Fiscal Realism: Adam Andrzejewski Wants to be Illinois Governor

First of all, I know it looks impossible to even say, so let’s clear up that last name. It’s pronounced An-gee-ef-ski. I know, I know, that means here in Illinois we could possibly go from a Governor Blagojevich to an Andrzejewski. But the difficult last name should stand as the only similarity between the two men, for Adam seems to have some ideas on how Illinois might get out of its fiscal nightmare. I interviewed him not long ago and he had some very interesting thoughts on how to fix Illinois. (adamforillinois.com/)

In fact, Andrzejewski has already made some headway in shining the sunlight of accountability on various sate and local agencies through his self-funded program — self-funded to stay independent, he said — dubbed “For the Good of Illinois.” Andrzejewski has been at the vanguard of encouraging school boards and county governments in Illinois to put their check registries and finances on the Internet for all citizens to see. In fact, his catch phrase is “every dime online in real time.”

He started with local schools and was successful at getting $1 million in vender spending posted on the Internet and from there the momentum spread to other government entities.

We picked up municipalities. We picked up townships, Park Districts, community colleges, like the College of DuPage, and then eventually counties, with the resource obviously in DuPage County, and in Cook County. So all across the Land of Lincoln I’m proud to say my efforts have led to nearly 50 percent of the people here in Illinois living with a better quality of government because of my efforts now than before I got started.

For instance, for the College of DuPage, the community college of DuPage County, Andrzejewski was successful not only in having its check registry posted, but also its salaries. And the success of this effort was key in getting the check registry for the entire county government posted.

The effort might also be underway in Cook Country, home of the City of Chicago, as well. According to Andrzejewski, Country Board member Tony Peraica contacted Andrzejewski about replicating the DuPage effort for Cook. After they spoke, Peraica was able to get a currently non-binding resolution to follow the example of DuPage County. Let’s hope they follow through with action, now.

Building on his success for fiscal sunlight, Andrzejewski wants to take this program of reform all the way to the State House in Springfield.

But that brought me to the sticky question of government spending and taxes. I asked Andrzejewski if he could promise not to raise taxes and how he might reign in spending? He began talking of property taxes saying that, “our citizens, we can’t afford our government any longer.” Andrzejewski suggested a true property tax cap as one solution to a rising tax burden.

So, of course, they think it’s impossible to put a true cap on property taxes. But we studied that property tax limitation law, and the actual statute runs 49 words, and the [A through O] exceptions run 490 words, and it’s why people are being forced out of their houses in a down economy, why older people can’t afford their property taxes and have to move, is because the exceptions are more the rule than the rule.

So my proposal is very reasonable: last year’s budget plus or minus inflation, with an option, if you can’t live with your budget, you’ve got a compelling reason you need more money, you can go to the voters every two years on referendum and ask for more. This puts people in control of their bill. They’ll have visibility that their property tax bill will go up plus or minus by inflation or deflation, and anything more than that they’ll have a stake in the outcome of a greater increase. It’ll force their local units of government to properly plan, properly involve the citizenry, and force them to live within a budget that everybody else in this world lives within. So I think it’s very reasonable, and anybody that doesn’t think it’s reasonable I think has a hard case to make to the citizens of Illinois.

I asked Andrzejewski about his proposal on the mounting pension mess for state employees and he said that he was soon to announce his pension proposal but was not yet ready to do so.

Talk of pensions naturally led to the question of a balanced budget. Supposedly, Illinois has a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget, but not a single citizen believes a word of it.

On all of these things, that’s the reoccurring theme, only in Illinois. Whether it’s corruption, a horrible state budget, whether there’s 10,000 kids on a waiting list for a charter school in Chicago, whether it’s property taxes with all those exceptions or a horrible record of job growth, it’s just — the recurring theme comes back to only in Illinois. It has to end.

On a variety of other issues, Andrzejewski seems to be pretty solidly conservative. He’s for the right of the individual to bear arms and affirmed that he’d sign a concealed carry law as governor. He is anti-abortion and also says he supports the death penalty. On that last, he had a caveat, because in Illinois he’d have a lot of input on that issue as governor.

The death penalty is an issue that I’m formulating my position on. I’ve always understood and leaned toward the egregious cases of the death penalty to have that retribution. Now, the interesting thing here in Illinois, as governor I would be able to study each case that comes before me, because the last thing that you want to do, especially in this state, is put to death an innocent man. So I would probably leave the death penalty intact and then studiously review each case for fairness that came before me as governor.

From there I moved on to a national debate currently raging: healthcare. Andrzejewski told me he favors more competition in healthcare and felt he could accomplish that by fostering more openness on what hospitals and doctors charge for their services. He also asserted that he’d “bring transparency to insurance commissions, as well.”

On education the candidate had quite a lot to say.

I’m for school choice. Here in the General Assembly in Illinois, school choice doesn’t have a chance. What I’ve done, in terms of policy on education, I would move the ball along the continuum toward school choice, because right now it’s not anywhere on the political spectrum of being able to be enacted into law. So the first thing that I would do is support our private schools, especially in this economy. There was just a note in the newspaper the other day that a private school that’s been around for a couple of generations in Addison, Illinois is shutting its doors. I would triple the income tax credit for families that send their kids to private school, from $500 to $1,500 a year.

The next thing that I would do is I would completely abolish the cap on charter schools. In Illinois, if we do something well, we cap it, which is crazy. So, in Chicago, the charter schools spend about a third less money with about a third better education outcome for children, but they’re capped. There’s 10,000 kids on wait lists for these schools. I think that’s not common sense. So I would eliminate the cap statewide. And obviously the charter school’s a special type of public school. It’s not beholden to the state mandates on education or — that go with the normal public schools, and I think that’s also common sense policy.

The other thing that I would do is very innovative. Power should follow students not bureaucracy, so specific to the Chicago public schools, in failing schools I would deliver the state portion, which is significant, thirty-five cents [this was hard to hear in the transcript, so this percentage may not have been what Adam said] to every dollar of funding, I would deliver that directly to the neighborhood school and divert the payment away from the administration center of Chicago public schools itself.

I also asked Andrzejewski just why he was running, why did he want to be governor? His answer was pretty well formulated.

I see an absence of leadership. It’s a very fair question, because I wish I didn’t have to run. It’d be much easier to do something else. But I see an absence of leadership on principle, on values that regular people share, a common sense that regular people share. And we’ve just experienced a terrible 10 years here in Illinois. It’s certainly a lost decade here in Illinois. And even with the indictments last week of Blagojevich and the whole insider crew, these seven people, the indictment of them, did not change anything here in Illinois. The system of corruption, of bloated government, wasteful spending, nothing systemically changed in Illinois government. It would change if I was governor, and that’s why I’m running.

I wrapped up our interview with a few questions about the Republican establishment in the state. Andrzejewski is running as an outsider to politics as usual and that fact is cemented because the state GOP is beginning to line up behind State Senator Bill Brady’s gubernatorial bid. Consequently, he does not enjoy the backing of the party establishment. I wondered how Andrzejewski might win over or over come the party establishment?

Well, the party establishment has to make their own case. I feel that it’s a very difficult case to make to the voters in 2010. I like my case, I like my position much better. They’ve got to justify their time over at least the last 10 years. Illinois was a fairly decent state under Jim Edgar. It has declined precipitously into one of the worst states. So if you’re a part of the establishment, like Senator Bill Brady, if you’ve been in the General Assembly for the last 16 years, he’s got to make a case, in my opinion, of where he’s shown leadership, how he’s moved Illinois forward. Where — what was the pushback that anybody from the establishment in the Republican Party put forward to help move Illinois forward?

That’s a case the voters are going to want to hear. With me in the race, that’s a case that must be made. And that would be a case that would have to be made if anybody is going to get past a Democrat in November of 2010. I could make the case, what I have done. I’ve spearheaded one of the most successful grassroots to government movements in state of Illinois history. I think, like I said, I like my case and they have to make their case.

With that the interview ended but I got a pretty good feeling of the seriousness of this effort. Unlike past outsider candidates, Andrzejewski seems to have actually thought out some solutions to Illinois’ woes. I hope that he is able to make some headway in this coming election season if for no other reason than to put some of his ideas on the table to influence the debate and for the Republicrats party of Illinois to answer for themselves.