I missed newly-elected Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s first state of the state message yesterday but I’ve certainly got an earful about it since then. The editors of the Chicago Tribune found it refreshing:
With Wednesday’s State of the State address, Gov. Bruce Rauner is on record with an agenda to make Illinois competitive again.
We’ve waited a long time for an Illinois governor to voice many of these proposals as if he means them.
The question now is whether lawmakers, the majority of them Democrats, will join a Republican governor in fixing Illinois or will try to block reforms that represent a sharp new way of doing the business of government.
They conclude: “Do legislators want to help? Or not?” My guess is not.
The editors of the Sun-Times, on the other hand, seemed to view it with more foreboding:
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner told voters he would shake things up.
And Wednesday, he didn’t hold back.
The rookie Republican governor used his first State of the State speech to unveil an incredibly ambitious agenda to a Democratic Legislature — where many of his ideas could be considered traditional non-starters. Senate President John Cullerton called it “divisive.” But House Speaker Michael Madigan said he’s keeping an open mind.
That’s because the next step is a negotiation with the Legislature.
That’s something that everyone agrees on. Since the Democrats have super-majorities in both houses of the Illinois legislature, they have complete control over what will or will not happen in state government.
I read one, consistent theme in Gov. Rauner’s speech and it’s a point I’ve made here again and again. Illinois does not exist in a vacuum. To survive economically and socially it must be competitive with its surrounding states and today it’s not. There is too much government here, there is too much bureaucracy here, there is too much corruption here, and our taxes are too high. There are geographical facts that set Illinois apart. Most of its major population centers are on the state border, adjacent to another state eager to lure businesses and workers away from Illinois.
As in Mayor Emanuel’s most recent speech on Chicago’s condition, the dog in the manger which was left unmentioned by Gov. Rauner is the problem posed by public pensions. The state’s plan has already been struck down by a court as unconstitutional. What’s next, guys? We’re waiting for your answer.
My off-hand guess it that Illinois’s legislators will not be receptive to the new governor’s message and will not cooperate. Refusing to solve Illinois’s problems is, after all, their core competency. I suspect they’ll decide to stick with the ones that brung them which means they’ll cling bitterly to the public employees’ unions to the bitter end. Our bitter end, that is, not theirs.