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Brown: Can you name one of Rauner’s accomplishments?

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Bruce Rauner has been Illinois’ governor for one year now, and I would defy you to name one thing off the top of your head that he has accomplished during that time.

There actually are a few things, I would hasten to add, but I’ll bet most of you couldn’t name them because Rauner has made his hallmark what he hasn’t been able to accomplish — which is most everything he named as a priority.

As Rauner marks his one-year anniversary in office with a series of interviews with news media around the state, it’s worth remembering that a year ago at this time we really had no idea what to expect from the new Republican governor, a newcomer to public office.

Would he be a pragmatic businessman eager to cut deals with Democrats to put his imprimatur on an Illinois economic recovery, or would he be a confrontational ideologue looking to leverage the state’s extensive problems to promote his political vision?

We now know it’s the latter, and I realize a lot of Illinois voters who share his vision are fine with that, although I’m also sure they are fewer in number than when he was elected.

When Rauner won, I feared for the worst and hoped for the best, because to root against Rauner is to root against Illinois, whose problems are undeniable.

Unfortunately, Rauner has turned out to be a far greater disaster as governor than I’d even imagined.

Nobody could have reasonably expected the new governor to return Illinois to the path of financial prosperity in his first year, but they might have thought him capable of reaching agreement on a plan for how state government would raise and spend its money.

We call that a budget. The state’s fiscal year is more than half finished, and Rauner’s state government still doesn’t have one.


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What the public hasn’t seemed to grasp so far is that the lack of a budget hasn’t kept the state from spending money.

In fact, under Rauner the state is continuing to spend money far beyond its ability to pay the bills, each passing day digging a deeper hole that Illinois taxpayers will eventually have to fill.

Rauner is free to blame that on the Democrats who control the Illinois Legislature, and he does, House Speaker Mike Madigan in particular. Madigan is certainly part of the problem, but no more so than the governor’s ambitious wish list that he calls his Turnaround Agenda.

If the governor wants to pass the Turnaround Agenda, he’s going to need to elect some legislators who believe in it. That would seem to be his likely next step, although he has yet to show his hand, perhaps because his candidates would become easy targets.

I’ve been eagerly reading all these Rauner interviews to learn what he would say he’s accomplished, and as I say, there really are some things, such as landmark criminal justice reforms (that were pushed by Democrats.)

What Illinoisans would probably say they appreciate most is that Rauner has blocked Democrats from raising taxes in his first year.

That’s true, although ephemeral. Rauner says over and over that he will support raising taxes when he gets the anti-union “reforms” he wants. When the tax hike comes, it will need to be that much bigger to cover the spending that has taken place.

As his chief accomplishment, Rauner is citing record state funding for schools. True, except that the Democratic Legislature sent him the education funding bill over his objections after he required Republican lawmakers to vote against it.

There’s also the little problem that there has been no appropriation approved for Illinois’ higher education, which has meant the state’s public colleges and universities are withering on the vine although their leaders are too chicken to speak up.

And then there’s the small matter of Chicago Public Schools, on the verge of financial collapse in 2016 without state involvement in solving its pension funding problems. That’s not Rauner’s fault, but his efforts to use the crisis as the key to his bargaining strategy hardly make him the best friend of schoolchildren.

The governor still has time, three long years at least, to pull off the Rauner Miracle, and I’m not counting him out.

If he’s going to ask for a second term, though, he might want to have a better list of accomplishments on hand by this time next year, which could start with a more realistic set of goals.

Tweets by @MarkBrownCST

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