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Rauner Gives Short 'Unity' Sales Pitch That Almost No One Buys

By aaroncynic in News on Jun 21, 2017 2:07PM

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner took to television and Facebook live Tuesday evening to deliver a three minute speech promoting his version of “compromise” on a solution to the state’s almost three-year long budget impasse.

Addressing an empty room in Springfield’s Old State Capitol, the governor opened by referencing Abraham Lincoln’s famous “house divided” speech, which took place in the same building in 1858. Rauner however, is no Abraham Lincoln, and his speech resembled a bad pitch from a used car salesman rather than an address from a man who would later become America’s 16th President.

“Right now our state is in real crisis, and the actions we take in the days ahead will determine how history remembers us,” said Rauner.

The governor’s address came the night before lawmakers in Springfield are set to convene for a special 10-day legislative session, which Rauner called to address the budget crisis. If a deal isn’t reached, Illinois will begin its third year without a budget. Since the impasse began, Rauner has blamed Democratic legislators—particularly House Speaker Michael Madigan—for the impasse. Lawmakers and others opposed to Rauner’s agenda in turn have put the blame on the governor, particularly because some of his demands “reforms” are non-budgetary in nature. Caught in the middle is the rest of the state—particularly social services and any other entity that’s done business with it.

Despite airing new totally not campaign ads blaming Madigan and other Democratic lawmakers for the crisis literally minutes before his speech began, Rauner billed it as a call for “unity.”

“We can all do better. We must all do better for the citizens of Illinois. We’ve asked the General Assembly to come together in a special session for the next ten days. Not as Democrats and Republicans, but as leaders who share bipartisan concern for our state’s future. We must agree on a balanced budget plan and get it to my desk before the end of the state’s fiscal year.”

Rauner touted a “compromise” plan proposed by his Republican legislative allies, which agrees to $5.4 billion in revenue increases proposed by the Senate, but only if proposed tax increases are limited to four years, rather than made permanent, and are tied to a freeze in property taxes. Additionally, the Republican plan demands lawmakers accept some of Rauner’s other agenda items such as term limits, changes to workers compensation, local government consolidation, and changes in state funded pensions.

“It moves us to middle ground on key issues,” said Rauner. “It is truly balanced.”

Rauner’s critics however, weren’t buying any of what he was selling, and some even made statements to that effect long before he delivered his speech.

“Tonight we’ll hear yet another speech about a state budget from the Governor, the fourth like it he’s given,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “Since he’s taken office all he’s done is give speeches and run TV ads — and he’s passed zero budgets. Under Governor Rauner today Illinois is dead last in education funding, Illinois has the worst credit rating of any state in the history of the country, and for three years running Illinois is the only state without a budget. Talk is cheap. Actions matter.”

Several rival candidates for the 2018 gubernatorial election also took the opportunity to get in jabs at Rauner. Calling him a “liar, a fraud and a flake,” Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar (who is also running for governor) said the governor’s attempts at pretending to be in favor of bipartisan solutions has “gone on for too long.”

“The governor has been exploiting the divisions between Chicago and the rest of the state and using coded language to play off people’s fears,” said Pawar in a statement emailed to Chicagoist. “He would rather see our state divided to put more money in the pockets of his donors than do his job and improve the lives of people across all communities.”

Billionaire gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker called Rauner’s speech a “sham.” “Bruce Rauner calls his proposal a compromise budget, but that could not be further from the truth,” said Pritzker in an email to supporters. “There’s nothing about it that’s a compromise. There’s no unity in his call for unity. It’s a sham.”

Democratic lawmakers too, were unimpressed.

“Rauner has done everything in his power to divide, not unite,” said State Senator Melinda Bush in a press release. “With just 11 days left in the fiscal year, the governor is calling for unity while running attack ads on Democratic legislators? It's absurd. The Senate Democrats already did the hard work of passing a balanced budget with the non-budgetary reforms the governor demanded and he still refuses to end the impasse.”

In a video posted to Twitter, Representative Greg Harris said Rauner was “talking out of both sides of his mouth.” “As he holds a campaign rally ostensibly calling for unity, he’s also bankrolling negative attack ads and mailers against the very people he is calling on to work with.”

Senator Don Harmon said Rauner’s speech was more of the same. ““I didn’t hear much from the governor this evening that I haven’t heard before,” said Harmon in a press release. “I think that when all was said and done, this address of his was little more than an opportunity for him to get free, unchallenged time on the evening news all over Illinois.”

The group Illinois Working Together called the governor’s speech a “political ploy” in a statement emailed to Chicagoist:
"Tonight's speech is yet another Rauner political ploy designed to shift the blame for the crisis he intentionally created. At the exact same time the governor calls for "unity," he is using the speech to raise campaign cash and spending millions on political attack ads that undermine any attempt at compromise.”

The Illinois Democratic Governor’s Association said Rauner’s record reflects that of someone willing to sacrifice the state’s future for political gain:

“Tonight, Bruce Rauner tried to reset his failing tenure as Governor of Illinois by offering nothing new in terms of policy or message. Instead, he pretended he played no part in creating and exacerbating the state’s fiscal crisis. Bruce Rauner purposefully drove the state off the rails, leading to nation’s longest budget impasse in history, skyrocketing debt, a crippling blow to our higher education system, and a ruined social safety net.”