Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to reporters at the James R. Thompson Center Feb. 24. File Photo. | Maria Cardona/ Sun-Times

Brown: Rauner tries to avoid being upstaged by Chance the Rapper

SHARE Brown: Rauner tries to avoid being upstaged by Chance the Rapper
SHARE Brown: Rauner tries to avoid being upstaged by Chance the Rapper

Follow @MarkBrownCSTGov. Bruce Rauner, the original promoter of the Grand Bargain, visited the bargain basement Monday to fend off an unconventional adversary in Grammy-winning musician Chance the Rapper.

In an apparent response to criticism from Chance about the state’s handling of the financial crisis at Chicago Public Schools, Rauner offered up a pair of possible mini-deals to get CPS through the school year.

No deal was the quick response from both CPS and City Hall, which saw the recommendations as one-year Band-aids that are no bargain at all.

Indeed, there was little to suggest Rauner’s proposals were much more than a publicity ploy intended to blunt a broadside by the rap star, who donated $1 million Monday to the school district while challenging the governor to “do your job.”


Follow @MarkBrownCSTChance’s aggressive advocacy of Chicago public schoolchildren seemed to throw the governor off his game as there was no immediate way to blame his involvement on House Speaker Mike Madigan, Rauner’s usual all-purpose foil.

Rauner met with Chance on Friday, culminating a week in which the governor actively worked to dissuade Republican senators from voting for the Grand Bargain legislative deal negotiated by Senate President John Cullerton and Republican Leader Christine Radogno.

Rauner’s decision to undermine the compromise deal angered Senate Democrats so much that some are saying the compromise package is on life support, if not dead. Statehouse veterans operate under the maxim that no legislation is ever dead, and I don’t doubt that Rauner could revive matters if he wants.

Some doubt whether Rauner really wants to do a deal or is content at this point to take his chances on winning re-election based on not having raised taxes and being the foremost opponent of Madigan.

I’d like to think that won’t cut it and that Rauner needs to actually accomplish something to get a second term, but voters are hard to figure these days, and the governor says he’s not satisfied with the deal as fashioned.

No Grand Bargain would mean no $215 million to CPS from the state to fund the cost of teacher pensions and retiree healthcare. The school district needs that money, originally included in last year’s stopgap budget deal, to get through the school year.

That’s always been his best leverage with Democrats in Springfield, and I guess he’s still willing to put Chicago schoolchildren through the ringer to get more of what he wants.

Rauner’s alternative proposals for CPS were contained in a memo from one Rauner staff member to another obtained by the Sun-Times. The governor ducked reporters Monday without directly addressing the memo himself.

One proposal calls for the Legislature to authorize the city to transfer its share of Tax Increment Financing funds to the schools. In the past, the city has made such transfers without any special state approval, so it’s unclear what Rauner’s folks have in mind.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel already used the TIF surplus to settle the teachers’ contract earlier this year, so there is valid reason to believe him when he says that money is gone, although TIF surpluses remain a matter of some mystery.

Some Democrats thought there might be a legitimate opening to be found in the second Rauner suggestion — to remove pension reform legislation from the Grand Bargain and instead tie it directly to the one-year CPS pension funding bill.

This is what Rauner said was the original deal last year, which is what caused him to veto the $215 million for CPS when Democrats showed no movement toward following up on pension reform.

Democrats might be willing to do that deal if Rauner made the arrangement permanent so that Chicago was no longer the only school district in the state that had to pay for its own teacher pensions.

Now it’s up to Rauner to show he really wants a Grand Bargain and wasn’t just shopping for headlines.

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