The Changing Political Landscape

by Brad McMillan, Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service

As we begin 2017, the political landscape at the national and state levels poses both opportunities and threats.

The 2016 election resulted in a major political landscape change in our nation’s capital and a minor change in our state capital. What most citizens want is a government they can trust to effectively and responsibly govern. Now that the Republicans control the White House, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, it is their opportunity and burden to show they can better lead America. The Republicans also gained negotiating leverage in Springfield by securing four additional House seats, thereby no longer giving Democrats the supermajority needed to override Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto.

What do these election results mean for the future of America and Illinois? Time and leadership will tell.

The President-Elect’s 100-Day Agenda
Potential highlights of a Trump administration’s first 100-day plan include:

  • Passing a middle-class tax relief and simplification act where tax reductions will be made for the middle class and the current number of brackets will be reduced from seven to three with greatly simplified tax forms. Additionally, the business tax rate will be lowered from 35 percent to 15 percent.
  • Passing an energy and infrastructure act leveraging public-private partnerships and private investments through tax incentives to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years. 
  • Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act with an emphasis on health savings accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and letting states manage Medicaid funds.
  • Beginning the removal of criminal illegal immigrants from America.
  • Renegotiating or withdrawing from NAFTA and announcing withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

One of the keys to determining whether President-elect Trump succeeds on his legislative priorities is his ability to negotiate and compromise with the United States Senate. The vast majority of bills and Supreme Court appointments still require 60 votes to beat a filibuster, meaning at least eight Democrats would have to be won over to get any of this passed. In addition, 11 of the 52 Republican senators pointedly refused to support him during his presidential campaign.

But election results matter, and Republican senators may decide that supporting Trump’s agenda is best for the Republican Party and their own political futures. Furthermore, if Trump can use his pragmatic deal-making skills, he might be able to win some bipartisan support. As Speaker Paul Ryan stated on 60 Minutes, President-elect Trump ultimately wants to get things done.

Illinois Budget Impasse Continues
The State of Illinois has not passed an annual budget in two years, and the emergency, six-month stopgap budget ended in 2016. The political tug of war between Governor Rauner and Speaker Michael Madigan continues to spiral Illinois into an even deeper fiscal crisis. Our only hope to resolve this bitter impasse is if enough rank-and-file legislators on both sides of the political aisle demand that a budget solution get resolved.

By way of example, could comprehensive workers’ compensation reform be passed as a part of a grand budget deal? This will necessitate compromise—and that responsible, reasonable governance take priority over politics. In the meantime, a myriad of critical human services, billions of dollars in unpaid bills and scholarships for financially needy college students remain unfunded.

As we begin 2017, the political landscape at the national and state levels poses many opportunities and threats. We will soon know if our elected leadership will rise to the challenges. iBi