ELMHURST – WLS Radio talk show host Dan Proft stated he was not running for governor when his former boss, Lee Daniels pressed him during Proft's lecture on Illinois politics at Elmhurst College last week.
Proft worked on Daniels' staff when he was House Republican leader in 1996. Proft also ran for governor in 2010, an event the former candidate joked about last week.
"I know it was kind of a well-guarded secret, but I did run for governor in 2010," Proft laughed.
Although Proft denied he was running for the office as of yet, a member of his staff said he still hasn't made a decision either way. He did, however, offer a lot of ideas about how to reform state politics during his lecture titled "Illinois Isn't Broken. It's Fixed," which was the second installment in an ongoing speaker series at Elmhurst College about Illinois politics.
"State government must be producing what [politicians] want it to produce because it serves their interests very well," Proft said.
Proft stressed the need to change the political culture of Illinois before the law will follow. He said the "Chicago-way" is a self-propagating system where people learn to get in line for their favor or deal, instead of working to end political corruption.
"We have systems that are set up such that they cannot deliver what they promised," Proft said.
He specifically pointed to Medicaid, the kindergarden through 12th grade public education system and Illinois' ever-daunting pension problem.
He likened Illinois' current Medicaid system to a restaurant where people can eat whatever they want, but the bill is paid by those with the most available money. Proft criticized the public education system, saying it is set up as a third party administrator for salaries and benefits for the adults in the system, not an institution to educate kids, and he wasn't just talking about Chicago Public Schools.
"There are a lot of schools in DuPage County and in the collar counties that are living off past reputations that they no longer deserve," Proft said.
Proft referred to an ideal he suggested when he ran for governor in 2010 as a way to start managing the state's unfunded pensions. He said the Republican party should take the initiative to refuse campaign contributions from public unions, admitting it was not a popularly held opinion.
Following his lecture, he took questions from a seemingly cynical crowd. Proft suggested Illinois could turn around, although not quickly. He said there are areas where change could be implemented relatively soon.
"Even if we did something to better serve persons with developmental disabilities, that would be a great thing, and we can do that quickly," Proft said.
Proft remained hopeful despite the dismal picture he painted for Illinois' future – a view shared by audience member Charles Falk.
"He's very much on target," said Falk, of Schaumburg, who had seen Proft speak before.
But while Proft held on to the hope that Illinois could survive, Falk said he'd like to move out of state soon.
"I believe the state is beyond redemption," Falk said.