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LaHood: Time to decide whether to keep Lt. Governor's office

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By State Sen. Darin LaHood and State Rep. David McSweeney

In 1981, then Lieutenant Governor Dave O'Neal, famously resigned his post citing boredom as the reason. In 1994, former Lt. Governor Bob Kustra tried to resign to become a radio host but decided to keep his job because of Gov. Jim Edgar's health concerns. Kustra ultimately did resign in 1998 – six months before his term was set to expire.

In 2009, the office stood vacant when then Lt. Governor Pat Quinn became Governor after Rod Blagojevich was booted from office. The office was vacant for nearly two years. To say that the office of Lieutenant Governor is not exactly an essential office is an understatement.

Last year, the Illinois House of Representatives approved our Constitutional Amendment giving voters the opportunity to vote to eliminate the office of Lieutenant Governor completely. It is now up to the Senate to pass the Constitutional Amendment by May 4th to get it on the ballot this November.

Voters will have the option in November of considering Constitutional Amendments dealing with victims' rights and voters' rights. Illinois law allows the Legislature to place up to three Constitutional Amendments covering different sections of the Illinois Constitution on the ballot at any given time. With two Constitutional Amendments already on the ballot, we are urging our colleagues in the Senate to make the proposal to eliminate the office of Lt. Governor the third Constitutional Amendment on the November ballot.

House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 18 (HJRCA 18) would eliminate the Lt. Governor's position. Instead of embracing proposals such as a Constitutional Amendment to implement a graduated income tax in Illinois, we should be moving to save taxpayers nearly $2 million a year by eliminating the office of Lieutenant Governor. It's a luxury that we can no longer afford.

The personal income tax hikes implemented in 2011 are set to go from 5 percent on individual income to 3.75 percent in 2015. If the Illinois General Assembly does nothing, every single taxpayer in the state will receive a tax cut. However, backers of a graduated income tax want to restructure Illinois' income tax system and implement a graduated income tax, which will ultimately raise taxes and cost jobs and opportunities.

The deadline to get a Constitutional Amendment on the November ballot is May and so there is still time for the Senate to act on HJRCA 18. Unfortunately, the political will to trim government and make it run more efficiently is in short supply in Springfield. Some of our colleagues would rather see voters weighing in on tax increases than to see them vote on a common-sense proposal to eliminate an unnecessary position in government.

The fact that a former Lt. Governor left the position early because he was bored and another Lt. Governor tried to quit twice are clear reminders that the office of Lieutenant Governor is not exactly a hotbed of activity. Other than chairing the Rural Bond Bank of Illinois, the Illinois River Coordinating Council and heading up the Illinois Main Street Program, there is little the Lt. Governor has the authority to do.

The House has already overwhelmingly passed HJRCA 18 with bi-partisan support and in the Senate, we have 34 co-sponsors of the legislation again with members of both parties supporting it. The time has come for the Senate leadership to give HJRCA 18 a vote.

Voters already will have a chance to vote on at least two Constitutional Amendments. Let's make sure that if voters get a third Constitutional Amendment to consider – it is HJRCA 18.

(State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, is chief sponsor of the legislation in the Illinois House. Sen. LaHood, R-Dunlap, is the chief sponsor in the Illinois Senate.) 

About the Author
Darin LaHood is an Illinois State Senator from Peoria, representing the 37th District, which includes Peoria and Galesburg.