Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner: Stands Ground in Shut-down Showdown

Posted: Jul 06, 2015 12:01 AM

While New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced his run for President with bold promises and brash rhetoric, he balanced truth and compromise as though they could coexist as two sides of a marred coin. In troubling budgetary times, when socialist-minded state legislatures refuse to recognize that they have run out of other people’s money, or that middle class makers have elected to leave their home state rather than pander and enable more takers, compromise is not the watchword. Conviction and confrontation must be the mainstay, and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, the only Republican gubernatorial candidate to unseat a liberal incumbent in 2014, is demonstrating that kind of leadership.

Clear about his convictions, yet respectful of differences, gubernatorial candidate Rauner refused union money during a four-way primary battle, as he clearly understood that Big Labor was creating the big budgetary messages in Springfield and dragging down his state. US Senator Mark Kirk (facing a tough 2016 reelection bid) cited that the Service Employees International Union is the most powerful and corrupting force in Illinois politics.

Candidate Rauner hinted at reducing the minimum wage to the federal level, and even following the media backlash, he quickly reminded the public that forced wage hikes create costly burdens on job creators, i.e businesses. He mentioned that any wage hike must include regulatory reform which would ease commerce and make opening a business easier.

Not consistently conservative on every issue, Rauner respected the views of all Illinoisans, enough that a crowd of Democrats endorsed him publically after his primary victory. With conservative Republicans, he presented himself, outlined his platform, and explained his views. He answered all questions, even when he knew that his answer would not agree with what his audience wanted to hear. Pro-choice, but not just on abortion, the Republican trumpeted his support for the Second Amendment and expansion of education opportunities, too.

In spite of diverse polling up to Election Day, Rauner beat the Democratic machine and unseated the executive incumbent.

During his State of the State speech, the first Republican Governor in over a decade was real about Illinois’ finances (they are in tatters), and realistic about fixing the state’s problems (cut the spending, now!). Respecting the pensions of peace officers and military personnel, the new governor did not run away from the problems facing the state (even though he has tempered his rhetoric to forge a working relationship with a Democratic legislature in the face of bigger-than-expected pension issues). He even alluded to right-to-work provisions in the labor-dominated state.

Within months of his inauguration, Rauner issued an executive order to protect non-union employees from paying agency fees. One article claimed that Rauner was outdoing Governor Scott Walker on labor reforms. Rauner was simply keeping a campaign promise to get Illinois’ house in order. He talked up tort reforms, too, even though the recalcitrant legislature said “No thanks”, and House Speaker Michael Madigan put on a show of individuals harmed by caps on lawsuits.

A shrewd and savvy businessman willing to do what is right, not necessarily popular, Rauner is facing off against a supermajority Democratic legislature (the Democrats held their seats in the 2014 election), which has chosen to embrace a shut-down showdown in Springfield. With no budget, and July first come and gone, Illinois’ state operations have entered a partial stop.

What issues fed this budgetary gridlock? Rauner has operated in good faith, yet is holding his ground on crucial reforms, among which are: freeze property taxes, expand local control over union negotiations (including repeal of prevailing wage laws), end “venue shopping” lawsuit abuse, worker’s compensation limitations, term limits, and redistricting reforms.

The Democrats, beholden to unions instead of the citizenry, have balked, will not budge, and are waiting for Rauner to blink.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported the hurried glances and harried fears of (liberal) lawmakers over a shut-down:

The sick will suffer. CTA riders could face fare hikes or cuts in services. State employees won’t get paid.

Single tear. Republicans countered that the world will not come to an end if Springfield cannot put forth another imbalanced budget. The state will slouch toward economic collapse if Democratic partisans refuse to ignore their special interest benefactors and put the state’s long-term interests to heart. Nevertheless, the Democratic-controlled legislature tried to pass a one month stop-gap budget, which failed. The governor’s budget director made it clear that half-measures would avail nothing:

Rauner opposed the temporary budget proposed by Madigan and its counterpart that passed the Senate yesterday. Tim Nuding, director of the governor's budget office, told the Tribune:

"This bill marches the taxpayers of Illinois toward an unbalanced budget one month at a time. This proposal, viewed on an annual basis, is little, if any, improvement over the out-of-balance, unconstitutional budget the legislature passed just a few weeks ago."

Unlike Republicans in Washington, where they bungled the shutdown over a lack of coordinated media and political calculation, Rauner is working the communications as well as the legislative backrooms. So far, he has not backed down.

Why should he?

The Economist wondered in its headlines if Illinois had become “America’s Greece”:

Illinois is like Greece in one obvious way: it overpromised and underdelivered on pensions and has little appetite for dealing with the problem, says Hal Weitzman of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Jay Walker of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tied together the momentous referendum in Greece with Illinois’ budget drama:

The Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, like Greece's creditors in their standoff, demands a dramatic reduction in spending. Meanwhile, the state legislature is balking at such belt tightening because, much like the far-left Greek government, it is beholden to unions that ignore fiscal reality.

One correction solidifies this correlation: Rauner is the loving parent disciplining a wayward adult child from his spendthrift ways. This past weekend, the Republican Governor is the adult, saying “No!” and “Enough” to decades of big promises with no returns. Hopefully, Republican governor Bruce Rauner’s stance wins, and the shut-down showdown leads to lasting reforms.