Phil Blumel: Fiscal health, how does your state rank? Hi, I’m Philip Blumel, President of US Term Limits. Welcome to the No Uncertain Terms Podcast for the week of October 15th, 2018. Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Phil Blumel: A new study from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranks the 50 states according to their financial condition. The study provides a snapshot of each state’s fiscal health by providing information straight from their audited state financial reports of 2016. In ranking the states by fiscal condition, Eileen Norcross and Olivia Gonzalez had determined that the state with the best financial management is …
Phil Blumel: Well, hold on. I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let me call in US Term Limits executive director Nick Tomboulides to speak about this with us. Hey, Nick.
Nick T.: Phil, good to be with you.
Phil Blumel: Nick, which of the 50 states is in the best financial health?
Nick T.: That would be the Cornhusker State of Nebraska.
Phil Blumel: Nebraska. Well, isn’t Nebraska the only state with a unicameral legislature, and doesn’t it also have term limits?
Nick T.: That’s right. The people of Nebraska implemented term limits on their unicameral legislature in the year 2000. They’re actually the most recent state in the country to do it. If you look at these rankings of states by fiscal health, you will see that states with term limits on their legislatures are more likely to have a positive fiscal condition than states without term limits.
Nick T.: Moreover, four of the top five states in the ranking have term limits on their legislatures.
Phil Blumel: I think that really says something, and the reason why I pointed out about the unicameral legislature is that a lot of the people that oppose term limits like to bring up the idea that these newbie legislators that come in in these term limit states, they’re infants. They don’t know where the bathroom is. They don’t know what they’re doing, and everything’s going to go to hell in your state if you adopt this popular reform.
Phil Blumel: It turns out that, as you say, four of the top five states in terms of fiscal condition are term limited, and Nebraska has a single legislature, a single house of the legislature which means that in terms of traditional political experience, that is years in the legislature, there’s no legislature in the country that has less experience. One house and term limits? Most of the states that have term limits have two houses, and therefore most of the upper house are made up of former veterans of the lower house. Not Nebraska.
Nick T.: Right. If you wanted to know how are the states with career politicians doing, well, they’re doing the worst of anybody. The bottom five states in the fiscal solvency rankings are Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois. Not a single one of which has any term limits to speak of anywhere. Obviously, Illinois …
Nick T.: … is the worst state in the country fiscally. We’ve known that for a while, and in Illinois under the guardianship of supposedly expert career politicians, they have amassed $200 billion in red ink. Those long-serving politicians have gotten the state’s bonds downgraded to the lowest level in the history of any state, BBB minus. When people ask how can you live without political experience, I think we need to change that. I think they should be asking how does Illinois live with it, because their outlook is not very bright.
Phil Blumel: Well, clearly there’s lots of kinds of experience, and the kind of experience that legislators are coming into office with in Nebraska and other places that have term limits is proving obviously quite useful, and it’s probably the experience that comes from running businesses, or otherwise leading productive lives, and probably also political experience from lower levels.
Phil Blumel: You bring up Illinois, it’s funny, Illinois not only does not have term limits, but it also has the longest serving speaker of their house in American history. They also have a full-time legislature that serves all year-round, is one of the highest paid legislatures in the country and has virtually no turnover. Here we have the most experienced legislature in a lot of ways, in traditional political terms, doing the worst in the country.
Nick T.: The problem with that is, as Ronald Reagan once said, “The problem with political experience is the only thing you learn is how to be political.” Making deals with lobbyists and special interests in the backrooms of the Illinois general assembly might let the legislators themselves live high on the hog, but in terms of turning around the state and getting its fiscal house in order there has been very little progress to speak of.
Nick T.: What this ranking focuses on, it’s actually five different measures of fiscal health. I’ll just read down the list right here. They want to know does a state have enough cash on hand to covers its short-term bills. Can a state cover its fiscal spending with revenues, or does it have a budget shortfall? Can a state meet it’s long-term spending commitments, meaning will there be enough money to cushion the state from an economic shock if one happens to come up?
Nick T.: How large a percentage of personal income are taxes, revenue, and spending? In other words, how much fiscal slack does a state have to increase spending if the people of that state want more services? Finally, they look and say how much debt does a state have? How bad are its unfunded liabilities? A lot of these states including Illinois have tremendous problems with state pensions, and it’s looking like if a state is under the stewardship of career politicians, that problem is in most cases much worse than it otherwise could be.
Scott Tillman: Hello, this is Scott Tillman, the national field director with US Term Limits. At reelection cycle we ask congressional candidates to sign a pledge to support congressional term limits. That pledge reads, “I pledge that as a member of Congress I will cosponsor and vote for the US Term Limits amendment of three house terms and two senate terms and no longer limit.” This election cycle we’ve seen far more pledges than we have in the past. We have had 373 total congressional candidates pledge this cycle.
Scott Tillman: Of those 373, 130 have made it through their primaries and are currently on their way into the general election.
Phil Blumel: I’ll remind everyone that Illinois is a initiative state, so it’s funny they don’t already have term limits. On two occasions citizens collected the requisite number of signatures to put legislative term limits on the ballot in that state, in 1994 and again in 2014, and both times the Supreme Court of that state has shot them down and not given the voters a chance to vote on this. It’s really a crime.
Phil Blumel: I tell you what, things are happening anyway. They’re trying to go around the initiative process, which is a funny way to put it, and try to put pressure directly on the legislature. We talked last week about Jim Coxworth, this gentleman that lives in suburban Chicago who’s going to walk from Chicago to Springfield to draw attention to term limits to try to put more pressure on legislators.
Nick T.: For the people who live in Illinois, I think the issue at the forefront of their minds is corruption. As we know, Illinois has had …
Phil Blumel: Corruption.
Nick T.: … several of their more recent governors go behind bars. Rod Blagojevich, Blago, was a very notable example of that. He was a Democrat. I think they had another Republican governor, George Ryan, who also went to prison for fraud and corruption. For people in Illinois it’s just a matter of knowing that these politicians are protecting the public trust, that they’re being good stewards of tax dollars. Absent term limits, they have no confidence that politicians know how to manage the state’s finances.
Phil Blumel: Right. There’s been a move to add term limits to the mayor of Chicago too. This effort was led by the former governor of the state, a Democrat, Pat Quinn, the gentleman that ran the 1994 citizen effort to term limit the legislature. His people had collected sufficient signatures to term limit the mayor, or to put on the ballot the idea of term limiting the mayor of Chicago. The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners earlier this month said that, “Nope. The issue can’t go on the ballot because Chicago has a rule that you can only have three ballot measures at a time, and they already have three.”
Phil Blumel: Well, they already have three because Chicago put extra questions on to get the term limits booted off. Well, this is going to court. Election officials apparently aren’t that secure in their position, and they’re going ahead and leaving the question on the ballot. This is very interesting. They’re going to leave the question of mayor term limits on the ballot in Chicago. It’s not binding, and they’re not even going to tell us how the vote comes out.
Phil Blumel: They’re leaving it on there just in case they lose their lawsuit and the courts makes this information public knowledge. I would recommend that everybody in Chicago make it out to the polls and vote for term limits. We don’t know what the outcome is going to be on the measure, but let’s let the Illinois politicians know that we want term limits every chance we get.
Nick T.: Chicago is really the odd man out in terms of the largest cities in America. All 10 of the largest cities in America have some form of term limits on the mayor and/or council, with the exception of Chicago. They have seen a succession of dynastic, establishment leaders in that city between 1955 and 2011 when Rahm Emanuel took over. I think just Richard Daley, Mayor Daley and his son, Richard Daley Junior, occupied the mayor’s seat for roughly 30 years during that period, during two independent tenures.
Nick T.: There’s very little room for fresh ideas and outsiders to come in and really shake up Chicago politics. It’s a running joke around there that they have the best politicians money can buy, and I’m inclined to agree with that based on what we’re seeing.
Phil Blumel: Last week we spoke with Jim Coxworth, the businessman who launched his Illinois citizen uprising to push for term limits and to end gerrymandering. Last Thursday morning he started on a march from the Chicago suburbs to Springfield to draw attention to these issues. We caught up with him on Friday, day two. Hello, Jim, Philip Blumel again. How’s it going?
Jim Coxworth: Hi.
Phil Blumel: Are you still on the road?
Jim Coxworth: I just got off the road.
Phil Blumel: Talked to you last week on this podcast, and we talked about why you’re doing this. I wanted to ask you a little bit about what it’s like making this trek. I wanted to find out where are you right now?
Jim Coxworth: I’m about 30 miles south of the starting point, which was out in Campton Hills, Illinois, so I’m actually out of the suburban area of Chicago and out into the cornfields.
Phil Blumel: How’s the weather holding up for you?
Jim Coxworth: The weather’s gotten colder, much colder, and today it was cold and windy with a little bit of rain at times this afternoon.
Phil Blumel: A little bit of rain. Did you have an opportunity today and yesterday to chat with anyone about term limits and gerrymandering?
Jim Coxworth: I have. We met some people at the office. There were a lot of people waiting for us when we walked by there on the way, first, on day one, and then we’ve stopped in a few restaurants. Especially one today where we handed out some brochures that I’ve got in my backpack. We’ve been talking to people and a few people have recognized the orange coat at the different places I’ve been, and said, “You’re the guy walking to Springfield.”
Phil Blumel: Great. That’s good. I went on your Facebook page, and I noticed that you’re being tracked. There’s a map every day of your route. Is there any other way to track your progress?
Jim Coxworth: We’re on Facebook and we’re on the website, but I think those are the two main ways. Illinoiscitizenuprising.com.
Phil Blumel: I noticed that as I’m watching these campaigns around the country that there’s probably no state in the country where state legislative candidates are being asked more about term limits than in Illinois.
Jim Coxworth: Well, I think there’s a lot of good reasons for that. I think even the former Governor Quinn was trying to get them instituted in Chicago, but I think people are sick and tired of the career politicians just strangling every effort to reform the state.
Phil Blumel: Also, on this podcast, elsewhere we were talking today about a new report that came out from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. They were looking at the fiscal solvency of all the states. Of the top five states, four of them had term limits which we found encouraging. It also talked about the bottom five states. I’m going to let you guess what number 50 was.
Jim Coxworth: Illinois.
Phil Blumel: Yeah. It’s easy question, I guess. That’s why you’re out there doing that.
Jim Coxworth: It sure is, or certainly a big part of it.
Phil Blumel: What’s on the agenda for tomorrow?
Jim Coxworth: Well, tomorrow we will start in the cemetery where I finished today, and we’ll continue south to a place near Morris, Illinois, just outside of Morris, Illinois. I’m putting on another 15 miles tomorrow.
Phil Blumel: We’ll be tracking you. I’ll be tracking you on Facebook and checking out your videos you’re making along the way. I hope other people are as well. Good luck, Jim.
Jim Coxworth: Thanks for having me.
Stacey Selleck: What’s the plan, Stan? What is US Term Limits’ plan to impose term limits on Congress? Many of you aren’t really clear about how we plan to term limit Congress, so I wanted to outline the steps. First, we get lawmakers to sign the pledge committing to support term limits, then our activists assure they honor their pledge as the resolution passes through the legislature. The Supreme Court decided that the only way to do this is through an amendment to the Constitution.
Stacey Selleck: Since an amendment may be proposed by Congress or the states, we are getting lawmakers to sign our pledge, both at the federal level and at the state level. You can help by sending your lawmaker a pledge from termlimits.com/pledge. US senators and house reps sign the USTL Congressional Pledge stating they will cosponsor and support term limits through Congress. That way we know who we can count on to pass the resolution through our federal legislative body.
Stacey Selleck: We are also securing pledges through our state senators and representatives, because our goal is to pass our resolution through 34 state legislatures as well. To get a resolution passed, we need to get a lawmaker who is passionate about term limiting Congress to sponsor the bill in both chambers.
Stacey Selleck: Then we need to usher and monitor the resolution through its progress, through the committee stops, assuring we meet all the deadlines and pass all the votes. That’s where you come in. Our grassroots supporters make phone calls and send emails to their lawmakers telling them to vote yes when the resolution comes up for a vote. Since these votes come up pretty quickly, the calls to action usually expire in a couple of days, so we need you to contact them before the vote.
Stacey Selleck: If you sign our petition, you’ll get these important calls to action. You can sign up to receive these call to action emails at termlimits.com/petition. Once the resolution passes the committee stops, it goes to the floor in each chamber. After it passes both chambers, we celebrate a major victory. Currently, Ted Cruz of Texas has sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 2, and Congressman Ron DeSantis of Florida has sponsored House Joint Resolution 6 in the Congress.
Stacey Selleck: Both resolutions will die with virtually no movement, at which point two new resolutions must be sponsored in both chambers of the 116th Congress. That’s the federal route. Because the states may also propose the term limits amendment on Congress, we are securing pledges from state lawmakers to pass our congressional term limits resolutions through the states.
Stacey Selleck: We rely on our supporters to help get these pledges from politicians by going to termlimits.com/pledge, and we rely on your activism to contact your state lawmakers telling them to vote yes at key dates through the session. To help with these calls to action, sign our petition at termlimits.com/petition.
Stacey Selleck: While we take pledges from all candidates and all lawmakers, we have key states we are targeting to get to the magic number of 34 required to trigger a term limits convention. As you can imagine, we rely on the support of our donors and the activism of our volunteers. To make a financial contribution, please go to termlimits.com and press the green donate button. To volunteer, go to termlimits.com/volunteer.
Speaker 9: (Singing).
Phil Blumel: We had a little bit of term limits news this week. Nikki Haley our UN ambassador resigned after two years on the job. She had a interesting reason that she gave for doing so. Let’s hear that clip.
Nikki Haley: I was governor for six years and we dealt with a hurricane, a thousand-year flood, a church shooting, a school shooting. There was a lot, and then to come and do two years of Russia and Iran and North Korea, it’s been eight years of intense time. I’m a believer in term limits. I think you have to be selfless enough to know when you step aside and allow someone else to do the job.
Phil Blumel: What do you think, Nick?
Nick T.: Well, here’s what I really liked about this. I liked watching the media freak out when Nikki Haley made this announcement, because they just could not fathom why someone would not want power for their whole life. It’s like they were asking openly, “What’s wrong with this person?” They start coming up with conspiracy theories to figure out what’s the real motive.
Nick T.: Imagine if George Washington were around today. They would have totally lost their marbles because he did the same thing. He walked away from the presidency instead of becoming a king. Some people really do believe in term limits and Nikki Haley is one of those people. Will she run again for something someday? Maybe. Who knows? The fact that she’s stepping aside and allowing for some new blood to enter in this position is a very noble thing, and I think she needs to be applauded for that.
Phil Blumel: I agree. As an incumbent, when you’re in a position the natural state of things is for you to continue being in that position. It’s a safe place to be, and if it’s benefiting yourself, why would you give it up? You’re right, I definitely commend her.
Nick T.: A lot of people fail to realize, term limits are only an unfortunate thing for the politicians who aren’t doing a good job, who are very insecure, who cannot simply squat in one seat for an entire career and use the institutional advantages of incumbency to protect their power. If you were a politician who is actually concerned with issues and is resonating with the people, then if you leave a certain office, you won’t have a problem finding a new office. The cream will always rise to the top if you’re making a convincing case to the American people.
Nick T.: It’s only the bad ones who really have to worry about this, because they’re the guys who get flushed out permanently when you have a term limit or when you have some kind of rotation.
Phil Blumel: That’s a very good point. In the State of Nebraska, number one in this year’s rankings from the Mercatus Center on Fiscal Health, the citizens in that state have noticed the effectiveness of term limits and they embraced them like term limits are embraced everywhere. It’s just worth noting in passing that there are movements in two of the larger cities in Nebraska, Omaha and also Lincoln to term limit the mayors of those towns.
Phil Blumel: In the case of Lincoln, there is a measure that’s going to be on the ballot. The signatures have been collected, and so they’ll be voting on a weak term limit measure in November. Then as a result of that, there’s a move to do the same in Omaha. Things are happening all around the country on this issue. People see the term limits working. They like what they’re seeing.
Nick T.: We’ll be keeping tabs on that. Are they in the courts? Do you know if the mayors are in the courts trying to stop the term limits from going to the ballot, or have they already …
Phil Blumel: No.
Nick T.: … foreclosed on that option?
Phil Blumel: Not in the courts. Only in the court of public opinion, but it’s interesting that the Republican mayor of, no, I’m sorry. The Democratic mayor of Lincoln and the Republican mayor of Omaha have taken to the pulpit to start complaining about these measures together in a bipartisan way, complaining about these term limits referenda. Then on the streets, of course, there’s Democrats and Republicans as citizens collecting the signatures and calling for term limits.
Phil Blumel: If there was ever a bipartisan issue, it’s term limits, and you see it not only on our side but also on the side of the politicians.
Nick T.: So often these politicians realize that when term limits are on the ballot and they’ve not been struck down by a court, basically the politicians fate is sealed. It will pass if it’s on the ballot, and it’s presented to voters in a very clear and unambiguous way. That’s why you so often find these conniving elected officials filing frivolous lawsuits against term limits initiatives to try to get us off the ballot. They know the voters will pass it if they have the opportunity.
Austin Sekel: Hey there. This is Austin Sekel. I wanted to share a letter to the editor that we picked up this past week from someone named [Gene Bier 00:23:08] from Milton in Wisconsin written in a paper called The Gazette Extra. If you don’t know what a letter to the editor is, it’s usually a short argument made, 100 words or less, and it just highlights the average citizen’s voice and opinion on certain matters. Any conversation can make a difference.
Austin Sekel: Here’s what an excerpt from Gene’s article says, “Watching the Supreme Court hearings and looking at each senator’s vote as it may pertain to their reelection is the latest call for term limits. The majority of voters support those limits, but it is difficult to convince legislators to get off the gravy train. Call both your senators and your representatives and demand action. Probably won’t matter. You may sleep better.”
Austin Sekel: I agree with the latter, but I understand it may not make a difference at first, but you don’t know who’s going to be reading the article. Letters to the editor are one of the most commonly viewed sections in the newspaper, especially if more and more citizens start doing this. Any kind of movement can gain momentum and that’s what we need. Please contribute one of yourself. Look up the article at termlimits.com/podcast, and we’ll see you next time.
Gil Fulbright: Hi, I’m Gil Fulbright. The people that run my campaign, they’ve made this commercial and I’m in it. This campaign, it’s not about me. It’s about crafting a version of me that’ll appeal to you, a version that visits random work sites with paid actors pointing at things, a version of me that doesn’t find old people loathsome or pointless. Listening to my constituents, legislating, these are things I don’t do.
Gil Fulbright: What I do is spend about 70% of my time raising funds for reelection. I’d do anything to stay in office. My name’s Gil Fulbright, but, hell, I’ll change my name to Phil Goldbright, or Bill Fulbright, or Fill Up My Mouths With Farts. These are the things that are important to me, and these are the fine people that finance my campaign. Now, in order to do these things, I have to stay in office, and to stay in office I have to keep these guys happy.
Gil Fulbright: Now, if any of these things make these guys unhappy, well, my hands are tied. Come November the choice is clear. Do you want another spineless mouthpiece for special interests and lobbyists or a spineless mouthpiece for special interests and lobbyists? I’m Fill Up My Mouth With Farts and I approve this message.
Phil Blumel: For more of Gil Fulbright and other political parodies, check out the anti-corruption and pro-fun campaign at represent.us.
Speaker 14: One of the states with the strictest term limits is Michigan. It also happens to be the only state holding legislative elections this year without any uncontested seats. While the state with the most uncontested seats is Massachusetts, where only 28% of the general election contests feature both a Democrat and a Republican. Guess what? Massachusetts does not have term limits.
Speaker 14: What did you say about term limits taking away choice? Term limits may take away a choice, but it’s a choice of one not a choice of many.
Phil Blumel: Of the top five states in the Mercatus Center Fiscal Health Rankings, four have term limits: Nebraska, South Dakota, Florida, and Oklahoma. Naturally, the institutional arrangements of these states affect these positive outcomes. It certainly proves that in these states term limited legislatures are not inept pushovers who can’t balance a checkbook, say no to special interest demands, or even find the bathroom.
Phil Blumel: Instead, the broader experience we see in term-limited legislatures has resulted in generally better outcomes. Thank you for joining us for this week’s No Uncertain Terms. Please spread the word about our podcast. Our regular listenership is an informed national network that is going to dump the professional congress member into the dustbin of history.
Phil Blumel: Please share the word about the podcast with your friends, and subscribe. You can use the podcast app on your iPhone, or download Stitcher on your Android device, or just go to iTunes, and while you’re there rate and review us. These ratings direct attention to the podcast and bring more citizens onboard.
Phil Blumel: Know the revolution is not being televised, at least not yet. In the meantime, you have the weekly No Uncertain Terms Podcast. See you next week.