* Dan Proft and Pat Hughes have a radio program called “Illinois Rising,” which is sponsored by the Illinois Policy Institute. This is from the most recent edition…
PROFT: Here’s the Turnaround Agenda, it’s workers’ comp, it’s property tax caps, it’s pension reform. Those are bullet points. There hasn’t been a simply, succinctly articulated proposal to rally people around on any of these areas. So, it just becomes like an index card of five categories, and that’s not gonna inflame anybody’s passions, and it’s not going to persuade too many people because they don’t know exactly what you mean or what they’re gonna get if we did whatever you call workers’ comp reform or whatever you call a property tax cap, different than what Madigan and Cullerton, the Chicago Democrats, call those same things.
HUGHES: Yeah, and after 18 months, almost two years of it, even those sort of words that were meant to have some meaning, the meaning has been sucked out of them because they’ve been said so many times. It’s a laundry list of terms, so any value they had in the beginning they’ve lost in the entire process.
PROFT: Everybody in this state’s a fiscal conservative, everybody in this state supports property tax caps. We have the worst bond rating of any state in the nation in 25 years, not just in the present. And with respect to property tax caps, we pay the highest property taxes in the nation. So we’ve got a bunch of fiscal conservatives running around supporting property tax caps and we don’t have anything resembling either one of those things.
HUGHES: So the question is… why doesn’t he do it? We’re closer to this political stuff than most people are, we’ve seen the governor up close working publicly and privately. What is it about this circumstance that makes him resistant to what is an obvious, in our view… a smart, meaningful political plan?
* On to the next segment…
PROFT: Pat, you posed a question about the risk, political risk Rauner needs to take to be a transformative governor. He needs to pose understandable and transformative ideas. He needs to take powerful stands, even though they are full of peril, because nothing is going to be given freely to Gov. Rauner by the Democrat power structure in this city and state. That is a known. So the unknown is why isn’t he doing some of the things we suggest he do. Even if you don’t want to pick the spot I say, I suggest you pick, then another spot to kind of get to the same place.
HUGHES: I know Bruce a little bit, I certainly know his history in business and he is not risk averse. You don’t get to be in his position by being risk averse… I think he’s getting advice from people who don’t want him to make the big mistake. Who don’t want him to take too big of a risk this far out, when they can bleed out circumstances, see how the country moves. Maybe Trump will be enormously popular, maybe circumstances will change on the ground. He knows he’s going to be resourced because he can spend $100 million of his own money, why take that risk?
…Adding… Just to clarify, on policy, Proft wants Rauner to take a much, much stronger stand against AFSCME and he wasn’t happy at all that Rauner signed the Exelon bailout bill.
Hughes then went on to question whether Rauner’s advisers were really tied enough to Illinois to want to make it a better place or just focused on Rauner’s reelection. Proft responded by saying Donald Trump “exposed” the consultant class. Trump, he said, didn’t need them, he won without them. Proft admitted that wasn’t easily replicable here, but then said…
What Rauner and his people lack is the sense of there is a revolt that is bubbling below the surface and we need to figure out how ignite it and leverage it, productively. And I don’t think they want to do that. I think they want to play the same old game, and do so, maybe unwittingly, according to Madigan’s rules.
This idea that they’re bleeding the other side out. No. They’re being bled out. They’re the holdout… They’re down 15 and they’re playing Four Corners. They’re not up 15. And, because we have these resources, we’re gonna make Madigan and whoever the Democrat nominee for governor is in ‘18 more of a bogey man than they can make me a bogey man.
That’s not the transformative leadership that was effectively his value proposition when he ran in 2014 and was elected on that basis - that he was an outsider coming in to, lack of a better phrase, drain the swamp in Springfield, or… however you want to translate that to Illinois. And if he’s just playing the tradition game the same way, less reform-minded, less transformationally inclined governors of the past like a George Ryan or a Jim Edgar or a Jim Thompson. If he’s just going to play the same way they did - two bad ideas, let’s split the difference and come up with a bad idea we agree to, like the energy bill that he just signed. That’s a good example of it. If that’s the tack he’s gonna take, that’s the Jim Edgar, Jim Thompson, George Ryan model of governance. That doesn’t end well.
HUGHES: No, and it also bleeds out his initial reason for being elected. He’s losing the outsider, he’s lost it. There’s no way to run as an outsider any more after some of these deals, the temporary budget he cut, the energy bill, the fact that he’s been battling with Madigan in Springfield for all these, the last couple of years. The outsider model is no longer gonna work. He’s gonna have to show that his governance was progress, both politically, which he’s done a little bit with these [legislative] races, but aside from politically, that people’s lives are starting to or going to improve as a consequence of the fact that he’s the leader of this state. And, currently, he can’t point to that.
PROFT: No, he can’t. So where does that put him with the prospects of facing a Democrat challenger that will have as much money as he does?… [Or if, say Downstate US Rep. Cheri Bustos wins the primary] Then Rauner is in deep trouble. And it seems to me they don’t have a sense of urgency, he doesn’t have a sense of urgency about the political trouble he’s in because of the lack of policy risks he’s taken.