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Rauner Flexing His Muscle – to Uncertain Ends PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 15 February 2015 05:10

More than a few Statehouse types have been wondering aloud for weeks what Governor Bruce Rauner is up to with his almost daily attacks on organized labor.

His people say that the governor feels “liberated” since the election to speak his mind about a topic that stirs great personal passion in him. He played up the issue during the Republican primary, then all but ran away from it in the general-election campaign, including just a few weeks before Election Day when he flatly denied that “right to work” or anything like that would be among his top priorities.

Yet there he is day after day, pounding away at unions, demanding right-to-work laws, vilifying public-employee unions as corrupt to the point of issuing an executive order barring the distribution of state-deducted employee “fair share” dues to public-worker unions such as AFSCME. The dues are paid by people who don’t want to pay full union dues.

Laughter at Rauner Signals Rough Waters PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 08 February 2015 13:12

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a governor openly and loudly laughed at on the House floor. At least not while he was present.

Governor Bruce Rauner was doing pretty well with his legislative audience during his first State of the State address last week, delivering strong applause lines with his refreshing calls for bipartisanship. He even thanked legislators “for your service,” and predicted they would do “great” things together. He warned them that he would say things they liked and didn’t like and urged them to see the “big picture” – which he claimed will “lift up all of the people we’ve been chosen to represent.”

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus were especially receptive to the governor’s attacks on labor-union apprenticeship programs. Rauner claimed about “80 percent of individuals in Illinois apprenticeship programs are white even though Caucasians make up fewer than 63 percent of our population,” and demanded that be addressed with legislation. Black and Latino legislators have tried for years with limited success to break those barriers, and no governor has ever so clearly sided with them.

Legislators erupted in loud applause when the governor proposed raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour. But when Rauner added “over seven years,” their laughter was even louder, and longer. Democrats appeared to realize that they might’ve fallen for a bait and switch, and it was mostly downhill from that point on.

Some 2016 Races Already Heating Up PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 01 February 2015 17:20

Illinois state Senator Daniel Biss appears to be the first Democrat to actively float his name for the 2016 special election for state comptroller.

The Evanston Democrat is known as a policy wonk around the Statehouse, but he’s also a prodigious fundraiser, ending the fourth-quarter reporting period with $721,000 in the bank.

The special-election law was passed by the General Assembly in early January – just weeks after the death of Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. Governor Pat Quinn signed it into law on his way out the door.

If the new law is upheld by the courts (which seems likely but not certain), the state’s appointed Republican Comptroller Leslie Munger will have to stand for election in a presidential year.

Since the days of President Bill Clinton, Republicans have been at a distinct disadvantage during presidential-election years. No Republican presidential candidate has won this state since 1988, when George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis 51-49. Back then, Illinois was considered a “bellwether” state for presidential campaigns. No longer.

Rauner Favoring Big Cuts Over Tax Hikes PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 25 January 2015 05:37

Governor Bruce Rauner didn’t completely close the door to higher taxes last week during a speech at the University of Chicago, but he made it clear with what he said and what he did that he wants huge state budget cuts.

“We have every reason to thrive,” Rauner said during the speech. He then laid out his reasoning for why the state is on a “fundamentally unsustainable path,” pointing his finger at the “policies and the politics mostly coming out of Springfield really at the core of the problem. ...

“The politicians want to talk about ‘Well, let’s raise the income tax to fix the debt or the problem,” Rauner said. “Raising taxes will come nowhere near to fixing the problem and in fact will make part of the problem worse and just kick the can down the road. ... This is the critical lesson that we’re seeing. We’re on an unsustainable path, we need fundamental structural change, and raising taxes alone in itself isn’t going to fix the problem and in a lot of ways it’s going to make it worse.”

Polls, Money Point to Democrats Being More Reticent PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 18 January 2015 05:34

A solid majority of Illinoisans wants newly inaugurated Governor Bruce Rauner to find common ground with the Democratic legislative majority rather than be confrontational, a new poll finds. However, most aren’t confident that the state’s leaders can avoid gridlock, and a majority believes Democrats will be to blame.

In a January 15 We Ask America poll, 1,026 registered voters were asked: “Do you think Republican Governor Bruce Rauner should try to solve the state’s problems by working to find common ground with the Democrat-controlled legislature, or should he take a more confrontational approach with the Democrats in trying to solve this state’s many problems?”

Sixty-seven percent said they want Rauner to find common ground, while 22 percent said he should take a more confrontational approach. Another 6 percent said he should do both, and 5 percent were unsure.

Eighty-four percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents wanted him to find common ground, while 76 percent of African Americans and 67 percent of whites said the same.

Every demographic favored the common-ground approach, although only a 49-percent plurality of Republicans did so, as opposed to 36 percent who wanted a more confrontational approach from the GOP governor.

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