Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Short History continued: Introducing the state rep, who will be the senator's constant companion . . .

A few weeks after Carleton and Business-Civic Council, the senator faced citizens at the Oak Park Library in a town hall gathering of his scheduling, accompanied by one of Oak Park's two state representatives, Camille Lilly.

The audience was largely but not entirely true-blue supporters of Democrat programs, about a quarter of them government-employment retirees (they raised hands at the senator's request), with heavy personal stake in pension fund solvency.

Lilly deserves some explanation. Appointed to her position in 2010 when the incumbent was appointed alderman by the Chicago mayor to replace one who'd gone to prison on a corruption conviction, she represented north and most of central Oak Park, plus parts of three other suburbs; but her base was the adjoining Austin neighborhood of the city. She was vice president for community outreach for Loretto Hospital in Austin and had been the unanimous choice of a committee of committeemen headed by the senator after an open session in the Carleton Hotel.

“I think folks are just weary of politicians and of government,” the senator said after the meeting, referring possibly to the opened-up candidate process, possibly to the choice of Lilly, who had held no public office. “That’s horribly unfortunate," he continued. "We’re trying things [at the Carleton] we’ve done in Springfield to try and restore trust in government and trust in politics, and it’s a long road."

He was presenting the acceptable sentiment, the sort of anti-politician comment from a politician that is ever suspect unless accompanied by tearful resignation and subsequent entrance into a monastery. As one effete plutocrat said to the other at poolside in a long-ago New Yorker cartoon, the two of them watching a man walking towards them on the water's surface, "It's a long time since that's been done well."

Like the alderman she was replacing, Lilly was a black woman with roots in the almost all-black Austin, but also -- and this was a nice twist -- a onetime Oak Parker, for elementary and high school, having walked for her diploma as a member of the class of 1979 of Oak Park & River Forest High School.

She had never run for public office and had no record of involvement in Oak Park. In Austin, on the other hand, beyond or as offshoot of her employment at Loretto Hospital, she helped to found and served as executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. In town hall meetings, she made repeated references to herself as newcomer to Springfield, so that one was frequently prompted to see her as a bona fide non-politician in politician's clothing.

As for clothing and general appearance, she was young-looking and attractive, tastefully groomed and caparisoned, and of an outgoing, voluble nature, exuding enthusiasm about her elective-office experience and eager to engage citizens in matters connected with it.  She did this to sometimes stunning effect in the town hall meetings.

The senator opened the Oak Park Library session with reference to "decades of underfunding” of pensions as a problem which can be solved without taking from “core government services, especially social services.” Pension problems were within reach of alleviating without pain to pensioners.

Lilly agreed, citing the budget process as “really, really, really critical" -- if (apparently) not critical enough to force program cuts this year. She urged her listeners -- a packed-house audience of a hundred or so -- to have a look at the budget itself via “the new technology of today," the state government web site.

She was letting Oak Parkers in on the latest in digital communication.

-- To be continued -- 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Daley family business scores another . . .

Newsalert: Chicago to Borrow $1. 1 Billion Dollars: William Daley Jr. to Make 2.64 from Underwriting Fee

Chicago being part of Illinois (I think that's how it works), we might consider what a jungle it is in here -- as if we didn't know -- in view of this item:
There's more [to the story of the city's borrowing another billion-plus to stay afloat]:
The senior managing underwriter on the $1.1 billion borrowing with an estimated $2.64 million in fees is Morgan Stanley. The company’s affidavit was signed by William Daley Jr., whose uncle is the former mayor and whose father and namesake replaced Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff.

That not only raised eyebrows among black and Hispanic aldermen demanding a bigger seat on the gravy train tied to city bond issues.
The Daley family: looting Chicago for fun and for profit. 
What was it the Army's lawyer asked Joe McCarthy, the much-quoted theatrical clincher, "Have you no sense of decency?"

Monday, June 15, 2015

Serious accusation here vs. Rauner: He's acting political.

Gov. Rauner and Sam Zell launch TV ad blitz against Madigan

Get this, from a pol with FEELINGS:
“[Rauner's impending media blitz] actually impedes the ability for people to come to the table. You can’t forget we’re human beings, if you’re very negative towards someone it’s very difficult to say, ‘Ok, let’s sit down and negotiate in good faith.’” said state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo. “It’s clear that the goal isn’t to get to a budget deal because this isn’t going to help get there. I would think this is only designed for political purposes.”
Mike Madigan's feelings will be hurt. And Rauner is acting all-POLITICAL. How could he be so insensitive?

Oak Park senator can't figure Governor Rookie, who won't play ball

It is 2015, and the Illinois whose fiscal worries were exaggerated by Republicans in 2013, as the Oak Park senator said, is in trouble that even he must recognize.

It's this first-term governor whom he cannot understand and who doesn't seem to give a hang, which makes him a very bad enemy to have to face.

Reuters reports the latest from Governor Rookie, that he has ruled out "a short-term spending plan to keep the state operating beyond the July 1 start of fiscal 2016 if there is no deal over a full-year budget."

What the . . . ? No short-term budget? He doesn't get it, does he? The senator has been smelling a rat at least since April in Elmwood Park.

His very words on that occasion: "I don't understand this governor. I don't know what makes him tick."

He saw impasse coming: "The next seven weeks will be a slow, bloody slog."

He and his fellows would stand firm: ""We are not going to pass the budget he proposes. Legislators across the state are doing meetings like this, taking it to the people."

But if Governor R. does not budge on the budget -- "An unbalanced short-term budget with no real reforms is still a phony budget and unacceptable to the people of Illinois," said his office just yesterday -- then what?

Meanwhile, the Oak Park senator and his House of Representatives partner appeared the other day in tandem at the Oak Park library, my spies tell me.

He pitched free community college, showing there's always time for bad ideas even at budget-crunch time. His representative counterpart pitched ObamaCare for ex-convicts, a clear winner in the race for legislators' attention. There's no stopping some people.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Oak Park senator in 2013 promotes taxes as fiscal solution, but fudges on what to call them

2nd installment, Short History of Oak Park, Vol. 2, The Donald and the Clothes Horse etc. . . . 

We left the Senator at the Carleton Hotel, June of 2013, assuring Oak Park's Business and Civic Council and other concerned citizens that the fiscal crisis in Springfield was being overblown by over-zealous Republicans.

The senator continued in a vein of all-conquering optimism with praise for the January 2011 temporary income-tax rate increase -- from 3% to 5%, which he helpfully explained was a 2% raise, though "Republicans [the rascals!] say 67%."

He also helpfully ignored well known Republican outlets such as Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, and Huffington Post, each of whom called it a 66% raise, the latter unconscionably adding that it was a "massive increase." Conspiratorially.

So what? The senator had something else in mind, a "fair tax" -- higher rates for higher earners -- that would satisfy budgetary and vote-getting needs simultaneously. He was being clever about it, rebranding the graduated or "progressive," tax, with its venerated soak-the-rich flavor.

Next day, in the (Springfield) State-Journal Register, he struck the still-hot iron with a thumb-in-eye comment declaring himself "not surprised" at Republican opposition to his proposal, introduced a day earlier, on the last day of the session.

After all, he said, Republicans are beholden to "the more well-off," for whose interests they would be expected to "step up," so as to "perpetuate an unfair tax." By Jove, a talking point!

And a hijacking in broad daylight, as it happened, of a term in use at least since 1999, when Congressional Republicans proposed a national sales tax to replace the IRS. File your returns on a postcard, the proposers predicted.

The term was familiar also to people who paid attention to presidential-campaign discussion in 2008, when it was discussed, and remained in 2013 the goal of Americans For Fair Taxation.

The senator's fair tax was nothing like that, of course, but imposed according to income (same-old, same-old), not spending. It was "progressive," its rate rising with taxpayer's income. Punishing success, say opponents, spreading the wealth ("You didn't build that,"), say Democrats, who normally rejoice in the word.

Not this time. Indeed, the senator showed trail-blazing mettle in scoring not only budgetarily and politically with his "fair" tax but also lexicographically, deftly changing the word's accepted meaning -- a sort of Humpty-Dumpty maneuver -- "When I use a word, . . . it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less." The senator did it for marketing reasons, he was to acknowledge in a later forum.

His 2% did not pass muster for one listener, as he explained in a letter to the Oak Leaves, the longer-standing of two surviving Oak Park weeklies.

"In a finance-centric discussion replete with bar graphs, pie charts and other data points," the man wrote, "[the senator] repeatedly referred to the income tax hike as a two-percent increase. At the same time, he dismissed those (including our Republican friends) who referred to it as a 67-percent increase.

The senator, however, "either . . . has a tiny hole in his grasp of math or . . . is reluctant to acknowledge the difference between percent change and percentage point change.

"Starting at 3 percent and then going to 5 percent is a 2-percentage-point increase. But it's a 66.7-percent change."

Right. The senator from Oak Park, a home-grown product in his 12th year as senator, still had something to learn about the village's people, in this case whether he could get past them with word games.

-- To be continued --

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Short History of Oak Park, Vol. 2, The Donald and the Clothes Horse: Senatorial splendor, House Decoration -- the Town Hall Trail, June to October, 2013

The Donald of Oak Park, its senator in Springfield, where he's high in the ranks of the Ruling Party and is smooth-as-silk boss of Oak Park's Democratic Party organization, took to the podium at Oak Park's Carleton Hotel on a glorious day in late June of 2013 for his annual report to the Business and Civic Council. 

It was time to explain things to bankers, business owners and operators, and other issues-aware citizen consumers and taxpayers with skin in the game to varying degrees and/or psychic income from allegedly progressive political victories and enactments.

The state was in a state of turmoil, confusion, and all-around hyperactivity. The two legislative chambers were at odds over a pension solution. The governor, a one-time gadfly with Oak Park roots, was soon to cut off legislators' pay checks to punish them for inactivity.

For the Donald, however, it was what-me-worry time. "The sky isn't falling," he intoned, no matter what Republicans said. Falling or not, government had been "cut to the bone" to keep it from doing so. 

Pension payments, where his votes are, not fiscal problems that threaten far more than pensions, were the issue. Illinois "has never missed a pension and never will," he said. Saving the state, fending off mediocrity for all and sundry except the very well-to-do? Not the issue.

The long haul had no appeal. In the long run, we'll all be dead, he might have said, echoing Lord K., the apostle of deficit spending. Focus on the immediate particular, in this case the budget, his comfort zone. One just passed paid the pension for the coming year. He was comfortable with what he and his fellows might achieve in the immediate future. Leadership here, vision too. Yay.

Legislators "kind of solved the pension problem with the 2010 reform" anyhow, he said with a small grin. Yes, the 2010 reform. It tightened benefits for new hires and left the pension only partly funded. ("'Tain't funny, McGee," Fibber's wife Molly used to say on the radio.)

Don't blame Democrats who run the show but couldn't agree on how to fix pensions. It was a matter of "honest, principled differences." Oh those honest, principled Democrats. When will we see such another? Their differences were enough to bring things to a halt, but not to worry, sky not falling.

-- to be continued -- 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Madigan delivers body blows to Rauner's extremities

When Madigan wants to hurt a guy (publicly), he has the word for it:
Rauner . . . blasted Madigan, saying he stood to personally profit from a failure of a property tax freeze. 
That drew a strong retort from Madigan later in the day. At a Capitol news conference, the speaker said he has always held strong ethical standards in his law business and encouraged Rauner to stop “functioning in the extreme.”
Same news conference:
Rauner reiterated on Tuesday that he wants a property tax freeze before he’ll agree to talk about other budgetary issues. And he wants to [?make?] other business-friendly changes, too.
“We’re being reasonable. We feel he is functioning in the extreme as he advances these issues,” Madigan said.
 It's a favorite. From an interview several days ago, again referring to Rauner:
“If peo­ple are op­er­at­ing in the ex­treme, . . .  he’s on the ex­treme, . . . op­er­at­ing in the ex­treme,”
Well, he didn't get where he is today by arguing his case. Anyhow, consider how little practice he's had with anyone smart enough to take him on.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

State rep. suggests Chicago Public Schools should declare bankruptcy |

Amazing comment by Chi Teachers Union v.p. about financial problems:

But some union leaders say the Sandack bill [allowing bankruptcy as way out of fiscal crunch] is a backdoor attack on public worker contracts and pensions. Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey says he believes a federal bankruptcy judge would respect what the State Supreme Court has ruled on pensions.
Nothing amazing there, but consider this:

"Financial crisis is no reason to go back on what basically was a promise made to people who taught the last generation of school children," Sharkey said.
The fellow has a different understanding of financial crisis than most people, I'd say. You're running of money, but that's no reason to stop spending it? Come on.

To which we might add something nonsequitur-ish from Mayor Rahm, also opposing the bankruptcy option:
"We should not allow the finances to undermine all the educational progress our principals and teachers are making," Emanuel said. "Because what you don't want to do is put the system into a process that could actually distract away from the educational things."
By solving its insoluble money problems, he means, sounding like a teachers-union vice president.

When is a rookie governor something else? Good question

Rauner, Democrats spar on property taxes as stalemate enters 2nd week - Chicago Tribune
The rookie governor . . . wants lawmakers to approve his pro-business, anti-union agenda as part of a deal, and a property tax freeze is one of the items.
 Am slightly flummoxed over "rookie" here. Promising rookie maybe? Hard-hitting? Candidate for rookie of the year?

Or: Citizen governor? Governor not from the political class? Growth-oriented?

Possibilities abound. Playbook has "rookie," but one can always think outside it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Prevailing wage for public projects benefits whom?

Unionized workers and their unions, not the general public.

Rauner in press conf., socking it to the opposition

I support his policies and heard him do well among supporters during the early campaigning but did not know how good he is, arguing his points, handling qq, etc.

Sen. C. Radogno also quite good. A good team, here making case for lower real estate taxes and local control over same.

The guy is good -- and he tore into Madigan et al. as being good only for the "political class," making millions off high taxes (by lawyering breaks for taxpayers).

Later: More specific on this at Bloomberg Business, where Chi Trib's John McCormick free-lances about it:
Rauner’s remarks about Madigan’s income were a reference to Chicago Tribune stories in 2010. They examined overlaps between Madigan’s roles as speaker and state Democratic Party chairman and tax work done by his law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner.
High taxes calling for legislator-connected relief are made to order for making bucks for legislators, not to mention for encouraging nicely targeted campaign donations. A circle of mutual aid it is. 

Like city ordinances, pumped high enough to (a) require variance and/or (b) punish violators selectively

Tougher the law, more the power to officials. It's a rule.

why illinois municipal retirees fund does so well - Google Search

Yes, Virginia and all you ships at sea, there is a public employees retirement fund in Illinois that is fully funded, earned 6.1 percent in 2014 investments ($2.1 billion), has $35 billion total, and 1982-2014 had an annualized total fund return of -- are you listening? -- 10.24 percent.

It's IMRF, the Illinois Municipal Retirees Fund, which is doing very well indeed in these days of inadequate funding, perils-of-Pauline existence, and inadequate funding. This fund is funded, believe it or not.

why illinois municipal retirees fund does so well - Google Search

Monday, June 8, 2015

Rauner's the one, says Sun-Times

Having vowed to "shake [the state] up," he is showing "what a shake-up looks like," demanding "basic pro-business reforms before he will even talk about raising taxes. . . . Nobody should doubt he will continue to chop away if he and the Legislature’s Democratic leadership cannot find common ground."

He will be "the bad guy" if necessary. "He clearly won’t settle for yet another politically expedient short-term fix."

"He's not kidding." Not so the Democrats, says S-T, "especially House Speaker Michael Madigan." Smart money will not go on him. "It doesn't make sense," when the bettor considers his 30 years at the helm (as House Speaker), of the last 32.

Problem? Unemployment 6 percent, vs. 5.4 percent nationally, "far higher" that the Midwest average. Population growth "stagnant." The business climate "consistently ranked among the worst in the nation," bond rating worst. The state’s awash in red ink — pension obligations "threaten to gut the entire government."

Time for a change. Rauner is "all about change, which is why he was elected." Madigan is "all about no change," offering " a yet "deeper hole."

Rauner’s cuts "a scare tactic," say Dems. "But it looks to us like a real plan." Again, he's not kidding, holds out possibility of cutting "much more."

“Middle-Class Agenda,” Dems have responded, (typically) "long on crowd-pleasing gift-giving": new tuition tax credit, higher minimum wage, free community college, and "guaranteed paid sick leave for all workers in the private sector, even those who work only part time"! (Santa Claus, we hardly knew you!)

Lovely, but how pay for it? (Classic Dem response to this question was by Congressman Danny Davis at Malcolm X College in August of 2009, as ObamaCare was being debated, "No matter the cost, quality health care should be provided for every citizen.")

S-T: "Except for a call to close 'corporate loopholes,' nothing in the Democrats’ plan even hints at the sad truth that our state is broke." Downplay the problem, Downplay the problem -- like Sen. Don Harmon in a series of town hall sessions in the summer of 2013.

Which leads S-T to ask who is the real champion of the middle class" -- the legislature that can't say no or "a governor . . . who understands that Illinois is in desperate need of more fundamental reform?"

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Rauner v. Madigan in Illinois

Long haul struggle, singed-politicos, ammo ready, Chi Trib tells us.
“. . . the gov­er­nor … made it clear that he is ready to dig in for the long haul, that he is not go­ing to be . . . forced into some short-term so­lu­tion that is not good for the state in the long run. That was made clear,” Se­nate Repub­li­can leader Chris­tine Radogno of Le­mont said of the cur­rent grid­lock.
Get ready, says another Republican, referring to the Rauner strategy.
“If you are in the leg­is­la­ture and you’re on the wrong side and don’t have a thick skin, pre­pare to get singed, burnt and blown up,” said one Repub­li­can sen­a­tor not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly about the closed-door meet­ings with Rauner. “He is lin­ing up all the am­mu­ni­tion and is ready to go.”
From Madigan, referring to Rauner:
 “If peo­ple are op­er­at­ing in the ex­treme, . . .  he’s on the ex­treme, . . . op­er­at­ing in the ex­treme,”
From Rauner:
Rauner’s of­fice is­sued two news re­leases blast­ing Madi­gan as “un­will­ing” to com­pro­mise.
Neutral observer:
In­side the bub­ble of the State­house amid hard­en­ing po­si­tions, “each side thinks it’s right and each side thinks they have pub­lic opin­ion with them,” said one vet­eran lob­by­ist who did not want to be iden­ti­fied pub­licly to avoid risk­ing jeop­ar­diz­ing re­la­tion­ships.
Republicans say:
Repub­li­cans point to a June 30 dead­line for the Chicago Public Schools to make a sched­uled $634 mil­lion pay­ment to the Chicago Teach­ers’ Pen­sion Fund as a pres­sure point for Democrats to ne­go­ti­ate.
Another pres­sure point: Democrats are ex­pected to hold onto the bills ad­vanc­ing their bud­get plan rather than quickly for­ward them to a gov­er­nor who has pledged to veto them.
The AFSCME matter:
[T]he Rauner ad­min­is­tra­tion is ne­go­ti­at­ing a new col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment for July 1 with the state’s largest pub­lic union, the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of State, County and Mu­nic­i­pal Em­ploy­ees. Ne­go­ti­a­tions have not made much progress so far, and AF­SCME con­tends Rauner is at­tempt­ing to ad­vance sev­eral of his points to weaken pub­lic em­ployee unions [using this bargaining].
Reason for thinking so:
Back in March 2013, in the early days of his GOP pri­mary cam­paign for gov­er­nor, Rauner said he might “take a strike and shut the gov­ern­ment down for a few weeks” and said he knew of few politi­cians who would be will­ing to do that. “I won’t be happy do­ing it, but I will do it proudly be­cause it’s the right thing to do.”

 He used such fighting words in a River Forest rally Nov. of  2013.
Illinois is “in deep trouble,” Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner told a River Forest cafe audience Thursday night . . . 
Go after government unions, for one thing, whose “bosses bribe politicians.” . . . .  Unions have “bought [even] a number of Republicans.” To the unions Rauner would say, “You can’t bribe me.” He would limit collective bargaining rights if need be, as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker did. It’s “a key part” of his platform.
Dems fight with no-strike legislation, the Trib story continues:
Democrats sup­port­ive of AF­SCME sent the gov­er­nor leg­is­la­tion cre­at­ing the op­tion of ar­bi­tra­tion which, if cho­sen, would pre­vent a strike or lock­out of pub­lic work­ers in the event con­tract talks stall. But there is lit­tle doubt that Rauner would veto such a mea­sure.
Leading to an overtime session, before which 
rank-and-file law­mak­ers [will have] an op­por­tu­nity to gauge the po­lit­i­cal winds in their home dis­tricts and what, if any, pub­lic im­pact ex­ists over the cur­rent ran­cor as well as who is to blame.

Enter lotsa Rauner money, the life blood of political warfare
That’s where the Rauner TV ad cam­paign comes in, though there are ques­tions about its ef­fec­tive­ness in sum­mer, when many view­ers are fo­cused on the out­doors rather than tele­vi­sions show­ing po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­tis­ing.
Summertime, when the livin' is easy and watch political fight ads on TV? 

The beach and al fresco coffee in the morning, or glued to tube to hear the latest? 

Hint: Don't rule out the one-eyed monster, or the virtually subliminal effect of quickies during the evening news. In any case, stay tuned . . .  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Middle class, middle class, where art thou? Democrats ask

This middle-class business is the current touchstone for Illinois Dems. 

Whatever happened to poor people? asks a Wed. Journal of Oak Park & River Forest reader of the very busy Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park.
What about the poor, Senator ? The Rauner budget hurts the poor even more than the middle class. But no politician speaks for the poor! The cuts to basic services for the poor are creating extreme hardship and suffering. . . . 
Harmon had talked middle-classism up in a Wed. Journal column.
I'm working on a solution [he wrote] to provide tax fairness for the middle class. My solution is a fair income tax, one where higher rates would apply to higher incomes and lower rates would apply to lower incomes. It's logical and allows middle class families to keep more of their hard-earned money. 
Other references dot the landscape of his column: "working families . . . regular families . . . real families" and "middle class" itself four times, including this amazing rhetorical judo move, following a litany of complaints about Rauner's plan:
That's class warfare, aimed squarely at the middle class. The only people who benefit from Gov. Rauner's agenda are his corporate pals.
No high-school debater ever did better. This Democrat knows class warfare when he sees it. 

Harmon was on message, one that he was pushing mightily, an agenda embodied in a series of "Middle-Class Agenda" proposals billed as alternative to Rauner's "turnaround agenda." (From what to what is at issue here.)

This agenda has no surprises for most Illinoisans who read newspapers.
The legislation would boost the state minimum wage, give tax credits for college costs, guarantee up to seven paid sick days for full and part-time workers, cover two years of tuition and fees for eligible community college students, and end business tax breaks to save Illinois $334 million.
Familiar enough. But poor people?

Not in the present equation, which calls for getting a budget passed that defeats Rauner. Dems are fast on their feet, thus the current pitch. 

Last time around, in the general election a few months back, Rauner had the winning message. Dems are trying to poach on that, of course. 

So they push this middle-class emphasis, ad nauseam for people who remember their poor-people emphasis of not so long ago. Light on their feet they are.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Chi Trib leads editorial cheer for Rauner . . .

. . . in full throat, and to good effect.
Dear Gov. Rauner: You may be the last, best chance to protect Illinois' future. . . . . The spring session has been Madigan and Cullerton's time. Now it's your time. You come across as a patient man who knows he was elected to govern for four years, not just the first five months. You also come across as a focused man. A governor who won't flinch.
 This must gall the hell out of Dems. In his town hall sessions in 2013, the heart of a book I am putting together about Blue Illinois as argued by Ruling Party minions, Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park took early shots at the Trib as having "bashed the heart out of us."

Now here the once self-proclaimed "world's greatest newspaper" (WGN was its sister radio and later TV stations), does a great job of taking the fight to the Dems.
Madigan and Cullerton thrive when their foes are playing their game — striving for popularity, arm-twisting for votes, fussing over who wins the news cycle. They do skirmishes well. They haven't faced a governor who does wars.
They "scold you for pitting your demands for . . . reforms against their demands for high spending. Their minions keep whining that the budget process is sacrosanct — you shouldn't use it as a tool."

Perish the thought.
The paradox is that, for decades, they've used the budget as their tool for rewarding and punishing and getting their way. But, as of 2015, a budget can't be leveraged? Is that so.
It can, Trib says, with veto amendatory or complete, even in the face of summer-long resistance or state-employee strike.
We aren't spoiling for a long, hot summer or a strike. But if they come, we trust you'll use the campaign funds you control to explain to the people of Illinois that there aren't enough taxpayers, or enough stupid employers, to stay in Illinois and fund its governments' enormous overhead. Other states offer better cost-benefit ratios — and without all the politicians' relatives on the payroll.
Whoa. Hardball with money. Let 'em read and hear about it. Voters can be persuaded. Pressure can be pumped up. The stakes are high enough.
The Madigan-Cullerton strategy here couldn't be clearer: to obstruct any and all reforms, to vilify you for four years, and to install some malleable flunky in the governor's office.
Rauner is free to sit and watch, "keep calm and stand pat." He didn't take the job to horse around, "but to revive the moribund Illinois of Mike Madigan, John Cullerton and ... their followers."

That's not quite a St. Crispin's Day speech, but it's not bad either. "And their followers" is good. I've watched and listened to some of them barely making sense in meeting after meeting, Impossible, I've told myself. Incredible. The nonsense of it. About which more later.