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04/22/2010

IL Dems "Dis" Their Own



  Ask any of the organizers of Wednesday's "Save Our State" rally in Springfield and they'll tell you, without pause, that the overwhelming majority of the 12-15 thousand demonstrators would describe themselves as "democrats". 

  And many of the teachers, social services workers, union members and seniors would be considered "activist democrats". Not only have they campaigned for individual democratic candidates but their organizations (unions, etc.) have given money to the party that now holds majorities in both the Illinois House and Senate.

  Therein lies the root of their greatest frustration: The party THEY helped put in charge in Springfield has not responded to their demand for a tax increase. Its the only way, they believe, to sustain current funding levels for public education and state-supported social services into the future.

  The Illinois Senate passed an income tax increase bill in 2009 and President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) this week re-affirmed his support for increased revenue as a critical component of any plan to resolve the state's $13 billion deficit.

  But House Speaker Michael Madigan, who is also the Chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, so far has not called an updated version of the senate bill for a vote. While Madigan agrees the state needs additional revenue, he has questioned the public's appetite for a tax increase and realizes the political danger of authorizing one during an election year.

   But Wednesday's demonstrators and speakers, who count themselves as a democratic party "core constituency", want Madigan and his caucus to "fall on their swords" if necessary to "save our state".

  In his stirring rally speech, AFSCME Local 31 President Henry Bayer suggested that state lawmakers, including democrats, were trying to keep their jobs at the expense of tens of thousands of public and private sector workers who depend on state appropriations to feed their families.

  So far, Speaker Madigan and his house democrats, who could pass a tax increase bill without republican support, have done nothing to disprove Bayer's theory.

  They've turned a deaf ear to the pleas of thousands of their most loyal supporters.

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