Illinois Opportunity Project co-founders: Term limits in Illinois not short-term solution
Term limits are not a short-term solution to Illinois' financial problems, and when or if they are implemented, such limits must be done right or the result will be more of the same, co-founders of a conservative nonprofit said during a recent Chicago-based radio broadcast.
"That's no short-term solution to anything," Dan Proft, host of "Illinois Rising," said during a recent edition of the radio show. "You can't claw back, so it would be prospective. Starting tomorrow you've now got 10 years in the General Assembly. So you're still dealing with the same cast of characters unless you can defeat them on Election Day."
Proft's co-host for that broadcast, Pat Hughes, countered that even with all new legislators in the state's General Assembly, too often there are unforeseen consequences to consider.
"Even if they were all out next term and you had all new people, you would still have to go get the people who are principled enough, who are policy-driven enough to fill those slots and who wouldn't just go there -- as we see all the time -- and act as the current group is acting anyway," Hughes said. "So it's not just a matter of saying, 'Hey, we're going to pass a term limit law and get new blood in there.' The new blood has to be the right blood."
That, he said, is harder than simply enacting term limits, and there are other issues as well.
"Not just in terms of finding these people and incentivizing them to go down and do public service, which is one thing, but secondarily preventing those people, when they get down there, from being attracted to all the same nonsense that got us into this deal in the first place," Hughes said.
Proft and Hughes are co-founders of the Illinois Opportunity Project. Proft, in addition to hosting "Illinois Rising," is Liberty Principles PAC chairperson and treasurer, as well as a senior fellow at the Chicago-based conservative think tank Illinois Policy Institute. "Illinois Rising" is a presentation of the Illinois Policy Institute.
The question of term limits is a perennial issue in Illinois, where many blame the state's problems on career politicians more concerned with their own self-interest and the good of their party than about what's good for their constituents. Term limits and redistricting are part of Gov. Bruce Rauner's "turnaround agenda," which has gained little traction in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.
In August, a sharply divided Illinois Supreme Court struck down the latest redistricting ballot measure, saying it was unconstitutional.
That ballot measure is similar to the 2014 Illinois Independent Redistricting Amendment, known as "Yes for Independent Maps," which failed to make it to that year's ballot after a Cook County judge ruled it unconstitutional, too.
Opinions differ about whether term limits would be good for Illinois, but Hughes thinks they're worth serious consideration and a solid place to start.
"It's definitely not a pipe dream," he said. "I'll take the Republican Caucus as an example. Over the last five or six years -- certainly as long as I've been involved in this work and you've been with the PAC -- the Republican Caucus has gotten stronger, has gotten better, has better members, has members that are more principled; that's not always the case but they've gotten better. So it can be done on both sides of the aisle. To me, the idea is to expand the Republican Caucus so that the free market policies can get an audience and get passed and expand it with the right people in those slots. It's been shown that it can be done, that's the only path to get it, whether you have term limits or not."
But that won't be easy, Hughes cautioned.
"It's not an easy task because it seems like such an uphill battle," he said. "But in doing the work I've done outside of this, we've been able to convince people when Illinois was far worse off than it is today -- before we had a Republican governor, before the caucus had turned over, before four seats were picked up in the House in the General Assembly and two in the Senate -- people were willing to fight and get involved. And I think that momentum is building."