Herald-Whig View

Rauner will do better in second term

Posted: Nov. 2, 2018 11:15 am

TO PUT it mildly, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's first term has not been the success we had hoped it would be.

The state went more than two years without a budget. All the while, bills piled up, and interest compounded, with the backlog topping $16 billion.

And while he has had to contend with roadblocks from highly influential Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, many of Rauner's failures were of his own doing.

In spring 2017, when facing mounting calls for a bipartisan budget compromise that gave him many -- but not all -- of his demands, Rauner worked to pull GOP support from the deal, prolonging the crisis.

That was a key moment for Rauner, who this past September said he has learned the lessons of a difficult first term and will be more willing to compromise in a second. It would be vitally important that he find common ground on which to work with Democratic majorities in the Legislature like the three Republican governors before him.

The Rauner administration's handling of the Legionella outbreak at the Illinois Veterans Home has left lingering doubts that timely treatment was given to patients and adequate notification given to families about the mounting danger.

He has remained headstrong in the belief nothing else could have been done as the Legionella outbreak unfolded at the Veterans Home.

We can't fault the governor for Legionella bacteria being present in the aging pipes and plumbing at the home, but we certainly do believe he could have stepped forward when an announcement about the outbreak was delayed until after several people had died. And he could have provided solid leadership by sharply rebuking members of his administration who appeared to shift blame anywhere they could, including to U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a former administrator of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Still, he has stepped up to the plate on the Veterans Home and put himself on the front line of finding a solution.

He has spent a substantial amount of time on the campus, including one weeklong stint where he got to see firsthand the family that veterans, their families and the staff have become. And he signed off on a bipartisan measure to spend up to $250 million to build a new facility and water source and plumbing at the home. For that we applaud him.

His Democratic opponent, billionaire J.B. Pritzker, also is a strong supporter of the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy. At a gubernatorial debate hosted by WGEM, he committed to making sure the home remains here.

Pritzker, also a political newcomer with considerable personal wealth, believes it will take a combination of new revenue and judicious cuts to balance the budget, pay down debt and grow the economy to sustain the state long term.

However, he has declined to offer specifics on his signature plan to replace Illinois' flat income tax rate with a graduated tax, only to say it would reduce the tax burden for "the vast majority" of Illinoisans.

His ideas for new revenue raise more questions than answers, and he still hasn't spelled out any specific areas for budget reductions.

Instead, Pritzker wants Illinoisans to simply trust that he will bring the right people to the table to negotiate a deal.

Improving Illinois' business climate to facilitate job growth and stop residents from fleeing the state will be among the next governor's primary challenges. Census data show that Illinois lost more than 33,000 people last year, more than 26,000 the year before and more than 20,000 the year before that. It has fallen from the fifth-most populous state to the sixth.

Both candidates see the need for a capital funding bill, but neither has provided any plans to fund such a measure.

Which brings us to the crux of the matter: With Rauner at the helm, we believe the state stands a better chance of navigating the difficult financial straits ahead.

We understand Pritzker holds what appears to be an insurmountable lead in polls leading into the election and that if elected, Rauner would face the challenge of working with a Legislature he largely has alienated.

We take the governor at his word, though, with his mea culpa and think he would be an important, much-needed check on single-party rule in the General Assembly.

With that in mind, we endorse Gov. Bruce Rauner for a second term.