Rauner to pitch pro-business ‘turnaround agenda’ to City Council today

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Gov. Bruce Rauner will take his pro-business, anti-union “turnaround agenda” into the lion’s den Wednesday when he makes an extraordinary address to the Chicago City Council.

Eight days after a City Council hearing on the governor’s plan to create right-to-work zones turned into a pro-union, bash-Rauner fest, the rookie governor will be his own pitchman.

WATCH LIVE Rauner remarks to City Council (Chicago city feed)

He’ll try to explain to a mostly hostile audience that his ideas are not so bad for Chicago after all.

“Governor Rauner was born near Wrigley Field and loves Chicago. He recognizes that the City of Chicago and State of Illinois both face unprecedented financial and economic challenges. He looks forward to discussing ways he can work together with the city to find solutions that will turn around the city and the state,” the governor’s spokesman, Mike Schrimpf, said in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.Right-to-work zones are not the only point of contention with a City Council filled with pro-union Democrats.

So are Rauner’s doomsday budget cuts that would cost the city, the CTA and Chicago Public Schools hundreds of millions of dollars they can’t afford to lose.

And so is the governor’s warning that the Chicago Public Schools could be staring down the barrel of bankruptcy.

Against that backdrop, Rauner asked the mayor’s office to suspend the rules to allow the governor to address the City Council and pitch an agenda that includes reforming workers’ compensation, freezing local property taxes, minimizing the formidable influence of labor unions and scrapping prevailing wages.

Emanuel was more than willing to oblige Rauner, and not simply because he and the governor are longtime friends, vacation companions and school-reform allies who made millions together on business deals.

Emanuel desperately needs Rauner’s help to solve the combined, $300 million pension crisis at the city and public schools.

The mayor wants an elusive, publicly owned Chicago casino, with all of the revenue used to shore up police and fire pensions.

<small><strong>Mayor Rahm Emanuel knows he needs Gov. Bruce Rauner’s help to tackle some problems facing Chicago. | File photo</strong></small>

Mayor Rahm Emanuel knows he needs Gov. Bruce Rauner’s help to tackle some problems facing Chicago. | File photo

He wants to resurrect his 2011 proposal to broaden the sales tax to an array of services not now covered, an idea that Rauner has also championed.

And he wants the governor and Democratic-controlled General Assembly to lift the hammer hanging over Chicago taxpayers — a state-mandated, $550 million payment due in December to shore up police and fire pensions — and give taxpayers more time to “ramp up” to that balloon payment.

To erase a $1.14 billion shortfall and $9.5 billion pension crisis at the Chicago Public Schools, Emanuel has appealed to Rauner to end the pension double-standard that forces Chicago taxpayers to pay twice, for retired city teachers and for the pensions of retired teachers outside the city.

Earlier this week, the governor held out a ray of hope for Chicago.

Although he is not a fan of gambling, the governor said he understands the revenue potential and is open to the idea of a city-owned Chicago casino.

“I know the city would very much like to have a significant casino within the city boundaries, and I am very open to considering that,” the governor was quoted as saying.

But Rauner made it clear that his support for a Chicago casino would come with a price.

“As part of anything else that we talk about, we want to get our turnaround agenda done,” he said.

Amid behind-the-scenes negotiations with the mayor, Rauner added, “I will be very open-minded to working closely with the city and with communities around the state to discuss this gaming issue and try to come to some resolution fairly promptly.”

The governor’s City Council address will be the first in years by a sitting Illinois governor.

Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, said Rauner has created an “interesting dynamic” by asking to speak to the Council just eight days after the right-to-work hearing.

“We’ll be interested in hearing what he has to say. . . . If it’s similar to what he’s been saying, I don’t think we’ll be real enthusiastic recipients,” O’Connor said.

“But he’s the governor of the state. He’s taking time to come and see us. It’s a nice gesture.”

O’Connor said he was encouraged by how open Rauner has been to Chicago’s casino pitch.

“It gives us an opportunity to try and accomplish some things we’ve been trying to do for a couple of decades,” the alderman said.

“I’ve even heard he was asking why we were looking for so few [gaming positions]. That’s kind of a nice thing to hear. That perhaps, if we’re gonna do it, we should do it in a bigger way so we can realize more revenue.”

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