Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is proving to be quite adept at skirting responsibility for the current Statehouse impasse and impending government shutdown.
He has relentlessly painted himself as the good guy, even to the point of blatantly abandoning his previous stances.
For instance, Rauner has righteously slammed the Democrats’ “unconstitutional” unbalanced budget, even though his own proposed budget was also billions of dollars out of balance.
Rauner trashed that Democratic budget even after he signed the part which funded schools, thereby ensuring that he avoided blame if schools didn’t open on time.
Rauner warned in April that the state had no money to bail out Chicago, then offered $200 million a year in “found money” for the Chicago Public Schools to keep it from going belly up.
The same man who often refers to the state employee union AFSCME as “AFSCAMMY” and who told the Chicago Tribune editorial board that the crisis of a state fiscal meltdown “creates opportunity” to get his non-budget issues passed, last week pledged to work arm in arm with the unions to make sure those poor state workers got their paychecks, even though the lack of a budget means there is no legal appropriation to do so.
He’s a clever dude, that one. He’ll say just about anything to shift the focus off of him and on to the Democrats.
Rauner said last week via an email to state employees that he hadn’t heard any response to his newly proposed compromises on his non-budget demands which he wants resolved before he’ll even talk about the budget. But Senate President John Cullerton had been working with the governor on workers’ comp, property taxes and other issues, and many of Rauner’s “new” compromises weren’t new at all.
The Democrats have responded by pushing a proposal that they hope will help give them an edge on the governor. The Senate Democrats last week used their large veto-proof majority to pass a bill to fund a few “essential” state operations for one month, at a cost of $2.26 billion.
The legislation includes funding for things like sex offender GPS tracking, community care programs for the elderly, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s monitoring of nuclear sites and its natural disaster response, along with operational funding for veterans’ homes, the Illinois State Police, the Illinois School for the Deaf, the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired, the Illinois National Guard and DCFS group homes, foster homes and protective services.
That’s not an easy bill to vote against. The TV ads write themselves. But zero Republicans voted for it.
The House Democrats, who have a smaller majority than their Senate counterparts, couldn’t pass the bill on their own because they didn’t have all of their members in the chamber last week, but they still got Republicans on record as opposing it.
House Speaker Michael Madigan told reporters that he’d heard at least two House Republicans were willing to vote to keep the government from totally shutting down. But the House GOP leadership said the governor had placed a very large “brick” on the bill, and the Republicans complied with his wishes, as they pretty much always have since Rauner’s inauguration.
That constant compliance is starting to have a price.
Gov. Rauner met with the House Republican Caucus last week to thank them for sticking with him throughout the spring session and to ask them for more support during the overtime session.
Rauner thanked them for voting “Present” at his request on controversial bills which could get them in hot water with constituents. He was politely reminded, however, that they actually voted “No” on quite a few bills, including the education funding bill which the governor wound up signing into law.
Nobody enjoys getting the rug pulled out from under them, so the HGOPs have a right to be a little ticked off.
Some believe the Democrats hope to drive so many wedges between legislative Republicans and the governor that eventually the legislators will rise up and demand a resolution.
A revolt from below is highly unlikely, however. Rauner is Illinois’ first Republican governor in a dozen years, so Republican lawmakers truly want to help him succeed. Plus, the governor is sitting on an unlimited supply of campaign money and they want that cash for next year’s elections – and they don’t want any of it used against them.
Even so, it wouldn’t hurt if the more reasonable Republican lawmakers finally find the courage to suggest a way out of this mess.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.