Illinois needs structural reform to thrive in the future.
That was true when Bruce Rauner was elected governor in 2014, and it remains so today. Rauner had an ambitious, 44-point plan he dubbed his “Turnaround Agenda” when he took office in 2015.
He sought an amendment to the state constitution to enable pension reform, term limits for legislators, a property tax freeze, and laws to give local governments more control over labor practices including collective bargaining, prevailing wage and other laws.
Democrats, led by state party chairman and House Speaker Michael Madigan, showed no interest in negotiating any of it. They seemed to prefer to wait Rauner out, no doubt in hopes that a different leader would take over in a few years.
As a result, two years passed without a state budget, with stopgaps and court-ordered expenditures only exacerbating the state’s financial problems. The state pension system is a hungry monster that consumes an ever-growing share of state spending and still has more than $130 billion in unfunded liability.
When a budget finally was approved in July, it came with a deeply unpopular, 32 percent increase in the personal income tax, which passed over Rauner’s veto.
Rauner now faces a primary challenge from state Rep. Jeanne Ives, a Wheaton Republican. Ives criticizes Rauner for failing to work with Madigan, while also attacking his failure to block the tax increase.
Ives also says that Rauner has betrayed conservatives by signing legislation that allowed state-employee and Medicaid health insurance to cover abortions, that forbids jails from holding people solely because of their immigration status and that makes it easier for transgender people to change the gender listed on their birth certificate.
Her campaign has made this point in part with a polarizing ad that featured a man wearing a dress thanking Rauner “for signing legislation that lets me use the girls’ bathroom.”
But what Illinois Republicans most need now is an electable candidate who will foster change to make our state financially viable, attractive to new employers and affordable for its citizens.
Rauner is that candidate. He is endorsed.
Illinois has the fifth-largest economy in the U.S., along with an available and motivated workforce, and superior infrastructure. Reforms that bring the state even to the middle of the pack in areas such as workers’ compensation costs will reawaken what is a sleeping giant.
Rauner has laid the groundwork to bring some of these reforms. He should be given the time to continue to push reforms that will lead to more jobs, fewer governments and lower taxes in Illinois.