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Trying to hurt Illinois is a bad idea, no matter your motives
There’s almost no way to justify intentionally trying to make things worse for the state of Illinois — even if the motive is to help the state long-term.
Which is why, we suspect, Civic Committee President Ty Fahner is now essentially retracting comments made in March in which Fahner admitted that he and other committee members had urged the top three rating agencies to be tough on Illinois — in other words to consider downgrading Illinois’ credit rating.
Why in the world would Fahner do that? The Civic Committee, a powerful Chicago business group, has been pushing hard for many years to cut public employee pension costs, to no avail. Downgrades, which raise the state’s borrowing costs, could create pressure to finally take action, the logic goes.
Fahner made these comments, and they are captured on video, before the Union League Club of Chicago in response to a question from an audience member. Capitol Fax publisher Rich Miller first made them public and wrote about them in his Sun-Times column on July 26.
In a response earlier this week, Fahner told Miller that he “misspoke.”
“Regarding my comments at the Union League Club in March, I misspoke,” Fahner wrote to Miller. “First, while I may have said so, I didn’t call the ratings agencies, nor did any of our Civic Committee staff. My response to the questions was very confusing and inarticulate.”
I reached out to Fahner on Thursday but didn’t hear back.
Perhaps Fahner was exaggerating before the Union League Club. Perhaps he did make the calls and now he realizes how that looks in the light of day.
Here’s what really matters: Fahner clearly thought this was a good idea — and on that we strongly disagree.
We get the impulse. We’re as frustrated as anyone with state lawmaker’s inaction on pension reform and are always looking for a way to light a spark.
But deliberately putting your own state at risk — even if it’s a means to a more positive end — borders on traitorous.
If the Civic Committee did reach out to credit agencies, it was behind closed doors, with no public say or input. Even more importantly, the public pays for those downgrades with its tax dollars.
In his Union League comments, Fahner made clear he was trying to be responsible. Fahner said he and his colleagues backed off their push with the rating agencies because they didn’t want “to be the straw that breaks the back….We’d done all we could on that that is responsible…it would be irresponsible for the biggest employers in the state – which is who the civic committee is … - to go and basically inflict that on the people that work for them. So we’re trying to work the political process.”
We’re glad to hear they struggled with this — whatever it is they did or didn’t do.
But the bottom line remains the same: these means do not justify the ends.