Text extensively revised, link to presser added and pictures added at 4:30 pm on Wednesday
Gov. Bruce Rauner is a major league enigma. Having never run for office previously, he ran a very focused disciplined campaign for Governor.
Rauner’s campaign message and wealth helped him win the 2014 Republican Gubernatorial Primary
Bruce Rauner, private equity investor and asset portfolio manager, faced, in the Republican Primary, three experienced politicians: State Senator Bill Brady (Bloomington), who was the Party’s nominee in 2010; 20 year State Senator Kirk Dillard (Hinsdale) and State Comptroller Dan Rutherford (Pontiac).
Rutherford’s campaign imploded half way thru it with peculiar sexual/political harassment legal claims being filed by a male employee from his office. Once that happened, Dan’s campaign was over.
Brady and Dillard had trouble attracting financial support, with their usual financial backers being friendlier to Rauner than to them. Rauner had a glut of money, but he put a brick on his buddies giving anything to Brady and Dillard.
While the financial advantage was helpful to Rauner, the real reason why he won was that he had a more focused, consistent message than his competition. Whether it was a debate or a side by side speech event, Rauner always emphasized spending restraint, low taxes, less business regulation and education reform, including charter schools and school choice. Rauner voters knew what Rauner stood for.
Brady was the Rauner competitor with the closest to a consistent message, but one that was not as disciplined as Rauner. Also, Brady was short of funds, so he had trouble getting his message out to voters. Brady was a downstater who didn’t play well in the upstate suburbs. That’s where the bulk of the Republican voters are.
Dillard, out of money, made a deal with the devil, the teachers’ unions and suddenly he didn’t favor pension reform. Or, he did, or he needed to study it further. What was Dillard’s platform? It became an ideological cocktail, mixed differently, depending on the time of day or on his audience.
So, Dillard was all over the map, trying to attract teachers’union, Democratic Party cross over votes but also trying to attract the social right and to some extent, the economic right and it almost worked, as Rauner’s 20% primary lead shriveled to a 3% margin of victory over Dillard.
Nevertheless, Rauner stayed consistent in his message and won the Republican nomination for Governor. Yes, his wealth was very important, but so was his disciplined, consistent free market, economic conservative message.
Rauner’s consistent message and wealth won the 2014 general election
Rauner took that same, consistent message of economic conservatism/honest government and reform game plan into the General and beat an extremely unpopular, six year gubernatorial incumbent Pat Quinn, whose message was all over the place, 51% to 46%.
Rauner passed a FY2015 budget
Now, shockingly, after that superior performance in the run up to his election, with 22 months of governing to his name, Gov. Rauner has accomplished very little in Illinois. He did pass a Fiscal Year 2015 budget that was sort of balanced, by making use of fund sweeps- which actually are a good way to solve a budget deficit.
Rauner got no Turnaround Agenda economic or civic reforms in FY2015. But, he didn’t have to raise taxes, so Fiscal 2015 was kind of a wash and maybe even ok—like a Governor on training wheels. But, then the wheels fell off, and the Governor keeps crashing and burning. Again and Again.
Rauner failed to pass a real FY2016 budget, and massive budget deficits ensued
Fiscal 2016, which we concluded more than two months ago, has not been kind to the Governor. No budget, a deficit of about 7 billion dollars and out of control spending. Spending essentially is being set by continuing resolutions, court orders, court settlements—or just nothing. By the November, 2016 election, we expect the State’s unpaid bills to have climbed to about 10 to 12 billion dollars.
Will Speaker Madigan and Governor Rauner be able to reach a real budget agreement after the Novermber 8, 2016 election? The Governor suggests yes, but he doesn’t articulate why he thinks that.
Yesterday's goofy two question press conference
At yesterday afternoon's Press Conference, after touring the International Manufacturing Technology Show at McCormick Place with this reporter in tow, for almost an hour, the Governor fielded two out of left field questions for which he gave two right field answers. You can watch portions of the tour [0 to 17:42], the Governor's statement to the media [17:42 20:00] and media Q/A [20:00 to 22:22]
The Tribune’s Kim Geiger asked the first question—are you really giving state legislative candidates millions of dollars-- but without giving any strategic direction to those campaigns? The Governor fibbed a bit and said Yes--We’re staying out of all of them. We support reformers, so we don’t have to be involved. Yeah, right. Many of those legislative candidates couldn’t run a two car funeral. They couldn’t pass a pop quiz on the Governor’s Turnaround Agenda and some have no idea what that Agenda is. Team Rauner had better be involved in those campaigns if the Governor wants to pick up legislative seats in 55 days.
WBEZ’s question? From Tony Arnold-- Governor, why did you give 100K to the Indiana Republican gubernatorial candidate when you say you want to beat the brains out of Indiana?
The real answer, which the Governor didn’t quite say, is that a Republican controlled Indiana legislature is providing a tough economic environment with whom IL must compete.
Further, 100 K is going to have little impact on the Indiana election. Yes, a Republican Governor will make it a bit harder for IL to compete with Indiana, but the improvement of the region with a stronger Indiana will help IL more than Holcomb would hurt IL, sayeth the Governor. And, he is probably right about that.
Governor Rauner essentially said- Eric Holcomb, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, and his mentor, Mitch Daniels, are buddies of his, so they trade campaign contributions back and forth, in the same way Illinois' North Shore families buy 20 boxes of girl scout cookies from each other. As this reporter said, a left field question, a right field answer, a strange afternoon all around.
Governor’s Deputy Press Secretary bizarrely and suddenly terminates the press conference after two questions.
Of course, the Tribune didn’t ask, “Well, weren’t Senate Republican Leader Radogno, Illinois Policy Institute CEO John Tillman and you all interviewing potential replacements for Senator Matt Murphy. So, you are involved in that legislative campaign and many others, aren’t you, Governor?"
That would be known as a follow up question. Most politicians allow such – and the Governor handles same when his handler doesn’t foolishly interfere with the Governor being Governor.
Perhaps Catherine Kelly, Deputy press secretary to the Governor, was concerned that this reporter or the Tribune might follow up—so that’s why she cut the presser without this reporter getting one question. Whatever the reason, it was a totally inappropriate, unprofessional action on Kelly's part.
Moreover, Kelly hurt the Governor more than she helped him. Let Rauner be Rauner.
Indeed, after only two minutes of Q/A and two questions, Catherine Kelly called it a day—she didn’t even say “Last question.” She just said, "That's all we have time for."
The Governor should have gotten significant coverage out of his stopping in at this international manufacturing event, with its record setting 125,000 attendees in Chicago and the significant potential for IL to grow its manufacturing sector, but the Governor's PR team doesn't have any idea what to do here-- other than to try to shield the Governor from questions.
Indeed, the local news networks have stopped sending cameras to such events, and when they do--often no coverage is provided. The Governor has stopped making news, and when he does, it's not reported. His press team is failing him badly. If the Governor makes an important, thoughtful and articulate statement of policy-- but no TV camera is in the room, did it happen?
Governor Rauner appears to have no specific plans to solve the State’s economic crisis
The main thing to keep in mind. Two years into his Governorship, the Governor appears to have no clue how to get a budget and reforms past the Speaker. He knows what he could do, but it seems he hasn’t decided what he will do.
For the last month, the Governor has been holding a series of unrelated, disjointed press conferences. One day it is human trafficking, then relatively minor criminal justice reforms, then Days of Polonia, then private individuals asking for whom Rauner will vote for President, then the importance of Japan for Illinois, then is he really keeping uninvolved in specific legislative races, then gun trafficking and on and on, with little or nothing ever getting done.
Can you connect those dots to see what the Governor is accomplishing? Doubtful that any voters can.
Looks like the budget deficit, new revenue, economic growth and job growth, which should be top priority to discuss and highlight to the public are being given no priority by the Governor. The state is running a 7 to 8 billion dollar deficit, and the Governor is ignoring it.
Wouldn’t it be better for the Governor to lay out in simple terms his plans for the budget, reforms, jobs, economic growth, etc. The Democrats may block Rauner's proposed legislation, but at least the voters would know what he is proposing and who is preventing the State from moving forward.
And, there are specific economic programs that might have bi-partisan support that would improve the State’s economy. But, the Governor is neither pursuing nor discussing those programs.
At a minimum, the Governor should put out publicly, succinctly and clearly his political/economic objectives and goals:
For budget spending cuts, tax increases and deficit reduction-- and ultimately a budget surplus,
For the pay down of twelve billion dollars in unpaid bills,
For the improvement of k-12 inner city education via charter schools and school choice, especially for inner city kids in Illinois.
For specific reforms of state employee pensions, Medicaid and K-12 and Higher Education, which are the main budget drivers,
For civic, structural reforms,
For economic and job growth,
Over the last few months, there has been no coherent discernible Governor Rauner Agenda.
Occasionally, Rauner trots out planks of the Turnaround Agenda, and he repeats them with little in the way of persuasion. At best, they are long term hopes, not a plan. Praying for redistricting reform and term limits is not an Agenda.
Some positive, economic growth and jobs plan for IL
The good news is—later today this reporter will start to lay out some small but positive steps that the Governor can take to get the Illinois economy, technical vocational training and higher education moving again.
Where was the Governor’s economic development team yesterday? His new private/government economic development team that he touted at a presser months ago? Why weren’t they working the International Manufacturing Technology show with the Governor?
The Governor said that he met with six manufacturing companies with IL expansion plans to discuss what the State could do to help them. Did the Governor's economic development team meet with them, as well? We don't know, because Catherine Kelly only allowed two media members to question yesterday and they didn't ask that.
It doesn't appear that the Governor's economic development team was there, but we don't know. Of course, Catherine Kelly doesn't respond to this reporter's emails, so we can't try that.
In any case, this reporter was there. So, later today we’ll lay out what the Governor and his team could have done. Coulda, shoulda, woulda-- Is that any way to run a railroad?
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Tags: 2016 IL November 2016 elections, Catherine Kelly, Chicago Tribune Kim Geiger, Colleen Makare, Eric Holcomb, Gov. Rauner at International Manufacturing Technology Show, Governor Press conference at McCormick Place, Governor Rauner, i, IL spending, IL State legislative elections, IMTS 2016, Jeff Berkowitz, linear motion systems, Mannfred Wittenstein, McCormick Place, McCormick Place IMTS exhibition September 2016, Mitch Daniels, Peter Riehle, Public Affairs, Rauner plans to fix the IL Economy, Rauner's Fiscal Year 2017 operation, taxes and state budget deficit, TMK North America, Tony Arnold, Toshihiro Teramachi, Turnaound Agenda, Turnaround Agenda, WBEZ, Wittenstein