Governor Rauner and lawmakers in Springfield aren’t up for election for another 18 months, but the Governor has already ushered in campaign season with a statewide tour and multi-million-dollar television campaign.
As early as it may be, the onset of campaign season raises the question: What record do the Governor and lawmakers have to run on? What accomplishments can they point to as they appeal to Illinois voters to keep their jobs?
Finger-pointing over the failure to pass a budget is already a hallmark of the Governor’s strategy, and blame will likely be part of the Democrats’ messaging, too. However, there will be pressure to demonstrate that they have managed to make progress and deliver on their promises.
Last month, Governor Bruce Rauner barnstormed the state in what his campaign insisted was not an official re-election campaign kickoff, talking about his efforts to reform Illinois.
Rauner points to his three primary goals of ethics reform, education investment, and making the state attractive for business – key parts of his so-called “Turnaround Agenda.”
Rauner cites tightening ethics rules for executive branch employees as a key accomplishment, however, he has been unable to create momentum on his proposal for term limits, which was a centerpiece of his campaign in 2014.
On education, Rauner often states that his administration has made record investments in education. Democrats, however, point to the $2.3 billion that has been cut from higher education since Rauner took office, forcing some universities to cut programs, layoff faculty, and even shorten the school year.
Additionally, last month, 413 public school leaders called on Governor Rauner and state legislators to fund their reported more than $13 billion in unpaid bills, they claim are due to the state budget impasse.
Rauner also appears to have fallen short on attracting businesses. Businesses report being concerned about the state’s fiscal instability and mounting debt.
Patrick Dolan, who oversees 16 Chicago-area Express Employment franchises, told the Chicago Tribune that the state budget impasse may be deterring businesses and hurting job creation.
Still, the Governor and the General Assembly have passed a number of bipartisan reforms. Those includes the first statewide system to equip police officers with body cameras, measures to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and new policies for student athletes with concussions.
Additionally, the Governor claims digitalization of records and unemployment insurance reform as key accomplishments.
While the Governor seems to be anxious to take his case to voters, it remains to be seen if these accomplishments are significant enough to overcome the widespread negative consequences of failing to pass a budget.