By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – Democrats and state-level Labor leaders cheered during Governor Bruce Rauner’s State of the State address on Jan. 31, but only in jest because of the speech’s lack of actual proposals.
Rauner called for unity in dealing with the state’s problems, but after three years without cooperation, his opponents weren’t buying it.
“Our job in this Capitol is to improve the lives of all the people of Illinois, through more economic opportunity, better educational opportunity, and more value for their hard-earned tax dollars,” Rauner said. “To achieve a grand compromise, we must cast partisanship and ideology aside. We must break from the politics of the past and do what is right for the long-term future of our state.”
Instead of a grand compromise, Rauner’s term has featured a two-year budget stalemate, resolved only with a bipartisan override of his veto of an income tax to pay bills and keep the state functioning, led by Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan.
Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan noted that Rauner failed to present any specific plans or solutions.
“No leadership,” Carrigan said. “It’s a sad refrain, but Rauner is clearly either not capable of leading or is so tied to his corporate world view that he is paralyzed on how to move forward.”
Rauner claimed credit for accomplishments that he has opposed, such as the new education funding plan, currently hung up by Rauner’s last-minute amendatory veto and supposed technical issues.
Illinois Federation of Teachers President Don Montgomery called him on it.
“Look no further than his deceptive boasting about school funding. The truth is, Rauner vetoed a bi
partisan solution to a decades-long problem, forced through private school vouchers and has now put equitable funding – and our most vulnerable students – in jeopardy again. The truth is, Rauner failed to fund MAP grants, forced public universities into junk bond status and layoffs and proposed deep cuts to higher education.”
A LITTLE LATE FOR LEADERSHIP
The leading Democratic candidate for governor, industrialist J.B. Pritzker, said it’s a little late for Rauner to try to show some leadership.
“He’s never introduced a balanced budget in the three years that he’s been governor, and he suggests now he’s going to and he wants bipartisanship?” Pritzker asked. “This is a failed governor trying to make up for three lost years.”
Rauner faces a primary challenge on his right, from Representative Jeanne Ives of Wheaton, who joined Democrats in questioning Rauner’s message.
“For all of us who have listened to him for three years, we’re waiting for him to show some action,” Ives said. “I don’t think it helps that he’s called legislators in the past corrupt, that he’s called Mike Madigan a crook, and now he wants to strike a bipartisan tone.”
Democrats actually cheered – in jest – when Rauner promised he would submit a genuinely balanced budget proposal in February. It would be his first.
Noted Carrigan: “Illinois is better off without him in the process. In these times, we need statesmanship and courage in our elected officials. Rauner shows no evidence of either of those qualities.”
Some other responses to the speech were:
• Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton): “Once again, Governor Rauner offered vague ideas, but he lacks a specific plan to accomplish any of them. In the past three years, his failure to present, negotiate and support a bipartisan, balanced budget has caused needless layoffs at SIU Edwardsville and forced organizations like Senior Services Plus in Alton to reduce vital Meals on Wheels programs.
• Representative Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea): “Our outstanding debt has skyrocketed to over $14 billion since he took office, causing negative implications for many Illinoisans. Rather than trying to establish common ground with Democrats and Republicans, Governer Rauner has repeatedly derailed legislative efforts that aren’t 100 percent consistent with his anti-working families agenda.”
• Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill): “I heard a disappointing speech that was light on specifics and played more toward politics than problem-solving. Governor Rauner offered no plan for job creation in parts of the state that have not benefited from jobs recently even though the general economy is improving. As for his call that we all roll up our sleeves and work together, I see no evidence that he understands what ‘bipartisan’ actually means.”
• Representative Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville): “Despite decimating our higher education system, he spoke of our impressive public universities, which have produced so many of our country’s engineers. He wants to take credit for an education funding law that he tried to turn into a political circus, pitting one child against another and putting our local schools at risk.
“After he tripled state debt and vetoed legislation to provide taxpayers with real accountability of how his administration is managing our money, he spoke of fiscal discipline. He talked about the need for property tax relief despite sitting on the sidelines and refusing to support the measures we have passed to provide tax relief to the middle class.”