Friday, May 27, 2016

Governor Bruce Rauner and the 'Fighting Illini' ... Maybe There's Hope

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is one elected official who really takes the idea of being a genuine public servant seriously. To him it's not just lip service.

And that posture taken by Mr. Rauner seems to be driving the long-in-command Illinois Dems, and their joined at the hip allies the state's labor union chieftains, crazy.

That's because things like fiscal responsibility and doing the jobs for which the Illinois taxpayers elected them to do are now on the agenda for the first time in what seems like forever.

Rauner's Illinois Progress is subtitled 'The Governor isn't bending under union and liberal pressure:

"Governor Bruce Rauner has the most thankless job in politics: trying to rescue Illinois from its economic and fiscal morass. But someone’s got to do it, and this week he won another small but crucial victory in his trench warfare with Democratic legislators and the government unions that own them.

Democrats hold supermajorities in both houses of the legislature, but they failed for a second time to override the Governor’s veto of a bill to let the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (Afscme) cut Mr. Rauner out of negotiating its contract. The union wants to return to the days when it was on both sides of the negotiating table—that is, when it negotiated with politicians who want to please the union rather than represent taxpayers.

The Illinois Policy Institute says state workers are the highest paid in the nation, even after controlling for cost of living. Average state pay in Illinois is $59,088 not including benefits. The average is $41,555 in Indiana and $45,689 in Wisconsin. That’s how the once great Land of Lincoln became the high-debt, slow-growth laggard of the Midwest.

Mr. Rauner won in 2014 on a reform platform, but the political lifers in Springfield are fighting him like they’re defending Stalingrad. Assembly Speaker Michael Madigan wants to help Afscme outlast Mr. Rauner so it can refuse to accept the Governor’s attempts to cut state spending with reforms that include a wage freeze and merit pay.

Democrats are also looking to pass a budget that would force Mr. Rauner to sign a big tax increase. On Wednesday Democrats in the Assembly rushed through a vote on a budget proposal that ignored Mr. Rauner’s reform requests and planned to spend some $7 billion more than the state is projected to take in. The budget passed 63-53 with seven Democrats voting no.

To pay for it, they’ll spin the tax wheel. They’ve floated the idea of a millionaire’s tax, or raising the state’s flat income-tax rate to 4.85% from 3.75%. Senate President John Cullerton suggested taxing Illinois drivers by the mile, then backed off.

The Governor, a former businessman, may have been born at night but it wasn’t last night. He says he won’t consider raising taxes without wholesale changes on issues like pensions, collective bargaining and prevailing-wage mandates that raise state costs, among other reforms to make Illinois a better place to invest and hire.

Rather than compromise, Democrats are trying to shut down the government so the public rises up in anger. But Mr. Rauner has used legal duct tape to keep essential services running, and the state has managed to spend some $35 billion even without a budget. Illinois citizens don’t seem to miss the nonessential services, though the state comptroller says Illinois has a $7 billion backlog in unpaid bills.

Mr. Rauner’s reform ambitions are as large as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s, but Mr. Walker has GOP legislative majorities in Madison. The good news for Illinois voters is that they elected a Governor who isn’t cracking under liberal pressure. If Democrats were smart, they’d negotiate with Mr. Rauner now before the city of Chicago goes belly up and they have no choice but to seek the Governor’s help."

Summing Up

Just maybe the ideas of public service and leadership aren't yet dead in Illinois.

But then again, the fight won't be an easy one as the Dems and the government unions have been in charge for a very long time.

And as a result, Illinois and Chicago remain on financial life support. They have become our nation's version of Puerto Rico and perhaps even Greece.

Will Rauner score a big 'come from behind upset win for the 'Fighting Illini,' and thereby make it possible for the good citizens of Illinois to finally have a chance at winning as well?

Let's hope so because if he does, then just maybe some so-called political 'leaders' in other cities, states and even our national government will sit up, take notice and start acting in the best interests of We the People.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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