By Editorial Board
What an easy lob to Republican state legislators! A Democratic senator, Daniel Biss of Evanston, was tossing them a chance to be on the right side of history. Biss asked them to support a clever savings plan to help as many as 2.5 million Illinoisans — mostly working- and middle-class — whose employers don't offer them retirement plans. What's more, the Biss bill is built on three Republican principles: It would encourage personal responsibility for retirement savings, it would cost taxpayers next to nothing and it would enable a private-sector solution.
Yet when Biss' bill came to a vote in the House and Senate last week, it received only one Republican vote. Only ... one. "I'm proud of my vote," state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, tells us. "I came in skeptical, and (Biss) spent a lot of time answering my questions and making changes, and I think this could save state government a lot of money over the next 50 years."
Every other Republican — remember, this is the party supposedly eager to broaden its appeal — got scared off. Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner had asked Republicans to vote down any sweeping proposals before he is sworn in (this bill doesn't affect his agenda). Small-business groups characterized the bill as a monster mandate (that's just dishonest). Financial services firms feared that it could cost them potential customers (these are the firms always urging all of us to save for retirement!). Yet those weak winds were enough to persuade every Republican but McSweeney to chicken out.