Education funding, Amazon touted in Rauner’s top 10 accomplishments

Gov. Bruce Rauner (pictured on Aug. 30, 2017) endured a turbulent 2017 full of staff shake-ups and battles with the Illinois General Assembly. But at the top of the list is credit for "historic education funding reform." | Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register via AP

As Gov. Bruce Rauner wraps up a year full of twists and turns, a list of top 10 accomplishments released by his campaign on Monday left many of Rauner’s political foes scratching their heads.

Rauner endured a turbulent 2017 full of staff shake-ups and battles with members of the Illinois General Assembly, including House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

But Rauner’s campaign staff chose to accentuate the positive, putting  “historic education funding reform” at the top of its list.

“Thanks to Governor Rauner’s influence, this bill distributes funding more equitably across the state and puts in place a school choice program to provide low-income families with greater education options for their children,” the Rauner campaign said.

While Rauner took credit for the bill, he took heat in August because he vetoed a version the House and Senate had agreed to after lengthy negotiations. The governor had even called the initial Democratic-sponsored bill a “Chicago bailout.”

The bill Rauner signed into law in September ended up giving CPS even more money.

Rauner and Republicans were able to agree to a number of items within the “compromise,” including a private school scholarship and tax program heralded by Cardinal Blase Cupich but opposed by powerful teachers unions, including the Chicago Teachers Union and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, that traditionally have supported Democrats.

The tax-credit scholarship, in fact, is listed as the governor’s second top accomplishment of the year.

“Creating clean energy jobs” is also included on the list, which the campaign says is due to the governor signing the Future Energy Jobs Act . . . in 2016. The campaign says those jobs have come to fruition this year, hence its place on the 2017 list.

Not surprisingly, vetoing the “Madigan tax hike,” is listed at No. 6 — even though an income-tax hike of up to 4.95 percent on an individual’s income is now the law in Illinois.

Rauner did indeed veto the tax-hike bill. But 15 House Republicans broke rank with the governor in overriding that veto.

The Discovery Partners Institute in the South Loop and the state’s bid to bring Amazon’s HQ2 to Illinois are also listed as accomplishments — even though the two projects are far from done deals. Chicago is one of more than 200 cities that submitted a bid to try to land Amazon’s second headquarters.

Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel submitted the bid in October. That same week, Rauner released plans for the institute, a public-private partnership led by the University of Illinois. The institute was listed as one of the proposed sites for Amazon, even though funding has not yet been secured.

The EDGE Tax Credit Program, international trade missions, the creation of the opioid prevention and intervention task force, and “ethical government and fighting corruption” round out the list, which became fodder for Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

“It’s a warmed-over list of so-called accomplishments, some of which he opposed, some of which just benefit the wealthy and well-connected, and some of which are simply figments of his imagination,” said state Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston.

“Either Amazon moved to Illinois and forgot to tell anyone or Bruce Rauner is so desperate for accomplishments he is boasting about submitting a proposal,” said Galia Slayen, spokeswoman for J.B. Pritzker.

Chris Kennedy’s campaign, too, said the governor is “disingenuous” for “patting himself on the back.

“It would take more than 10 items to list the lasting damage Governor Rauner has inflicted on the state of Illinois from slashing the social safety net to cutting public education to the rampant gun violence across Illinois,” Kennedy spokeswoman Rebecca Evans said in a statement.

The Rauner administration shakeup began July 10, when the governor unexpectedly fired his chief of staff, Richard Goldberg. Goldberg was swiftly replaced by Kristina Rasmussen, former president and CEO of the conservative-leaning Illinois Policy Institute. That sparked the exits of at least 20 employees.

A series of embarrassing flaps followed the staff shakeup. Rauner fired his “body man” on his first day after that aide’s homophobic and racially insensitive posts were found on Twitter. The governor also was criticized for his response to Lake County flooding and his failure to call it a disaster area earlier.

The governor defended his hires this summer. In July, Rauner said he was working to assemble “the best team in America.” He also declared “change happens” and  described criticism of his staff shakeup as “political spin baloney.”

But then came more changes. The governor ousted four members of his new communications team — two of them former Illinois Policy Institute staffers — in August amid a flap regarding a cartoon. And soon after, the governor’s general counsel Dennis Murashko was out the door.

Rasmussen left the administration in October and was replaced as chief of staff by Rodger Heaton, the governor’s director of public safety and homeland security adviser.

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