Public service should be a calling, not a way to make money. In Illinois, corruption and cronyism has defined our state government for decades, resulting in higher taxes, less economic growth, and more special deals for special interests. It’s time to clean up our state government.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. An effective, bipartisan way to keep career politicians from using the power of incumbency to lock themselves in office: putting term limits on all elected officials on the ballot in November. This is not an ideologically-motivated idea. Lawmakers in heavily Democratic California enacted term limits years ago.
It’s common sense: there’s no good reason to allow individuals to spend decades in office profiting off public service, especially when our system is so broken and delivers so little for the hardworking people of our state.
Term limits have deep and broad support in Illinois. Just two years ago, a Paul Simon Public Policy poll found that a staggering 80.5 percent of Illinois voters support term limits of eight years on members of the General Assembly. At a time when it seems we agree so rarely on issues of policy and politics, the people of Illinois are united behind this call for change.
Term limits will bring fresh faces and new ideas to Springfield. Instead of leveraging power to keep their jobs, elected officials will be motivated to work together to address the challenges Illinois faces because they’ll know the clock is ticking. If they know their time is up at the end of eight years, they’ll get busy working to leave legacies of lasting impact.
But despite consensus support for term limits, entrenched political interests in Illinois have opted to protect career politicians. When I first ran for governor four years ago, I joined reform-minded leaders across our state in advocating to put term limits on the ballot to give the voters the chance to decide. It was a core proposal in my first campaign.
The results were overwhelming. Nearly 600,000 signatures were gathered and submitted in support of giving voters the decision to enact term limits, but our hopes for genuine reform were shot down when politically-motivated elected judges in Cook County and on the Illinois Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional, blocked it from the ballot, and denied the people of Illinois their right to decide.
The political machine closed ranks and defied the will of the people. The machine-elected judges insisted that the only way to get term limits on the ballot was by a super majority vote by the General Assembly. As a result, the power to clean up government and keep it accountable to the people rests with career politicians who want change the least.
Time and time again, lawmakers — who are supposed to work on behalf of the people they represent — have failed to put this good government reform on the ballot. Career politicians have decided that protecting their job security and maintaining their power is more important than the wishes of the people. It’s unacceptable. And we can’t let them off the hook.
I believe most people enter public service for the right reasons — to make a real difference in the lives of our neighbors and the health of our communities. But after years in power, Illinois elected officials have lost their way.
This Monday is the deadline for lawmakers to put term limits on the ballot in November, and end this abuse once and for all. So call your state representative, call your state senator, and demand their support for term limits for all elected officials be put on the ballot. Let them know that there will be consequences in this fall’s election for lawmakers who don’t support giving the people the choice they deserve to change Illinois government.
Illinois can thrive once again, but only if lawmakers in Springfield commit to putting people over politics.