Governor Bruce Rauner greets Orland Park residents as he attends an event to discuss property taxes on Friday, May 26, 2017.
With Illinois making national headlines as the likely scene of the most expensive statewide election in U.S. history, state government for the next 16 months will be viewed through a lens imprinted with the word "campaign." It’s an ugly enough sight already. But prepare to be bombarded with more nasty campaign materials, negative commercials and vicious trash talk.
Maybe we Illinoisans should ask Michigan and Wisconsin residents, who know more about such things, for advice: That 2016 presidential election which, in Illinois, was over before it started? The governor’s race of 2018 will present this state with the all-consuming furor that voters in presidential swing states routinely endure.
Gov. Bruce Rauner parked $50 million in his war chest in December. Democrat J.B. Pritzker has set aside $14 million since he jumped into the race in April. Democrat Chris Kennedy will compete via his pedigree while state Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston, Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar and state Rep. Scott Drury of Highwood will highlight their policy chops. And the list of hopefuls continues to grow. Also expect intense battles for seats in the General Assembly, where the GOP will try to build on its six-seat gain of 2016.
A modest proposal: How about all candidates "campaign" less by posturing and more by actually getting things done, or detailing how to get them done? By moving Illinois forward? By advancing smart policy ideas and deeds?
In other words, don’t subject the citizens of this state to 16 more months of brinkmanship and little-to-no progress. Which reminds us:
Remember what Democrats said after they imposed their 32-percent hike in the personal income tax rate? They hadn’t sent Rauner any of the meaningful reforms that could have offset that gouge, but they said they weren’t finished. They promised as they left Springfield they would continue working on a pro-growth workers’ compensation bill, property tax relief, tax credit reform and a pension bill that would cut costs for taxpayers.
So, Democrats, where are your reforms? When will you be back in Springfield, turning promises into improvements for the people of Illinois?
And a question for Republicans: Rauner recently dismissed numerous top aides and replaced them with leaders of the Illinois Policy Institute, a free market think tank. Will Rauner’s housecleaning lead to policy-driven progress in state government? Or does this signal deeper heel-digging for the 2018 election cycle?
Please show us the former, governor, because you’ll need more than TV ads to get re-elected.
Just as Pritzker, Kennedy & Co. will need more than rehearsed attacks on Rauner in order to defeat him. Gentlemen, if you don’t have policy specifics on how you would do the job better, spare us the negatrons. This state doesn’t have time for great fogs of words from candidates whose best argument is, "I’m not that guy."
Illinois remains on precarious footing. Credit agencies held back on dropping the state to junk bond status. All three major agencies have emphasized that the state still faces "an extended fiscal hangover from the impasse, not least from its record level of unpaid bills, which will be a drain on its future resources." That was Standard & Poor’s, but Moody’s and Fitch have said much the same. Even with the tax hike, the state’s alarming unfunded pension liabilities and debts will continue to grow. The hole Illinois pols have dug over the decades is too deep.
That’s why it is imperative for lawmakers and Rauner to recognize they’re still on the clock and expected to deliver results — solutions — even in an intense election season. They have a job to do and it isn’t getting themselves re-elected. They work for us.
Democrats, you jammed a tax hike through both chambers. You said you were committed to advancing pieces of Rauner’s pro-growth agenda but you just needed more time. You have 16 months. Hurry up.
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