Last week, Bruce Rauner gave the citizens of Illinois a glimpse into just who he thinks deserves to suffer when he calls for everyone to “share the pain” in order to fix the state’s financial mess.
Certainly not him. The suffering can be done by you, Citizen Joe.
During his budget address to the Illinois General Assembly last week, Rauner called for workers to have their pension benefits slashed, the costs of higher education to be pushed even further out of the reach of middle-class students and municipalities to tighten their belts, as if nearly every village and town in the state hasn’t been doing exactly that for the past seven years.
His speech declared war on ordinary Illinoisans while magically leaving the state’s super-wealthy — like the governor himself — untouched.
Oh sure, Rauner called for a general property tax freeze. For a guy who owns so much real estate, we’re sure that’d be a swell policy.
For anyone who lives in places like Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside, it’s another slap in the face. Of course, everyone would like some tax relief, but when you couple that with his other bright idea — taking away half of every municipality’s share of state income taxes — it becomes a cruel joke.
If municipalities are to have their revenues summarily slashed by 10 or 12 percent, just where does the governor expect them to get the money to maintain local government service levels? That’s money that goes to pay for things like road improvements, park maintenance, tree trimming, replacing sidewalks, buying ambulances and squad cars. Those things aren’t optional — compared to, say, paying $100,000 for a chief of staff for the governor’s wife, who has no official role in state government.
The shortfall will have to be made up by municipalities voluntarily raising their property taxes. Which is no big deal to Rauner; he doesn’t live here.
The Governor thinks nothing of grabbing money to which municipalities are absolutely entitled and count on to balance their budgets. In the meantime what does he do? He hires advisors — like supply-side economics devotee Donna Arduin, whom Rauner hired as the state’s chief financial officer at $120,000 for four months’ work (that hire alone speaks volumes about what he thinks of the ordinary citizen) — and pays them far in excess of top advisors hired by his predecessor in the governor’s mansion.
They’re worth the money, he says. “You’re not” is the message.
Rauner’s speech in Springfield last week was not about sharing any sacrifice, it was about the rest of us sacrificing.
Are there things that have to change for Illinois to solve its fiscal woes? Absolutely. The state’s pension system needs reform, and the General Assembly has been open to reform. That is the most critical issue facing the state.
What Illinois does not need in order to solve its financial problems is to turn the state into Kansas. Our advice to local residents is to keep in mind that when guys like Bruce Rauner start talking about the need for shared sacrifice, hold onto your wallets.