Early decision aimed at unseating Rauner
By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – The Illinois AFL-CIO took an unprecedented role in a gubernatorial campaign last week by endorsing Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker, of Chicago, nine months before the primary next March and while candidates are still entering the race.
Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan said endorsing this early was a strategy aimed at winning in next year’s general election.
“An early endorsement is necessary in order to achieve our top priority in 2018 – defeating Governor Bruce Rauner, whose anti-worker proposals and refusal to compromise on a budget are destroying Illinois,” Carrigan said.
“Pritzker has the vision and background to put Illinois on the right track by empowering working families – not shifting more power and wealth to the corporate class,” he added.
An early endorsement could help support coalesce around Pritzker, allowing him to take a strong position before the primary and to focus more of his efforts on attacking Rauner’s anti-Labor record, Carrigan said.
“There were a few who raised comments that this is the earliest we have ever done it, but we all agreed on one thing – that Governor Rauner is not leading this state forward and he needed to go – and I think that propelled the early endorsement discussion for J.B.,” Carrigan added in an interview.
Pritzker, heir to the Hyatt Hotels Corp. fortune and a successful investor, is considered a multi-billionaire, but he has also been a strong supporter of the Labor Movement. He joined in extensive interviews with the AFL-CIO Executive Board before they voted 19-7 for the endorsement, with strong support coming from trades unions.
Carrigan said Pritzker showed poise, knowledge and commitment in the interviews.
“He was quizzed pretty hard on different questions, and he came back with outstanding, good answers, and I just think he’s been working it and working it hard,” he said.
MADIGAN THE SCAPEGOAT AGAIN
Republican mouthpieces quickly claimed that House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago), their favorite scapegoat, had forced the endorsement, Carrigan said Madigan wasn’t a major factor.
“I didn’t really hear that in the meeting,” he said. “I heard a lot of discussion focusing on candidates. The Speaker is the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois – he certainly has been around a long time – but I didn’t feel any hard force from him.”
Other major union groups including AFSCME, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and SEIU (Service Workers International Union) are holding off on their endorsements.
Two of the more prominent Democratic candidates for governor – Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy (the youngest son of Robert F. Kennedy) and state Senator Dan Biss (D-Evanston) – issued statements critical of the endorsement.
For his part, Pritzker said the endorsement was a great honor. “The AFL-CIO and the working families it represents deserve a real leader in Springfield who will always stand with them to get our state back on track,” he said. “As governor, the Labor Movement will always have a seat at the table and will be a partner in our work ahead.”
He promised to stand up for collective bargaining rights, pensions, safe working conditions and pay equity.
Begrudged Rauner calls budget session as state teeters toward collapse
Springfield, IL – Governor Bruce Rauner and the Legislature are moving slowly and grudgingly toward dealing with Illinois’ budget issue before the state completely collapses.
The state has functioned without a new budget since Rauner was elected, largely because he has demanded concessions unrelated to the budget, such as a property tax freeze and cutting workers’ compensation costs, although he has rejected measures already passed on those issues.
If July 1 comes with no budget, highway construction work and state lotteries will be added to the list of non-functioning government operations, the state will continue its financial melt-down and a judge may rule that it cannot pay employees without a budget.
Rauner trumpeted a supposed Republican budget proposal, dubbed “The Capitol Compromise,” which when introduced last week still lacked any funding mechanism such as a tax increase. He called a special, last-ditch legislative session for June 21-30. The GOP plan includes the four-year property tax freeze that he has been demanding, among other non-budget add-ons.
Democratic legislative leaders said they had reached out to Rauner numerous times, offering many of the measures he had requested, but he had rejected all attempts.
House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) said: “House Democrats will continue our work on the budget from Springfield, but as Governor Rauner has met each of our attempts to date with refusal, it’s clear the onus is on the governor to show that he is finally serious about working in good faith to end the crisis he has manufactured.”
Republicans will now have to propose any tax increases, Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) said, after Democratic Senators already approved taxes to fund a new budget without any GOP support. Cullerton said he will not call a Republican spending bill for a vote without a tax bill.
“I’m not going to vote on that (spending bill) unless we have a corresponding revenue bill to vote on, and they have to introduce that. And it would be helpful if the governor would say he’s for it, because he’s never done that,” Cullerton said. “We are not going to take up any spending bills, especially since we already passed the governor’s exact, introduced spending bill.”