Thursday, May 13, 2004

Updated May 13, 2004; 2:30 am. Political Buzz and Substance.

Gonna Wash that Man right out of my Hair.

Can Sen. Durbin help Rod Blagojevich wash that woman [AG Lisa Madigan] right out of his hair? Will Ron Gidwitz run for Governor? Will AG Lisa Madigan run for Mayor of Chicago? Will Sen. Dick Durbin leave the Senate? The continuing soap opera of Illinois Politics, and we didn’t even touch on casinos. What a gamble, on our part.

But, seriously, boys and girls, Ron Gidwitz, still[?] a member of the Illinois State Board of Education, speaks out on a Nuclear Winter for business, Education, Gov. Blagojevich, Jobs, Taxes, Capping medical malpractice damage awards, expanding the Economic Pie and speculates about AG Lisa Madigan, Mayor Daley, Hot Rod and Sen. Dick Durbin with show host and legal recruiter Jeff Berkowitz.

The dialogue, below, is a partial transcript of the Public Affairs show that is airing this week in the suburbs and will air next Monday night [May 17, 8:30 pm, Cable Ch. 21] thought-out the City of Chicago. A partial transcript of other portions of the show and suburban air schedules are included in the May 11 blog entry, immediately below this entry.
Jeff Berkowitz: Are you going to be running for Governor?

Ron Gidwidz: No, sir. At least I have no plans [to do so] at the moment.

Berkowitz: Paul Caprio [Executive Director of Family-Pac] has said you are an Arlen Specter Republican [Arlen Specter is a liberal Republican incumbent Senator who just barely beat [on April 27] the challenge from conservative Pat Toomey in the Pennsylvania U. S. Senate Republican Primary]… Caprio has said that about you; would you accept that label.

Gidwitz: I am a moderate Republican.

Berkowitz: It is said that Mayor Daley may step down and that [AG] Lisa Madigan may run for Mayor of the City of Chicago?

Gidwitz: We can sit here and speculate.

Berkowitz: Do you want to do that?

Gidwitz: I don’t see the mayor stepping down.

Berkowitz: [Senator] Dick Durbin, if Kerry wins, may be going into his Cabinet. AG Lisa Madigan would be appointed [by Gov. Blagojevich] to the U. S. Senate. Rod Blagojevich [says] get her out of his hair? What do you think?

Gidwitz: I bet he would love that.

Berkowitz: You sure. Now, would you like to run for Governor?
Jeff Berkowitz: …Is the problem of teacher quality endemic to K-12 public schools across the country because schools of education try to produce [a product for the public schools by teaching them] how to teach as opposed to bringing students out of history, out of math, out of the range of departments that we have at colleges and universities—with extensive backgrounds in those subjects and saying—now bring those college students into the teaching arena. Does that radical change sound attractive to you?

Rob Gidwitz: That is one element of it, but I think we have to start saying…let’s recruit the best and the brightest of our youngsters …as opposed to in many cases using [the teaching area] as a dumping ground for college students who are not necessarily the best and brightest but need some place to earn a living and [say to themselves] “well, education is there- let’s go try that.”
Berkowitz: You do not want to see an increase in the income tax or the sales tax, is that right?

Gidwitz: I don’t think anyone wants to see an increase in any tax.

Berkowitz: You would oppose it [an increase in the income tax or sales tax]? You would oppose that if the Governor recommended it?

Gidwitz: I think the real question gets to be how are we going to fund and what do we have to fund in business? In the State. And, let’s take a look at all of the costs. Let’s not just sort of pick one here and pick one here, but let’s take a look comprehensively at what needs to be spent.

Berkowitz: It doesn’t sound like very specific recommendations that I am getting…you want to sit down and talk [with the Governor]?
Gidwitz: It [the Coalition for Jobs, Growth and Prosperity] is a coalition of a number of statewide business organizations who are very concerned that jobs are being exported from this State and are anxious to see that decisions are made to preserve jobs in Illinois. It is the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Business Roundtable, the Illinois Manufacturers Association, the Illinois Civil Justice League, the Illinois Insurance Association, and one other that I have forgotten.

Berkowitz: Gary MacDougal [then the Illinois GOP Chairman] during the 2002 Gubernatorial election said that if Rod Blagojevich came in and the Democrats took control [of the legislature], as they did—we would have a nuclear winter for business. Do we have a nuclear winter for business?

Gidwitz: I don’t think I would go quite that far—certainly the last session of the legislature was not that hospitable to business with over 600 million dollars of additional fees and taxes being ladled onto significant costs which business is already bearing and the Governor is already talking about another 450 million dollars of fees and taxes this session of the legislature which certainly doesn’t enhance anyone’s appetite for investing in Illinois—just a week or two ago Donnelley says that they have half a dozen plants in Illinois where they really would like to put more printing presses but given the fact that the Governor has imposed certain taxes on those businesses – unless the lease tax or whatever that particular fee was—unless that is removed, they are going to put those printing presses somewhere else.

Gidwitz: Tort reform is clearly a factor, as well. And you see it not just in business costs, but in medical malpractice costs, which is another variation of the same thing.

Berkowitz: Which is affecting the whole health care area in Illinois and in other states.

Gidwitz: In Southern Illinois, you can barely find an obstetrician who can deliver a baby. You have to go to St. Louis. You have to go to Kentucky.

Berkowitz: So, your group would like to see caps on medical malpractice awards.

Gidwitz: Yes, we would like to see caps on medical malpractice awards.

Berkowitz: You would cap pain and suffering [awards] but you would give what is shown and demonstrated [proven] for economic loss.

Gidwitz: Absolutely.

Berkowitz: …in many respects, there is kind of a lottery [in the health care area]. You go in for a medical procedure—and the bad news is that you were harmed or one of your relatives was harmed; the good news is that you have won the lottery [in the form of a medical malpractice lawsuit] so that in addition to covering all of your costs [such as medical costs and lost earnings], you are going to get enormous amounts of money [for pain and suffering]. Is that the idea?

Gidwitz: That is exactly what happens.

Berkowitz: And, lawyers walk away with a third [of the monetary verdict], and in this case the people who pay are the doctors in the form of higher insurance premiums.

Gidwitz: But, ultimately, it ends up to be—

Berkowitz: Consumers [Senator Susan Garrett (D- 29th Dist., Lake Forest), are you reading this?].

Gidwitz: The consumer, because the costs are ultimately passed back to the consumer, and when it gets to be too expensive, then the doctors leave.

Berkowitz: They go somewhere else or they exit the medical profession. So, that is an issue. Minimum wages have now been made higher in Illinois than in other states. That is an issue, as well?

Gidwitz: That is an issue, but I think that is probably a small issue. The real issue—

Berkowitz: Overtime requirements. We have now legislated different requirements in Illinois than are set by federal law. Is that an issue as well?

Gidwitz: Now, you have added a level of complexity. Why should Illinois be so much different than the rest of the country. Again, you just add up all of these things and you ask yourself the question—Is this the kind of a place that is conducive to job formation and job retention and the answer is unfortunately, no.

Berkowitz: Okay, the Governor has said that he won’t raise the state income tax or the general sales tax. Would you like to see him keep that campaign pledge?

Gidwitz: I think it is terrific that individuals don’t pay any more taxes. I would like not to pay any more taxes personally, but the reality is not so much are you taxing business more, but is that going to be conducive to job growth. In my view, the only way we are going to solve this problem is to make the pie bigger. And, by having businesses not keep their jobs here, not building jobs here, [that ] is not going to make the pie bigger.
Ron Gidwitz, interviewed on "Public Affairs," filmed on April 26, 2004, and as is being cablecast this week [Week of May 10] in the suburbs and as will be cablecast next Monday night [May 17] at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21 throughout the City of Chicago. You can reach Jeff Berkowitz, host and producer of “Public Affairs,” at