Unfunded Mandates: The Turnaround Agenda of Bruce Rauner
My wealthy friend Ernesto and I met for lunch the other afternoon at a local eatery, which offered a wide variety of wonderfully exotic Mediterranean samplings.
The place was loud and bustling. “Try the baba ganoush,” Ernesto loudly proffered, sliding the plate across the table to me, as I sipped a luscious mint tea.
“What a weird name. Thanks,” I replied. “Very good!”
“And how are you, my friend, now that our new Governor has started holding the feet of your corrupt Democratic legislators to the fire as they face a long summer of being forced to actually work? This is a man who knows how to get things done!”
“I think the vote’s still out on that one, Ernesto. Bruce may have warned his wife that he would ‘drive ‘em crazy’ in Springfield, but it occurs to me it is working the other way ‘round. In fact, just the other day, I read that when Bruce suggested he’d serve only two terms, his wife retorted she’d be happy if he’d served only one. That might be a fait accompli.
“You’re out of your elements in politics as well as dining, my friend. This Governor’s Turnaround Agenda will elevate our state to significance again.”
“To me, it seems a catalog of complaints without any solutions – except for each community to embrace them all blindly? I’m sorry, but I’m not so sure, Ernesto. The bullet points all seem so nebulous. What’s the issue with unfunded mandates or even the right to…”
“Unfunded mandates, my sadly naïve friend, are making you and I pay more for our dinners right now. Do you see those mandatory signs that announce “no smoking” at every entrance? The smoking ashtrays outside in a small, canopied courtyard next to us? The warnings that smoking is not allowed in the washrooms?” You and I are paying for those signs, those ashtray stands, and that large heated canopy tent for smokers.”
“Unfunded mandates become an additional cost borne by the businesses because the state legislature decides to force such establishments not only to ban smoking but also notify the public it is disallowed. And the local business or government has to bear those costs, my friend. Now, let’s expand that to all the requirements forced upon us on even local levels, from education to other facets of business. Can you begin to comprehend the unfairness and cost of it all?”
“Yes, of course, Ernesto, but in this case, let’s say, the business in which we enjoy our lunch has to endure an extra cost for protecting you and me from injury by exposure to second hand smoke. Isn’t that an acceptable burden of operating commerce safely for those who come here?”
Ernesto smiled. “But our new Governor has identified over 280 unnecessary unfunded mandates that are being forced upon the local communities and school districts. We need to stop that, so that you and I, and our families need not pay those costs for ridiculous enacted requirements determined by the General Assembly.”
“Indeed, Ernesto, a talking point of the Turnaround Agenda boldly identifies that ‘more than 280 unfunded mandates have been imposed on communities across Illinois, costing $billions.’ But, Ernesto, I have not been able to find any one specific example of one of those 280 unfunded mandates. Have you?
“No, but…they will be provided in time…”
“And I even reached out unsuccessfully to the Office of Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, who is charged with the task to shrink unfunded mandates in Illinois…, and later the office of State Senator Linda Holmes who sits upon the “Local Government” committee and is a part of the Task Force. Her office has not received any documentation of the 280 (or even one) unfunded mandate that meets this nefarious characterization of unfair and punitive outcomes.”
“Yes, I know about this Task Force, and they are preparing to bring forth the necessary problems and solutions. They have until December 2015.”
“Sounds familiar, my friend. And the Office of Sanguinetti assures its coming to some resolution. But the last time I looked at a list of unfunded mandates for Illinois, one which was made available in 2011, I had a hard time finding too much that was over the top….crazy…unfair…unnecessary…or extravagant.”
“But it was too much…I mean, monetarily.”
“Yes, it was extensive, Ernesto. Nearly 120 pages with almost an average of 15 mandates per page (http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/budget/documents/budgeting for results/related documents/full list of mandates for bfr commission.pdf ), but the list was interesting in its purpose as well as its scope. Not only were local educational mandates required to instruct about the Holocaust or to provide in-services against bullying, but also services for domestic violence, witness protection (from gangs too), disposal of dead animals, disposal of dead people, lead poisoning, groundwater protection, homeless prevention, public pension regulations per city/village, public waterway safety, asbestos abatement, mosquito abatement, child labor, food inspection, ….shall I go on?”
Just too many laws, my friend…”
“So which of the 280 would you like to dispose of…or is this just a willy-nilly resolution which allows a local government to ignore the one they want out of well over 120 pages with protective services listed in most cases 20 per page?”
“Why should we listen to Springfield?”
“Well, I mean what if one local school district or its people decide they’ll ignore Black History month…or another says they don’t have time to teach about the Holocaust, or another says that firearm training for its police officers impinges on its ability to do something else with money.
“Do you really want a small group of locals determining what they will do or not? Of course, we’ll pay it back in some other method, won’t we? If you decide not to provide training for your police officers, will we have another Baltimore or worse? If we drop the required steroid prevention programs, will our children be better off? If we decide not to require districts to test for autism, won’t we pay another cost later for that?”
“You exaggerate this issue, my friend.”
“I probably do, Ernesto. We liberals are like that. On the other hand, this canopied tent through those flaps over there is an adaptation to a mandate, isn’t it? Law does not require this. In fact, this business man’s answer even flaunts the law.
“So…we still need to prevent it at all costs. Government has the power – and I would argue the obligation – to protect us from certain dangers, don’t you think?
“Who are they to tell us …anything?”
“They're us, aren't they? So, Ernesto, what’s in your Baba Gannoush?”