It’s the end of an era, but save your tears for the people of Illinois. Mike Madigan, the speaker of the state House in Springfield for nigh four decades, lost his gavel at last. This week the chamber picked his successor and a new leader: Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch.
Anyone who’s dreaming of a new era of growth economics or spending restraint will probably be disappointed. Mr. Welch is “regarded as a Madigan loyalist” and a “Madigan ally,” the Chicago papers report. “This state,” Mr. Welch himself said, “will never be able to adequately thank Speaker Madigan for the job he has done.”
Mr. Welch was first elected in 2013 from Hillside, a Chicago suburb south of O’Hare Airport, and at least he’s talking about decentralizing power. “I want to examine the rules and possibly make changes—possibly make a lot of changes,” he said. One might be a 10-year term limit on the speakership.
Mr. Welch, who is Illinois’s first black speaker, urged a lowering of partisan tensions. “Why do our politics have to be about negativity and destruction?” he asked. It’s a good question. But it will take more than bipartisan bonhomie to reverse Illinois’s spiral of high taxes and bloated government, which has caused so many residents to flee over Mr. Madigan’s tenure.
Democrats finally dumped Mr. Madigan because they feared his high public profile and a corruption probe were hurting them. But they still like Mr. Madigan’s system of public-union dominance and gerrymandered districts. The old boss may be gone, but his system survives.