bruce Rauner. Insiders had figured the two longtime buddies from the world of high finance would get along just great. Instead, Rauner expected Emanuel to deliver Madigan’s head on a plate, and Emanuel expected Rauner to forgo his reform agenda and pony up for the mayor’s needs. Didn’t happen. Their "alliance" dissolved in a flurry of name calling, and the state suffered through an unprecedented two-year budget war.
On paper, Pritzker and Lightfoot start off on much better footing.
Pritzker hosted the new mayor and her wife at a dinner at his Gold Coast manse, and he and his team have had good things to say about her, with Pritzker himself predicting "a great relationship." Lightfoot has been kind in turn and suggested she looks forward to working with her fellow Democrat.
But neither official has particularly been known as a political supporter of the other. And the self-made African American lawyer is a wholly different type than the hotel scion and tech entrepreneur. "It’s not going to be like it was with Rahm: buddies who worked with each other from day one," says a Democratic strategist who has worked with both.
That’s not necessarily bad. It means the relationship will have to be based on mutual interest, rather than personality, and there certainly is plenty of reason for mutual back-scratching.
For instance, at some point Lightfoot is going to need that big Chicago casino, to help shore up her budget and spur development on the Southeast Side, where she’d like it to be located. She’ll need more money for Chicago Public Schools and, like every other mayor in the state, would like to see cities and villages again get the share of income tax receipts that they used to receive. And since she doesn’t have the same close relationship with Senate President John Cullerton that Emanuel did, she’ll need to rely more on the governor for help, say in combating Chicago’s continuing wave of gang-led street violence.
All of that establishes a nice foundation for Pritzker to say yes—and ask for some help with his graduated income tax plan. Lightfoot surely can help line up a few votes now, but her real influence could come with ordinary voters when that measure, if first approved by lawmakers, would go to a November 2020 referendum vote. Beyond that, the two share an interest in limiting the influence of left-wing populists on issues such as an elected Chicago school board.
One area worth watching, though, is pensions. Lightfoot has hinted some changes in current policies are needed. Pritzker has declared he’s standing solid with his union allies, who staunchly oppose any changes that would cut benefits or require them to pay more. There’s a bit of common ground on savings from potential consolidation of pension systems, but fundamentally the two start in different places.
Whatever, this relationship definitely is worth keeping an eye on. More so than most officials, the new mayor and new governor need each other to succeed.
via Crain’s Chicago Business
May 17, 2019 at 10:15PM