Rauner says end run around Madigan only way forward for Illinois
The buckling stops here, Gov. Bruce Rauner said during a call-in radio show recently.
Rauner, who talked with host Tony Sarabia on WBEZ Chicago’s "Morning Shift" and fielded questions from callers, made it clear that his biggest hurdle to reform has been House Speaker Michael Madigan.
“Every other governor prior to me has gone along and supported Speaker Madigan in the deficit spending, in the kicking the can on pensions, in putting more regulations on businesses,” Rauner said. “The other governors have helped create the problem in partnership with Speaker Madigan. We have got to change this … [Madigan] controls the spending; he controls the regulations; he controls the taxes; he controls our property tax bills; and he’s run a massive patronage empire for decades. The system has to change.”
Rauner argued that despite his own efforts at compromise, Madigan has essentially closed off negotiations, telling Rauner that the state income tax must grow without allowing any conversations beyond that.
“He just won’t negotiate on anything,” Rauner said. “So what we’ve done is concentrate in the Senate, where they are controlled by a super majority of Democrats, but Democrats who care about policy, about doing the right thing, and they’re willing to compromise. And we are very close. We’ve been negotiating for months with them, and we’re very close to a truly balanced budget, along with reforms on term limits, property tax freeze, education funding, pension reform, procurement reform.”
Responding to a caller's urging of campaign finance reform, Rauner — a billionaire who has contributed tens of millions to his own campaign fund — said that while money does play a factor in the current political system, Illinois is more affected by a lack of term limits and unfair voting districts.
“You can look at races across the country, dozens of races, where the candidate who spent the most did not win,” Rauner said. “Far and away the more impactful, the more beneficial move we could do would be to put term limits on all elected officials — me, everybody in the General Assembly, all statewide office holders – and do [redistricting reform]. Those two changes would transform democracy and restore good government in Illinois.”
Another caller asked Rauner about abortion legislation and the federal American Health Care Act (AHCA) bill. Regarding the abortion measure, Senate Bill 40, Rauner said that he firmly supports keeping abortion legal in the state regardless of any federal action to roll back protections. He suggested that he would not sign the bill, however, over his opposition to its increase in state funding for abortion, which would be required to expand abortion coverage to state employees and those on Medicare.
Rauner also expressed his concerns about the AHCA, noting that while the Affordable Care Act is not working, he believes its replacement needs to offer protections for vulnerable Illinoisans. Rauner said he is working with federal lawmakers and other state governors to see how they can influence the Senate’s work on the bill.
In closing, Sarabia asked Rauner if he felt any responsibility for the state’s budget impasse. Rauner reaffirmed his commitment to reaching a balanced budget in a way that both sides of the aisle could agree on.
“We all have a job to do, and that is to compromise and do what is right for the people of Illinois for the long term, so our children and our grandchildren have a better future in Illinois,” Rauner said. “It is immoral what has happened in our state government for the past 35 years. It is wrong for us to leave $190 billion in debt to our children and our grandchildren. We are not going to let that happen.”