Rauner’s Things To Come

Last week, Governor Bruce Rauner experienced a big set-back in his billionaire elitist dream of turning Illinois into another Indiana-but-with-significantly-more-class. A sufficient number of Republican legislators in Springfield finally recognized that Illinois was days away from disaster, and overcame their fear of the Governor’s wrath to help override his promised veto of the long overdue state budget. This meant Rauner’s long-term plan to make Illinois a “right to work” state with minimum respect for a minimum wage and hostility toward tax increases of any kind had to be reconsidered.

Once the Governor saw that his two-year strategy of holding Illinois’ human services and educational system hostage to reach his goals had failed, he retreated to his executive suite to develop a new plan of attack. And it didn’t take long for Governor Bruce to reveal the new stance his administration and 2018 campaign will be taking.  He simply “doubled down” on his conservatism.

Virtually overnight, the flannel shirted, straight talkin’, cycle ridin’ man of the people has now dropped all pretense of being a socially moderate leader open to compromise now, or ever. Within days the Governor began firing his staff and replacing them with rigidly ideological conservatives. Now, other staff members seeing this writing on the wall, have started turning in their resignations. 

A number of the men and women leaving the Rauner Administration had loyally been with him since his campaign days. Apparently he was displeased with their failure to guide him and his policies to the 100% victory to which he believed he was entitled. As Rauner’s role model in the White House might sum things up, “They’re a bunch of losers!”

So now the Governor is building a new team to lead him and his policies into the 2018 campaign year. His biggest new hire is his new Chief of Staff, Kristina Rasmussen. Ms. Rasmussen was formerly the President and COO of the Illinois Policy Institute. And what is the Illinois Policy Institute? Well, as of August 2016, IPI was listed as a “partner organization” in the Charles Koch Institute’s Liberty@Work program. And in the past, IPI has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Donors Trust, an organization created to cloak the identity of donors to right-wing causes – climate change denial, for-profit schools, and other “sensitive and controversial issues,” and the Koch Brothers’ Donors Capital Fund, a 509(a)(3) organization “dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility and free enterprise.” IPI is also a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council(ALEC), literally a “bill writing factory” that has an obscene amount of influence on our most malleable (and lazy) legislators.

Our recent local adventure with outside ideologues attempting to influence our local high school activities and our local election also included a hint of IPI involvement. And in 2015, when the village board of Lincolnshire passed a local “Right to Work” ordinance, a law firm affiliated with the IPI  represented Lincolnshire in two lawsuits related to the ordinance.

So, what messages can we expect from the new Rauner regime? I imagine they will include language like this recent IPI statement when Ms. Rasmussen left to become the Governor’s Chief of Staff: “The 32 percent tax hike without reform that the General Assembly just passed illustrates the imperative to win the fight to put the people of Illinois first. We must reform the system that has allowed House Speaker Mike Madigan and his political machine to create such hardship for working families.” — I have a hunch that the hardship Illinois’ working families are feeling has a lot more to do with the policies the IPI wants to expand than it does with an income tax increase this year that’s actually less than 1.5%.

These folks are very, very serious and single minded about their mission. They don’t just hate taxes and practically all of the social safety net, they hate the idea of government in general. (This is not a good thing for a democracy.) Make no mistake, they’ll do whatever it takes to win – and they have the virtually unlimited money to do whatever it takes.

But I guess we should give Bruce Rauner credit for not being coy about the direction his administration will now be taking. And in the coming weeks we’ll be learning more specifics about our governor’s new vision from his new Communications Director, Laurel Patrick. Some of you might recognize her name.  She worked in the past for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. – One more hint of things to come.

Nels Howard
NTDO member since 1973

P.S. The Chicago Tribune Editorial Page has consistently referred to the recent “32% tax hike” in their commentaries, as have most of Illinois’ Republican politicians. And I admit that a 32% tax hike sure does sound shocking. How can any Illinois family survive a massive tax hike like that? However I’m reluctant to complain, because as a senior citizen this year I’ve been the recipient of an almost as shocking boost in my Social Security income. Although my monthly social security check saw no cost of living adjustment in 2016, this year my COLA adjustment was a whopping 17.64% more than the adjustment we received in 2015! Really, it’s true!  Shocking!

I guess I should explain further. You see, the COLA in 2015 adjusted the monthly payment to each Social Security recipient by 1.7% and this year (2017) it was raised by another whopping .003% (three-tenths of a percent). Get it? A .003% COLA raise beyond the previous 1.7% COLA equals 17.64% of 1.7%.

See how that worked? This is what has consistently annoyed me as the Chicago Tribune, Republican politicians and anybody with a “no taxes ever” agenda keep referring to the desperately needed Illinois income tax increase as a 32% tax increase. The personal tax rate went from 3.5% to 4.95%, folks. That’s a tax bump of 1.45% not 32%.These word games are only being used to inflame the public. They do nothing to encourage a thoughtful discussion of the next steps Illinois must take to repair the financial mess it is in. The Tribune editorial writers, especially Bruce Dold, should know better. So should every politician who professes to care about Illinois’ future.