Clearly perturbed by a round of Bruce Rauner robo-calls made to Chicago residents on Tuesday, Rahm Emanuel took out the political filet knife and stuck it right into the mayor’s old fishing buddy — using Rauner’s own words against him.
Emanuel’s camp said Rauner’s move to call tens of thousands of Chicago property owners and tell them Gov. Pat Quinn should veto a bill that aims to stabilize the city’s pensions, amounted to someone who was “already acting like a career politician.”
Rauner, a businessman and longtime personal friend of Emanuel, has run his gubernatorial campaign on a theme that he is a newcomer to politics who wanted to rid Springfield of “career politicians.”
Throughout the GOP primary, Rauner, a Republican, and Emanuel, a Democrat, said numerous times that even though they differ on issues they remained friends.
It’s unclear where the relationship now stands after Rauner’s campaign funded an automated call urging Chicagoans to rise up against a pending compromise pension bill aimed at saving two of Chicago’s four underfunded city employee pension funds.
“I would veto this bill and block this property tax hike — but Pat Quinn won’t say where he stands,” Rauner says in the call. “This should be a no-brainer — veto the bill, don’t squeeze Chicago families even more. If you want to get more involved in my campaign to stop this bill call me.”
The Sun-Times first reported Tuesday morning Rauner was putting out the calls, which warned that the measure opened the door to a hefty property tax hike. The property tax hike was the mayor’s idea, as the part of the plan to solve the city’s looming pension crisis.
“Bruce Rauner hasn’t even gotten to Springfield, and he’s already acting like a career politician who plays politics with people’s pensions and livelihood,” Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said late Tuesday. “This pension reform bill currently awaiting the governor’s signature will bring financial security to 60,000 hardworking people and provides more savings through reform than a plan proposed by Mr. Rauner just a few years ago.
“The people of Chicago don’t need more rhetoric or gimmicks, they need a plan that will give our workers and retirees financial certainty and that will put our city finances in order for the long-term.”
At a public event on Tuesday, Rauner couldn’t offer an immediate fix to the crisis. Rauner said he believed in comprehensive pension reform and generally believes that public employee unions should go to a 401 (k)-style system.
The public rift with Rauner comes as Emanuel is working to build support for a plan to raise property taxes by $250 million to shore up the Municipal Employees and Laborers pension funds. That’s separate from a $600 million balloon payment that will be required by law next year for police and fire pension funds.
Quinn told Emanuel “no can do,” on the property tax increase, forcing the language requiring the Legislature to enact it to be stripped from the legislation. As it stands, the City Council would have to approve the hike if Quinn signs the bill. Still, the proposal has been coolly received by aldermen who are looking to alternative sources of revenue.
Emanuel was not the only one irked by Rauner’s robo-call gambit.
“This is highly amusing coming from Rauner,” said Izabela Miltko, Quinn’s campaign spokeswoman. “Bruce Rauner is advocating to roll back the existing tax rates, which would send Illinois property taxes skyrocketing and result in extreme and radical cuts to education in our state.
One top state Republican was less than thrilled with the move.
“I’m not sure what the motivation is from the campaign,” said state House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, dismissing the robo-calls as “politics.”
Durkin voted for the pension overhaul bill.
“I will respectfully disagree with Bruce Rauner’s position. When the city of Chicago came to me very desperate for some relief, I couldn’t ignore the multiple [bond rating] downgrades they’ve taken,” said Durkin, a Western Springs Republican who spoke before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board on Tuesday. “How many more downgrades does the city of Chicago need to go before it hits junk status? To me, that’s not something I could accept under my watch in the House.
“I can’t speak for Bruce, but I thought it was the right thing to do,” Durkin said of his vote.
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, did not support the bill currently before Quinn, but she agreed that Rauner’s call for Quinn to veto the bill amounted to “political theater.”
Rauner’s campaign had no response to City Hall’s strong reaction, saying the robo-call spoke for itself.