* Crain’s Chicago Business endorsed Bruce Rauner in the 2014 Republican primary and then again in the general election. They’re not happy with the results…
At the time, we were skeptical that the governor could accomplish much with a Democratic-controlled Legislature. But Rauner assured us that he’d dedicate himself to persuading his opponents—and he promised he would wield his executive powers to work around House Speaker Michael Madigan if he had to.
Madigan, of course, bears the lion’s share of responsibility for the mess Illinois is in, thanks to his decades in power. But Madigan is not the governor. Rauner is. And there’s no way to deny it: By nearly every measure, the state is worse off since Rauner took office. Pension liabilities now top $110 billion and are rising by the minute. The stack of unpaid bills is ballooning, turning Illinois into a notorious deadbeat. Vital social service agencies are being cut. Students are abandoning the state’s universities. Illinois’ credit rating hovers just above junk-bond range. We’re in Year Two without a budget—and the best hope for one is months away, after the Nov. 8 election.
In short, Illinois needs fixing more than ever. No matter how beneficial Rauner’s idea of reform might be for the state’s economy long term, what he’s doing to get there is not working.
It’s time for the governor to redefine victory. It can and should look something like this: Craft a balanced budget by cutting where we can and raising enough sustainable revenue to pay for it. For a governor who once hoped to usher in a raft of business-friendly reforms, this probably will feel like failure. But as he himself noted during a visit to Crain’s editorial board, Illinois hasn’t had a balanced budget in 25 years. If Rauner could deliver one, that alone would be a major accomplishment—and put Illinois finally on the path toward living within our means. We could cheer for that and for him.