Gov. Bruce Rauner said during a campaign speech Thursday that the two-and-a-half year budget impasse was a fight for reforms. His opponents have called it a failure.
While touting success like school funding reform, school choice expansion and criminal justice reforms, Rauner said he’s learned a lot in his first term, including that changing government is tough.
“I underestimated how difficult change can be in government,” Rauner said. He also blasted his main opponent, saying J.B. Pritzker is corrupt and wants to tax and spend more.
“If elected, [Pritzker] would get big things done: big spending, big tax hikes, and big support for self-dealing,” Rauner said.
Rauner’s speech Thursday in Chicago comes less than seven weeks before the November election. It comes a few months after he signed his first budget of his first term in office.
As a political newcomer four years ago, Rauner said he thought he could shock state government into shape by getting reforms to grow the economy and reduce spending.
“The budget impasse was a fight for reform,” he said. “The people of Illinois have suffered for decades under a political system that cares less about the people it represents than about keeping special interests happy to win the next election.”
For the first two and half years of Rauner’s term, lawmakers failed to pass a budget out of the General Assembly. The third year, Rauner vetoed a budget with a $5 billion tax hike. The Democratic majority, with some Republican support, was able to override the veto. In May, lawmakers passed and Rauner signed his first full-year budget. He said it was a bipartisan effort.
“It isn’t perfect; that’s the nature of compromise. But it’s bipartisan momentum we will build on in a second term,” Rauner said.
The budget kept the 2017 income tax hike in place. Despite assurances that it was balanced, state financial filings have shown it is structurally out of balance by at least $1.2 billion. Rauner has said the budget can be balanced with proper management by his administration.
The governor said that he’s grown in office. He said he still has the courage to bring change to state government while saying Pritzker has the wrong plan.
“Pritzker’s plan for more reckless spending and another round of devastating income tax hikes would spell a disaster for our state,” Rauner said.
In a statement, Pritzker said afterword that “Rauner’s problem isn’t that he had too much courage, it’s that he spent four years refusing to compromise, hellbent on forcing his radical agenda on our state no matter the collateral damage.”
Rauner also took aim at Pritzker, calling him part of the corrupt status quo.
“Ask yourself why Mr. Pritzker has voiced zero concern for the corruption in our state,” Rauner said. “He might be the only person in Illinois who doesn’t think corruption is a problem.”
Without addressing Rauner’s specific allegations of corruption, like Pritzker being heard on FBI wiretaps with imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, or tax avoidance by ripping toilets out of a mansion to reduce property taxes, Pritzker said in an email, “This failed governor exhibits the height of cowardice when he spreads lies.”
Both Rauner and Pritzker are on the ballot with Conservative Party candidate state Sen. Sam McCann and Libertarian Kash Jackson.
The election is Nov. 6.