Thursday, February 15, 2018

Rauner remembrance of tragedy – an effort to divert public’s attention?

Reading Gov. Bruce Rauner’s formal address to present a state budget for Fiscal 2019, I couldn’t help but notice his opening bit.

RAUNER: Trying to redeem his pol priorities?
The reference to it being exactly 10 years since the day a former Northern Illinois University student felt compelled to fire off his weapon – killing five students before he turned his gun on himself.

THE NEWS EVENTS of the day even called for a last-minute rewrite, also offering a mention of the death Tuesday of Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer – the officer who tried to stop a fleeing suspect being chased by other police, only to get shot and killed.

Both tragic happenings. In the case of the DeKalb slayings a decade ago, I’m sure the memories remain as strong now in the minds of those who were there as they were back then.

But a part of me couldn’t help but wonder how much this bit of rhetoric was an attempt at misdirection.

Rather than get worked up over the details of the budget proposal Rauner wants the General Assembly to approve for Illinois government for the fiscal year beginning July 1, he’d rather we think of these other happenings.

BECAUSE IF WE think too much of budgetary matters, then we wind up touching on some sore spots of the Rauner era of state government.

Let’s not forget that Rauner, although in his third year of government, has never managed to get a budget proposal of his implemented into law. Heck, he’s never offered up anything that wound up becoming policy.

The only reason we have a budget in place now is because Democratic legislators were joined by a few Republicans willing to put the daily workings of government at the forefront to pass a budget that Rauner himself tried to use his veto powers to kill off!

Because Rauner is the guy who came into the governor’s post thinking he could strong-arm the rest of state government into going along with his vision – one in which organized labor and unions take a severe blow to their influence over Illinois.

THAT CONCEPT WAS more important for the past two years to Rauner than anything concerning the daily operations of the state, which does have responsibilities to fulfill – regardless of one’s ideological hang-ups.

The question we ought to be asking ourselves is whether Rauner is willing to get serious and try to put together budget proposals this year – or if we’re headed for another budgetary standoff.

The last of which stretched out over two years, caused serious complications for daily government operations and created financial problems that will take Illinois years (if not decades) to resolve.

You’d think that Rauner, facing a re-election cycle complicated by the fact that the conservative ideologues the governor is counting on to support him have their own partisan objections (being anti-union isn’t conservative enough for them), would want a straight-forward budget process. Something to ensure that he signs into law the Fiscal ’19 budget on or before June 30.

BECAUSE THE $37.6 billion spending plan for state government the governor put forth includes some serious changes to the way retired teacher pensions are funded – mostly by sticking them on the school districts.

Something I’m sure will tick off the Chicago Public Schools, where officials would actually like to have the state assume a larger share of those pension costs. Is the governor’s budget address merely another excuse to set up a political brawl with Chicago interests later this year?

Some reports made mention of the fact that Wednesday’s budget address, in addition to being 10 years since the bloodshed at DeKalb, was 225 days from the end of the budget standoff.

Will it also become the beginning of a political sequel – one in which Rauner will try to redeem his political self-image at the expense of the people of Illinois. Elections day are March 20 and Nov. 6; those dates can’t come soon enough.


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