Gov. Rauner puts a brick on the Cullerton-Radogno Grand Bargain

Before she became a Grand Bargain champion w/ Pres. Cullerton, Senate Republican Leader Radogno joined House Republican Leader Jim Durkin in blasting Speaker Madigan at Thompson Center on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, after a Gov Rauner/ leaders' meeting

Before she became a Grand Bargain champion w/ Pres. Cullerton, Senate Republican Leader Radogno joined House Republican Leader Jim Durkin in blasting Speaker Madigan at Thompson Center on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, after a Gov Rauner/ Leaders' meeting. BTW, where is the Speaker on the Grand Bargain? Does he get a media pass, for now? 

Governor Rauner speaking w/ Siemens Executives at the Int. Manufacturing Technology Show at McCormick Place on Sep. 13, 2016. And, yesterday the Gov. used the more basic bricklayer technology, putting the Kabosh on a Grand Bargain that Republican base leader Dan Proft said was neither Grand, nor a Bargain!

In his high Tech mode, Gov. Rauner spoke w/ Siemens Executives at the Int. Manufacturing Technology Show at McCormick Place last fall. But, yesterday the Gov. used a more basic  technology, throwing a brick, so to speak, through the  Grand Bargain window that Republican base leader Dan Proft said was neither Grand, nor a Bargain!

Maybe...Gov. Rauner will  bring in Tillman and Proft to assist in negotiating with the other three leaders.


For the last two months or so, Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Senate Republican Leader Chris Radogno (R-Lemont) have been developing their Grand Bargain.

Radogno was to get Senate Republicans to support increased taxes in exchange for Cullerton getting Senate Democrats to support reforms, spending cuts and a balanced budget.

--Rauner: ignoring the Republican base?

For a while, it appeared that Gov. Rauner was ignoring his base because he was demanding very little from Radogno in terms of spending reforms and other reforms in exchange for higher taxes.

The conservative Republican base had supported Rauner because those folks thought Rauner would turn Illinois around by pushing back on bloated state and local spending and taxes.

The mechanism for Rauner to push back on the State and local bloat was through his Turnaround Agenda reforms.

--Dan Proft and his Liberty PAC

Enter Dan Proft, former Republican campaign consultant and 2010 Republican Primary candidate for Governor, and now WIND conservative radio personality and Liberty PAC honcho (and that PAC is backed by money from the Governor and Dick Uihlein).

Last fall, Proft and his PAC had a net gain of six legislative seats, including two State Senate seats.

Proft has always been a fountain of ideas on how to reform and cut state spending by focusing on the waste, inefficiency and wrongheaded policies that were embedded in the primary state budget drivers: pensions, education and Medicaid-- which account for about 70%, or more, of the State Budget.

Proft has also had ideas on how to win back legislative seats- and last fall he got the money to put theory into practice, and it worked.

--John Tillman and his Policy Institute   

Enter John Tillman, who has grown the Illinois Policy Institute over the last nine years from two employees and a 200 K budget to fifty employees and a budget in excess of six million dollars.

The Policy Institute advocates liberty and free markets and applied those approaches to recommend how to balance the State budget- through reform, not increased taxes.

Prior to his becoming Governor, Rauner contributed significant sums to the Illinois Policy Institute. That is not surprising since the two have very similar public policy goals for Illinois.

Since Rauner became Governor, the Policy Institute’s John Tillman has been one of several key, senior strategy and communications’ advisors to the Governor.

In short, Proft and Tillman are part of the Governor’s informal kitchen cabinet.
Of course, the Governor has formal team members who advise him, as well as  other informal Kitchen Cabinet members.

How important are Proft and Tillman/Policy Institute to the Governor’s strategic direction? It is hard to be quantitative, but suffice it to say that anyone who wants the support or approval of the Governor should not ignore Proft and Tillman.

--The Grand Bargain’s weak reforms

Others and I have been pointing out for more than the last month that the Grand Bargain appears to contain virtually no meaningful reforms.

The property tax freeze is riddled with exceptions and exemptions. If that weren’t bad enough, the freeze is only for two years.

So, the freeze could be undone in the third year. State GOP Chairman Tim Schneider told me this week that the Cook County Assessor plays this “temporary assessment freeze,” game all the time, so “Who would put any weight on this temporary property tax freeze?”

Even if the pension reform proposal is constitutional, which is dubious, it is of little consequence relative to the State’s unfunded liabilities and does little to reduce the State’s annual budget pension obligations.

The workers’ comp. reform is virtually meaningless. It hopes to make some minor reforms in payments to workers.

The Governor has said publicly he likes the Massachusetts workers’ comp. reform, which has a workplace causation standard closer to the “Predominant cause,” of the injury as opposed to “One of the factors,” which is the Illinois Standard.

--A hard swallow for the Governor

Moreover, the Governor has said publicly the Grand Bargain is lacking in “Hard Spending Caps,”   Now, I don’t know what the Governor means by those caps, but if I were Chris Radogno, I would have asked the Governor and tried to achieve them. If Radogno has done that, she doesn’t seem to have told anyone.

So, for “Nothing reforms,” and virtually no spending cuts, Radogno would like the Governor to swallow a seven billion dollar tax increase, balancing the budget at about 40 billion dollars in spending?

The Illinois Policy Institute has proposed a FY2018 budget that balances spending and revenue at 33.5 billion dollars, with no tax increase.

--Radogno’s failure to interact with the base?

Did Radogno ever schedule a meeting with Tillman where he could explain to her and her staff how some if not all of the Policy Institute’s recommendations might be incorporated in her Grand Bargain? If so, I never heard about it.

Did Radogno ever call up Proft and ask him for his suggestions? If so, I never heard about it.

In her eight years as Republican Senate Leader, did Radogno ever reach out to anyone in the Republican base and ask them for advice on how to implement true reforms? If so, I never heard about it.

I sure don’t hear a lot about Radogno appearing at Illinois Policy Institute events.  And, I don’t hear Radogno much on Proft’s radio shows.

But I have heard the Governor on a number of Proft’s shows. And, I understand that the Governor and certain Republican Illinois politicians attend a number of the Illinois Policy Institute events.

In short, does Radogno ever reach out or pay attention to the Republican base. Because if not, how does she know what they want?

--Proft and Tillman’s attack on the Grand Bargain  

So, for those of us who follow Illinois politics, it was not too surprising to read in Rich Miller’s Capitolfax blog yesterday detailed press releases from Proft and the Policy Institute attacking the Grand Bargain, in a way not too dissimilar from the above.

--Governor interjects himself? Threatens?

Nor was it too surprising that instead of calling for more votes on elements of the Grand Bargain, having passed a few meaningless elements with a handful of peculiar Republican Senator votes on Tuesday, Cullerton announced yesterday late afternoon, “I’ve been informed that the governor has decided to interject himself in this process, and doesn’t want this approved in this form.”

Odd phrasing, “Governor Rauner interjected himself in this process,” as if to say, who the Hell does Rauner think he is? The Governor?

Cullerton also said “I’m committed to working this through.” But, he said, “Senators are now in a “holding pattern” as bills are amended to forge a compromise with Rauner and the Republicans.”

Sen. Don Harmon (D- Oak Park) said Rauner had called several GOP senators into private meetings to advise against supporting the crucial measures to bring the deal home. Others characterized the Governor as “Threatening to primary,” Republican Senators who supported the Grand Bargain.”

--A Governor takeover? Bring in Proft and Tillman?

It does appear that the Governor may take over the negotiations, either as a  negotiator with Cullerton, or by returning the discussions to meetings between the four Leaders and the Governor.

Or, maybe the Governor will ask Radogno to take a vacation and Rauner will  bring in the new team (Tillman and Proft) to assist the Governor in negotiating with the other three leaders.

I mean the Speaker brought in Rep. Greg Harris to help him,  so why doesn't the Governor bring in Proft and Tillman to help him? Fair is fair.

Kind of like “Back to the Base,” or back to basics.






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  • This is like arguing whether the clowns or union labor should shovel up the horse poop when the circus is bankrupt and going out of business.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Thank you for your comment, but Au Contrar, Whatever you think of Illinois's fiscal and political state and and stability, it is still probably the 5th largest economy, or so, in a very well to do, prosperous country. Hardly a state that is going out of business anytime soon.

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