Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday accused Gov. Bruce Rauner of “flip-flopping” on three pivotal issues — abortion, pension reform and energy — and said his old friend cannot be trusted to make and keep a deal.
With a Women’s March going in Springfield to highlight the governor’s evolving position on abortion, Emanuel attempted to do the same in Chicago on the same day that the Illinois House approved the abortion bill that Rauner has vowed to veto.
“When it comes to the issue of choice and health for everybody, the governor when he was a candidate took a position . . . that was clear and defined. And he’s now flipped on that,” the mayor said.
“When it came to the energy bill, he told people in the renewable industry he would never sign that. He flipped and he signed that bill. He was for, and agreed to, pension equity for Chicago Public Schools, teachers and the students and he flipped on that.”
Emanuel said if he learned one thing as a congressman, as former President Barack Obama’s first White House chief of staff and as mayor of Chicago, it is this: “Your word has to count — and especially on things of principle.”
That’s a lesson the mayor claims his old friend Rauner needs to learn.
“If your word is not valued or trusted, nobody will work with you. . . . To work and get a budget passed, you have to be trusted,” the mayor said.
“While you can just narrowly focus on the issue of choice, I think it goes to the issue of trust and veracity of somebody’s word when they give it you,” he added.
Rauner campaigned for governor as a pro-choice Republican. He has been under fire for saying that he planned to veto the House bill approved Tuesday, which would remove a “trigger provision” from Illinois law. That provision would make abortions illegal should the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade be overturned. The bill also would allow women with Medicaid and state-employee health insurance to use their coverage for abortions.
The governor’s spokeswoman, Eleni Demertzis, responded to the mayor’s latest broadside by insisting that Rauner has been “consistent on the issues.”
“It’s unfortunate that Mayor Emanuel is continuing his tired finger-pointing instead of working with the Governor to address the challenges facing the city and state,” Demertzis wrote in an email.
As for the abortion bill approved by the Illinois House, Demertzis said Rauner “opposes a massive expansion of taxpayer funding that would put Illinois out of step with nearly every state in the union. However, he has asked the General Assembly to pass a clean bill to remove the ‘trigger’ language.”
“What we should not do is take on controversial, divisive issues right now when we don’t have a balanced budget, when we do not have proper school funding, when we do not have economic growth and job creation,” Rauner said last week. “We should not take on divisive, controversial issues and expanding taxpayer funding is a controversial, divisive issue.”
Rauner said the state should “protect existing Illinois law,” but also focus on jobs, reducing property taxes, education funding, getting term limits and elected officials.
“These are difficult issues we need to focus on,” Rauner said.
Emanuel and Rauner were once close friends, fellow school reform advocates, travel companions and business associates who made millions together.
The marathon state budget stalemate has strained that relationship to the breaking point. So have the governor’s vetoes of three bills the mayor needs to solve the $30 billion pension crisis at the city and the public schools.
Last month, the financial crisis at the Chicago Public Schools, which threatens to end Emanuel’s vaunted longer school year three weeks early, caused yet another major break in the once-close friendship.
Emanuel branded Rauner the “emperor who wears no clothes.” Rauner’s spokesperson fired back that the 5 foot-8-inch mayor of Chicago sounds like someone who has a “Napoleon complex.”