Our Pledge To You

News

KADNER: As schools starve, Rauner bellyaches

Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks on July 26 during a news conference on the first day of a special session on education funding at the state Capitol, in Springfield. (Justin Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP, File)

Gov. Bruce Rauner was elected on a promise to “shake things up” in Springfield, but since his election in 2014 he has spent most of his time complaining like a working stiff in a neighborhood bar.

Rauner has a lot more power than the average blowhard and has used it mostly to obstruct bipartisan compromise, hoping that his do-nothing posture will appeal to a majority of Illinois residents who are fed up with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

OPINION

After two years of failing to pass a budget, increasing this state’s debt by hundreds of millions of dollars, Rauner vetoed a legislative budget compromise even as financial institutions were threatening to reduce this state’s bonds to junk.

Rauner whined that he wanted his Turnaround Agenda passed and threatened to hold his breath unless everybody else in Springfield agreed to let him have his way.

Even fellow Republicans had to acknowledge Rauner was behaving like a spoiled rich kid and decided to help Democrats override the governor’s veto.

State legislators also passed a major reform of this state’s school funding formula, which has always short-changed poor and minority school districts.

This was actually an initiative endorsed by the governor’s own school reform commission.

But Rauner was so angry about the override of his budget veto, that he used his amendatory veto power to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to the Chicago Public Schools.

Chicago Democrats in Springfield are never going to agree to that.

Rauner knows that, yet he is content to leave all the school districts in Illinois wondering if they’re going to get any money from the state this fall in order to show Madigan that rich people demand obedience.

The Illinois Senate has already overridden the governor’s school reform veto, causing Rauner to complain some more and accusing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel of making bad financial decisions.

Remember, this is the governor who allowed the state’s debt to increase for two years without batting an eye after spending $100 million of his own fortune on political campaigns (a financial decision some might consider unwise).

The Senate Democrats, by the way, have made a lot of statements about their concern for school children and the need to spend more educating the poor.

But this state has underfunded public education for 30 years and it would take an infusion of $3 billion or more to begin to balance the ledger.

Democrats know that but are pretending a bookkeeping gimmick will solve a massive problem caused by decades of political corruption and ineptitude.

During this same time frame, this state also failed to adequately fund its pension systems.

Illinois has also ranked among the worst states in the nation in terms of spending on the developmentally disabled and mentally ill.

No one has ever adequately explained what the state was doing with all of its money while it was neglecting school children, shirking its obligation to the pensions funds and kicking handicapped folks to the curb.

Rauner, the complaining man, hasn’t been interested in getting answers or proposing solutions. Chaos seems to be his idea of shaking up Springfield.

I would point out that Rauner campaigned against Democratic incumbent Patrick Quinn, who championed a 5 percent Illinois state income tax.

Illinois now has a 4.9 percent state income tax, imposed by the current state Legislature.

Rauner, of course, found reason to complain.

He could have done the same thing in any Illinois bar for the price of a beer and saved himself $100 million. And Chicago school children would be better for it.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

Click here to Reply, Reply to all, or Forward