Writing the obituary on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s one term in office shouldn’t be difficult.
He promised a lot, accomplished little and was thoroughly rejected when he asked voters for a second chance.
During the past four years, our already-too-high taxes went up — considerably. And so did spending, despite his campaign promise to reduce both.
Yes, the Republican governor faced an uphill battle with Democrats controlling both the state Senate and the House, where Speaker Michael Madigan’s grip on power is ironclad, uncompromising and dangerous.
But to have so little to show for his term in office can only mean one thing, right? He’s just another in a long line of failed Illinois governors.
It’s disappointing after the hope he offered following more than 25 years of poor and corrupt leadership at the top of state government.
Rauner felt like a breath of fresh air when he decided to run for governor in 2014. Unlike the career politicians who ran the state in the decades prior, Rauner never held public office before. He campaigned on a series of reforms he said Illinois needed to fix the state’s dire financial situation.
His 44-point Turnaround Agenda called for much-needed reforms to public employee pensions, underfunded by $130 billion; the state’s highest-in-the-nation workers’ compensation costs; prevailing wage laws that drive up costs for taxpayer-funded projects at all levels of government; state spending overall, and more.Rauner immediately followed the failed administrations of Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn.
Blagojevich’s corrupt six years in office resulted in his well-documented impeachment and conviction on more than a dozen federal charges, including that he tried to the seat of former
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. He remains in prison today, though — through his wife, Patti — he actively seeks a pardon or commutation of his sentence from President Donald Trump.
Quinn, lieutenant governor during the Blagojevich administration, finished the disgraced former governor’s final two years in office and won re-election in 2010. His time was marked by a worsening of the state’s fiscal situation despite tax increase after tax increase. It included allegations of corruption over a $55 million grant program that was used as a political slush fund, and patronage politics to get a massive income tax increase passed.
Before Blagojevich and Quinn was Gov. George Ryan, who also was convicted of corruption charges and sentenced to federal prison. And before Ryan was Gov. Jim Edgar, who served from 1991 to 1999. Edgar is infamous for what’s referred to as the Edgar Ramp, which pushed the state’s pension obligations onto future generations and directly led to the fiscal crisis Illinois is in today.
With his election, Rauner offered hope for a better future.
Sadly, Illinois will be even worse off when his term comes to an end in a few weeks.
Because of Madigan’s and Democrats’ refusal to compromise on any of Rauner’s proposed reforms, I’ve wanted to give the governor at least some benefit of the doubt.
Then last week came the revelation that Rauner sought others to replace him on the November midterm ballot after he barely defeated insurgent and relatively unknown state Rep. Jeanne Ives in the GOP primary in March.
Rauner’s legacy as governor was never going to be thought of positively, but now he is admitting he wanted to quit. Perhaps fittingly, he wasn’t even good at that because he couldn’t find a willing replacement. Instead, he stumbled through his campaign and lost to Democrat J.B. Pritzker by more than 16 percentage points.
I wish Rauner well as he moves on to whatever comes next.
I hope his reform ideas continue to be debated and considered. Illinois still needs them.