Massachusetts & Illinois – Twins

Massachusetts & Illinois – Twins

© David Burton 2016

Illinois Politics

     Massachusetts has often been referred to as the “Bluest State of all.” This denotes the almost total control of political offices in the state by Democrats. In days long gone, signs posted in front of establishments looking for workers in the state, would frequently carry the subscript, “Irish need not apply.” Today, when looking for candidates to run for public office in the Bay state, it might be appropriate to add the admonition, “Republicans need not apply.”

     Beside being the bluest of the blue states, Massachusetts has the honor of being the most liberal state in the union. [1] At the same time, it is had the dubious distinction of being the 10th most expensive state in which to reside.[2] ] The high costs of living in Massachusetts reflect the liberal bent of the Democratic political establishment in the state and of the support of the politicians’ public- and private-sector union support.

     Liberal Democrats possess a stranglehold on state and local government in Massachusetts. In the Bay State state, Democratic means liberal and liberal means government largesse at the expense of all state residents. In addition, Unions and the Democratic Party in Massachusetts are wed. Democratic politicians in the state make sure that their union supporters are taken care of legislatively, while the unions funnel their financial support back to the Democratic politicians and campaign for them. Everyone makes out, everyone, that is except the citizens of Massachusetts who pay higher taxes, higher than necessary public transportation costs, higher insurance, higher health care costs, etc., etc.

     Consider the state’s largest transit system. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, often referred to as the MBTA or The T, is the public operator of most bus, subway, and commuter rail routes in the greater Boston area. The T is officially a "body politic and corporate, and a political subdivision" of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its immediate predecessor, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), was immortalized by The Kingston Trio in the popular folk-protest lament "Get Poor Charlie off the M.T.A." In 2008, the system was the fourth busiest subway system in the United States. [3]

     These days, the T is wildly overpays for basic maintenance service [4]] but ranks fourth in per-mile maintenance costs and second in staffing levels at garages. Also, the MBTA ranks dead last in performance ratings, i.e., time between breakdowns, when compared with the 20 transit agencies ranked closest to it. In other words, the MBTA has outrageous maintenance costs but the worst maintenance performance.[4]

     Why does the state government that oversees the MBTA tolerate such a situation? The answer – the Democratically controlled state government and the MBTA unions are married to each other. The blame can be laid at the feet of the state’s overly restrictive pro-union and anti-privatization statute, known as the Pacheko Law, which makes it almost impossible for the MBTA to outsource the maintenance work through competitive bidding to more efficient and less expensive maintenance services. [4] Thus in Massachusetts we see a Democratically controlled state government passing a law that requires MBTA maintenance work to be performed in-house by union workers, who, in turn, make sure to provide the support that keeps these Democratic politicians in power. In 2016, that may finally be changing under the leadership of Massachusetts' Republican governor and citizen revulsion at MBTA inefficiency and poor service.

     The last Democratic governor of Massachusetts continued the long-standing practice of needlessly spending millions of dollars by imposing union-only Project Labor Agreements (PLAs). [5] “PLAs exclude non-union workers by requiring unions to be the ‘sole and exclusive’ source of all job-site labor.” (Ref. 5))

     The Democratic politicians who run the state are strongly beholden to unions here in Massachusetts. In 2010, among the top 20 Political Action Committee (PAC) donors in Massachusetts, 16 of the top-contributing 20 PACs were labor-related. From these 16 labor-related PACs came more than 80% of the dollars contributed.[6] Money counts in politics. In addition to political contributions, unions also provide thousands of hours of free campaign labor. With their large war chests, public-sector unions are very active in political campaigns. They have spent millions of dollars on various ballot measures, nearly always favoring the side of higher taxes and spending. Public-sector unions fight against school choice, privatization, and many other policies that can improve government efficiency. [5]

     Clearly, Massachusetts is very Democratic, very unionized and a very expensive state in which to live. Is this a coincidence??? Not likely!

     It turns out that there is another state in the union that is apparently the twin sibling of Massachusetts and that is the state of Illinois, the nation’s fifth most populous state. While Massachusetts is overwhelmingly Democratic, it frequently elects a Republican governor. In fact, the last four out of five elected governors in Massachusetts have been Republicans. But, the Massachusetts legislature is invariably almost totally Democratic possessing a veto-proof majority over any Republican governor. Again, this year, our governor is indeed a Republican, Charlie Baker.

     Illinois is also overwhelmingly Democratic, and like its twin state, it too has a Republican governor in 2016, Bruce Rauner, also with a veto-proof Democratic state legislature.

     In the Prairie State, “self-government is failing {and} you can see real artistry in the self-dealing by the Democrats who, with veto-proof majorities In the state Legislature, have reduced this state they control to insolvency.
     “Illinois’ government , says Rauner, ‘is run for the benefit of its employees.’ Increasingly it is run for their benefit when they retire. Pension promises, though unfunded by at least $113 billion, are one reason some government departments are not digitized at all.
     “What is misleadingly called the state’s constitution requires balanced budgets, of which there have been none for 25 years. This year, revenues are projected to be $32.5 billion, with spending of $38 billion. Illinois Democrats are, however, selective constitutionalists: They will die in the last ditch defending the constitution’s provision that says no government pension can be ‘diminished or impaired.’
     “The government is so thoroughly unionized (22 unions represent almost all government employees) that ‘I can’t, Rauner says, ‘turn on a light switch without permission.’ He exaggerates, somewhat, but the process of trying to fire someone is a career, not an option.
      - - -      “{As in Massachusetts} Democrats have job security thanks in large part to the financial support of grateful public and private sector unions. . . (Ref. 7)

     While the state of Illinois owes its vendors some $7.6 billion, the legislators, by law, get paid. To prevent school closures, the politicians have cobbled together a 6-month semi-funded quasi-budget. Under the previous Democratic governor, the Illinois Legislature instituted a “temporary” tax increase, which the Governor Router has let lapse. The Legislators had expected a Democratic governor to be elected and the “temporary” tax increase to be extended indefinitely. In return for discussing the possibility of more tax increases, Rauner is asking that the Democrats consider pension and tort reforms, along with exempting local governments from having to pay “prevailing wages” on construction projects, which the governor says, raises costs 30 to 40 percent.[7]

     “The federal government can continue to print money. There are bankruptcy procedures for cities but not for states. So High-tax Illinois will continue bleeding the population and businesses, but with one contented host - the Democratic political class, for whom the system is working quite well.” (Ref. 7)

     Bloggers from Illinois contributed the following about their home state. (Ref. 8)

     Like Massachusetts, state government in Illinois is largely controlled by the Democratic political machine there. This is particularly true in the state’s largest city – Chicago.

     In 2013, the state’s 98th Senate was 68% Democratic - 40 Democrats and 19 Republicans.

     In 2013, the Illinois House of Representatives was 60% Democratic – 71 Democrats and 47 Republicans.

     One blogger reported that “There are more people on welfare in Illinois than there are people working. Chicago pays the highest wages to teachers than anywhere else in the U.S. averaging $110,000/year. Their pensions average 80-90% of their income.” (Ref. 8)

     Also, in Illinois' largest city and the home of the infamous Cook County Democratic party, the Chicago school system is rated one of the worst in the country. The State pension fund was $78 Billion in debt, worst in country. The Cook County (Chicago) sales tax was 10.25% - the highest in the country.

     Corruption is not unknown in Illinois. A former Republican governor, George Ryan, was sent to prison on federal corruption charges. His successor, Democratic governor Rob Blajegovitch, was convicted in 2011 of charges including attempting to sell the Senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama's election. Democratic U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. had to resign his seat in Congress in 2012 and in early 2013 was sentenced to prison for wire and mail fraud.[8]

     In like vein, Massachusetts has seen its share of Democratic politicians indicted or and/or jailed. The list is long and “illustrious” going back to legendary politician, James Michael Curley, who served 4 terms as mayor of Boston, 2 terms as US congressman, and was the 53rd governor of Massachusetts in addition to serving jail time. More recently indicted and jailed were Democratic Speakers of the Massachusetts House of Representatives: Salvatore F. DiMasi, Thomas M. Finneran, and Charles F. Flaherty, along with Dianne Wilkerson, a Democratic state senator.

     The Chicago Democrat political machine has run the state for decades, and there is no likelihood that it will not continue to do so. “As long as they keep providing entitlements to the population of Chicago, nothing is going to change, except the state will go broke before the country does.” (Ref. 8)

     Illinois’ problems extend down to its local communities. “In Illinois, 72 small-town city and village managers out-earn every governor of the 50 states. Another 111 local employees of water districts, airport districts, park districts, counties, forest preserves, mass transit districts, health clinics and planning districts also earn more than the 50 governors ($180,000).
      - - -
     “Unbelievably, politically connected private non-profit associations are clouted into the public retirement system with taxpayer-backed lifetime pensions. Taxpayers have no control over the amount of annual salary awarded at these private organizations, but it’s the salaries that drive the lifetime retirement payouts. Salary spiking – when salaries are jacked up for a short period to increase pensions or to just milk the system – is common.” (Ref. 9)

     Midway through 2016, “Illinois continued to experience serious financial woes. Perhaps the biggest problem Illinois is facing is the lack of a balanced state budget for yet another year. The uncertainty caused by the legislature's inability to pass a budget before the end of the spring session on May 31 means schools may not be able to open in the fall, and public services and employees could face even greater cuts and layoffs.” (Ref. 10)

     Two states, Massachusetts and Illinois face eerily similar problems. The root causes of the problems may also be similar – both are overwhelmingly Democratic and both have strong ties between their public and private labor unions and the Democratic politicians that control these states. The two states appear to be twins.


  1. Poll: Ala. most conservative state; Mass. most liberal, USA Today, 1 February 2013.
  2. The Most Expensive States to Live in 2012,, Accessed 1 July 2013.
  3. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Wikipedia, Accessed 1 July 2013.
  4. Runaway costs at MBTA, OpEd, Boston Herald, Page 14, 1 July 2013.
  5. Gov’s union-only project deals co$t, Greg Beeman, Boston Herald, Page 15, 1 July 2013.
  6. Whose Money Talks in Massachusetts Politics?, Steve Poftak, Boston Daily, 12 October 2011.
  7. Illinois show nation’s growing fiscal foolishness, George W. Will, Boston Herald, Page 15, 11 August 2016.
  8. A State with No Republicans, Free Republic, 4 October 2016.
  9. The 'Big Dogs' Of Illinois Municipal Government 2016, Adam Andrzejewski, Forbes, 28 March 2016.
  10. Issues facing Illinois are larger than those elected to solve them, Hoang Tran, McHenry Times, 8 June 2016.


18 August 2016 {Article_262; State_16}    
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