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Actions speak louder than words

In his budget address on Wednesday, it’s quite likely that Governor Rauner will continue to paint himself as a moderate who’s makin’ some tough decisions. He’s even identified the culprit for all the state’s ills (workin’ families and the unions who represent them) and is takin’ us to court.

Golly, all this shakin’ up of Springfield sure does sound good. Our hero!

Not so fast.

Over the weekend, Kevin McDermott wrote about the hypocrisy of a Governor who "defends aides’ pay while ripping state salaries” in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner took office last month presenting himself as a steely-eyed CEO who would cut wasteful spending and break with the state’s long, seedy tradition of patronage politics and insider deals.

“I will send a clear signal to everyone in our state, and to those watching from outside our borders, that business as usual is over,” Rauner vowed in his Jan. 12 inaugural speech in Springfield. “It stops now.”

In the five weeks since then, various media reports have found different kinds of signals:

  • Rauner’s administration hired the 25-year-old sister of his campaign political director to a $70,000-a-year job at the state EPA.

  • The administration hired a six-figure chief of staff for Rauner’s wife, who, as first lady, has no official duties.

  • Rauner granted a no-bid state consulting contract to the firm of his hand-picked state financial adviser for $120,000 for four months’ work.

  • The salaries of the people Rauner has installed in top administration positions are significantly higher than their predecessors. They include Rauner’s longtime executive assistant from the private sector, who has come on to the state payroll at a salary of almost twice what her predecessor earned.

Is Illinois’ new businessman-governor already turning out to be business as usual?

And today, Kurt Erickson of Lee Enterprises writes that Rauner awarded top administrators at the State Board of Education with big bonuses, while (union) workers haven’t seen a raise or cost of living adjustment in more than six years:

The onetime payments for top brass [at ISBE] come as Gov. Bruce Rauner is alleging in a federal lawsuit that unionized state workers have negotiated pay raises exceeding those awarded in the private sector.

And it comes as more than 1,400 state troopers and other employees at the Illinois State Police have been waiting for months to receive back pay they are owed from a previous contract agreement.

At the same time, Rauner has expressed support for instituting merit and incentive pay for state workers as a way to boost productivity.

But the stipends have rankled union officials who say that rank-and-file employees at the agency also have taken on extra duties in recent years without receiving added pay.

"Given the significant reduction in agency headcount and the increased burdens placed on the agency by the Legislature, it is disingenuous to suggest that only the senior-level administrators have had to take on additional duties meriting these adjustments in pay," said Aviva Bowen, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

We’re bound to hear more about shared sacrifice this week, but it’s hypocritical for Governor Rauner to attack the wages and fundamental rights of middle class families, while doling out significant raises to top aides and lucrative contracts to consultants. Paying people fairly shouldn't apply only to executive level positions. Illinois isn’t a corporation. The goal of government is people, not profit.

As IFT President Dan Montgomery said last week regarding the Governor’s aimless attack on fair share fees:

“The Governor’s actions were a blatantly illegal abuse of his power, so we’re glad to see a bipartisan confirmation that the constitution still matters. A democracy does not allow one man to implement his ideological will as he chooses, and so Comptroller Munger and Attorney General Madigan rightfully put the law over politics. As he considers his upcoming budget plan, the Governor would be wise to do the same. Our state has serious financial challenges, and Governor Rauner’s out-of-touch, partisan attacks on middle class families and the unions who give them a collective voice isn’t the way to solve them. Let’s hope we can start working together in earnest next week.”

Not legal? Not a problem! He’s doing it anyway.

Perhaps Rev. Jackson put it best:

Rauner is waging a war on unions. He hopes to cripple those who opposed him in his last election. But the stakes are larger than that: What Rauner is proposing is to inflict trickle-down economics on Illinois.

We haven’t seen Rauner’s budget yet, but we know what is coming. Income taxes will be lowered on the rich; sales taxes extended on working people, making Illinois’ already regressive state tax structure even more unfair.

Even the New York Times weighed in this weekend:

Rauner issued an executive order this week that would weaken state unions ... [A]ll working people would suffer, because collectively bargained pay increases in unionized workplaces tend to lift wages in nonunionized ones. Anti-unionism, which has become increasingly entrenched in recent decades, correlates with stagnating and declining wages.

Keep all of this in mind when you hear Governor Rauner's budget address this week, and make no mistake – all that plain, common sense talk is just that.


His first actions out of the gate weren’t designed to make a dime’s bit of difference to the state’s budget. They have been ideological carbon copies of extreme, failed experiments from other states. Perhaps that’s why many in his own party have been reluctant to step up and defend him.

From John Nichols in The Nation:

Republicans who side with unions are rare these days. But Illinoisans in particular have reason to expect more of the Grand Old Party than Rauner’s anti-labor obsession. After all, it was an Illinois Republican who said, “Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

His name was Abraham Lincoln.




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