Staged: A Particularly Dishonest ‘Town Hall’ Meeting on Budget With IL Rep. Robyn Gabel – WP Original
By: Mark Glennon*
Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) is a member of the Illinois House, representing the 18th District in Chicago’s north suburbs. Monday evening I went to what she had earlier described as a town hall meeting “to discuss the current State of Illinois budget impasse and my ongoing efforts to pass a balanced budget that protects our state’s most vulnerable individuals.”
As the meeting started Gabel said she wanted the meeting to be “as interactive as possible.” An elderly man in front raised his hand and said he understood there was some good news about funding for child care services, which perhaps could be described first. He was referring to news from late in the day that Governor Rauner had changed course and agreed to more lenient standards for state child care assistance.
“No,” answered Gabel, she said she would do that last.
That news, you see, would have undermined the scripted show show she was about to put on. Gabel proceeded to call up about eight or ten managers of relief organizations and recipients of state assistance, including mothers who rely on state help for child care. She had lined them up earlier and read off their names from her notes. They told personal stories of hardship caused by the budget impasse (most of which, by the way, almost anybody would be sympathetic towards).
In other words, whether their state assistance had been reinstated didn’t matter. Gabel had her pawns in position to prove her righteousness, and she was going to deploy them.
That took about 70 minutes of the 90 minutes scheduled for the meeting. In the remaining time for audience questions (speeches, actually; mostly from Evanston folks) only on two topics did the real substance of the budget dispute come up.
On those Gabel told flagrant whoppers.
First, she said she supported reinstating the temporary income tax increase because it successfully eliminated Illinois’ backlog of unpaid bills. Hogwash. The chart on the right shows how that backlog spiked while the increase was still in place. It was increasing rapidly well before January 2015 when Rauner took office and the increase expired. Rauner, of course, was to blame on each and every topic that came up.
Second — and this lie is a favorite among Illinois legislators — the state has contributed to its pensions all amounts appropriate to properly fund them while she has been in office, she said. In fact, the state has consistently paid only the minimum amounts required by statute. The state’s auditors and actuaries point out year after year that those amounts are grossly inadequate, which is why unfunded pension liabilities soar in good years and bad. Endlessly growing pension costs and debt are the core of our budget problem. Gabel is willfully indifferent to plain facts.
I was last in line for questions as Gabel finally said something about her quest for a balanced budget. “But Robyn,” I said, the only budget you voted for was $4 billion short, the one orchestrated by Madigan, who you vote to re-elect as Speaker each session, and….”
“8:30. Times up,” interrupted Gabel. “Thanks for coming.”
That’s Robyn Gabel.
UPDATE 11/11/15: Exactly the same strategy played out the following day on the House floor. As clearly reported in articles like the one linked here, House Democrats fought hard for a bill doing what Rauner had already done, in a transparent stunt to display righteousness about day care for the needy.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints. Opinions expressed are his own.