Editorials

Politicians taking lots of days off work may be a good thing

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill recently pointed out that the Senate was only working 110 days this year, the fewest number of days since 1956.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill recently pointed out that the Senate was only working 110 days this year, the fewest number of days since 1956. AP

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill hauled a 2016 calendar to the U.S. Senate floor last week. She blacked out the dates that the Senate was not in session.

“I think there is like 240 workdays that most Americans work every year,” McCaskill said. “By my estimate, I think we’re working about 110 of those. Now, no wonder the American people are angry.”

Angry? It gets worse.

The Illinois House is set to work 62 days this year and the state Senate will spend 57 days in Springfield.

At least the U.S. Congress has passed some major legislation in its days of work, including a highway bill, tax cuts for small businesses and families, a major opioid bill, sanctions against North Korea, legislation to help victims of human trafficking and a veterans suicide-prevention bill.

However the Illinois legislature still has not passed a budget for fiscal year 2016 and is 81 calendar days into FY 2017 without a budget for this year. They only have seven scheduled days to go for the rest of this calendar year, and one of those is a perfunctory day before the Nov. 8 election, so nothing will happen then.

While their work ethic stinks, maybe it is a good thing to keep our dysfunctional Illinois lawmakers out of Springfield as much as possible. They may not get a budget passed, but they also will have less time to play nanny and tell our 7,000 local units of government what to do without providing the money to do it.

Local governments in Illinois since 1982 have seen the state impose 266 new unfunded mandates. Schools since 1992 saw 145 new unfunded mandates. And our property taxes have grown three times faster than our incomes since 1990.

Not all politicians can have the same nose-to-the-grindstone mentality as our Madison County Board members. When they were challenged by a pension audit to show they worked enough to meet eligibility requirements, the county administrator revealed each one of them puts in exactly 788 hours, or the equivalent of 98.5 work days.

Maybe Sen. McCaskill and Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan should invite a few Madison County Board members out to do a little TED talking, maybe “7 Habits of Highly Effective Politicians.”

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