ILLINOIS (IRN) — On his way out, the Republican governor made another push for reducing property taxes and other reforms.
Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker will be inaugurated Monday in Springfield, four years after Gov. Bruce Rauner took the job as a political newcomer. Rauner said it was an honor to serve Illinois, but also noted obstacles and frustrations during his term.
The reform-minded Rauner said his administration worked to reduce business regulations and increase economic activity, but it was an uphill battle to get rank and file lawmakers to stand up to leadership for political reforms. He said the reforms he sought are still needed.
“I hope and I’m strongly encouraging members of the General Assembly to stand up to the leaders in the caucus and pass legislation to support term limits, fair maps and elimination of property tax appeals work by legislators,” Rauner said. “This is critically important ethical reform, good government reform, and we recommend that in the most strongest terms.”
He said such changes were always going to take time, especially with entrenched politicians.
“Change is hard, change takes time and the folks that created the massive problems in this state certainly are resistant to change,” Rauner said. “That means it’s going to take time to communicate with the voters. Some of our elected officials will fight tooth and nail as they have against term limits, fair maps, getting property tax work out of the legislature’s hands.”
Rauner’s term was marred by a 30-month long budget impasse. That started after Rauner revealed a large list of reforms ranging from government consolidations to “economic empowerment zones,” that would allow local governments to ban forced unionism on a local level.
Last week after winning another historic term as the longest-serving state House speaker in U.S. History, Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, called the four years with Rauner in the executive office an “epic struggle,” and during the impasse criticized Rauner as being extreme. He dismissed reforms Rauner said have helped increase economic activity in other states. Madigan also said Rauner’s approach to governing was bullheaded.
“Four long years of character assassination,” Madigan said. “Four long years of personal vilification. Four long years of strident negotiating positions, also known as ‘my way or the highway.”
Shortly after Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” was released in 2015, lawmakers passed a fiscal year 2016 budget that was billions out of balance. Rauner vetoed it. That started the budget impasse.
Lawmakers in the Senate passed a fiscal 2017 budget, but that did not pass out of the House, meaning there was no budget for Rauner to sign. In the meantime, there were bridge budgets or piecemeal spending plans getting various agencies and operations by without a full year’s appropriation for more than two and a half years.
The impasse ended in summer 2017 when lawmakers approved with $5 billion income tax increase over Rauner’s veto for the fiscal 2018 budget.
Despite the impasse, Rauner said he achieved a legislative victory in school funding reform. He also said in his term he helped get forced union dues for state employees struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, restoring free speech and assembly rights for public employees.
“Massive game changer,” Rauner said. “The changes won’t have implications in the first few months, but in the coming years a major change and a balance of power between taxpayers and the groups inside government.”
However, Rauner said that with Democratic control of the state, he’s worried talk of higher taxes and business regulations will mean more people will leave Illinois.
“Things are booming in Tennessee or Georgia or Florida or Texas, you say, ‘hey spouse, maybe we ought to head out,’ ” Rauner said. “I’m very scared about this.”
Illinois lost more than 40,000 people on net in the past year, according to U.S. Census information, the fifth consecutive year of population loss. Rauner said that’s partly because of the tax increase passed over his veto and the lack of real economic reforms.
Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti said they’re rooting for the incoming administration every step of the way.
“J.B. Pritzker, Juliana Stratton, congratulations, we’re here to assist because your success is our success because we’re all Illinoisans here,” Sanguinetti said.
After being elected the Senate President for another term last week, John Cullerton, D-Chicago, thanked Rauner for trying, despite their political differences.
“But you took on a challenge when others merely complain from the sidelines,” Cullerton said. “Thank you, and I wish you and your family the best.”