It’s Turn­around time for Rauner’s old ‘ road map’

Chicago Sun-Times - - POLITICS - MARK BROWN Po­lit­i­cal Mat­ters

The Turn­around Agenda is back.

Gov. Bruce Rauner doesn’t call it that any more, pre­fer­ring to stress the in­di­vid­ual parts over the la­bel that be­came too closely as­so­ci­ated with the state’s long bud­get im­passe.

But as he pol­ishes up his re- elec­tion pitch to Illi­nois vot­ers, Rauner has made clear his am­bi­tious 44- point pre­scrip­tion for cur­ing Illi­nois’ ills is back on his plate in all its parts from his pop­u­lar call for term lim­its to more con­tro­ver­sial pro­pos­als to cur­tail the power and in­flu­ence of la­bor unions.

Rauner’s back- to- ba­sics ap­proach was ev­i­dent again Wed­nes­day in his an­nual bud­get mes­sage, just as it had been in his State of the State speech two weeks ago and in a sub­se­quent ap­pear­ance be­fore the Sun- Times’ Ed­i­to­rial Board.

He’s even still cam­paign­ing against the in­come tax in­crease that he suc­cess­fully pres­sured leg­is­la­tors to elim­i­nate in 2014, only to see it brought back over his veto by the Gen­eral Assem­bly last year to end the bud­get stale­mate.

Although the bud­get Rauner in­tro­duced Wed­nes­day is built in large part on spend­ing the rev­enue the state is re­ceiv­ing from that tax in­crease, the gover­nor said the Leg­is­la­ture’s “No. 1 ob­jec­tive” this year should be to start rolling back the in­come tax rate with a $ 1 bil­lion tax cut.

As he has from his ear­li­est days, Rauner stressed his be­lief that the only way for Illi­nois to break free from its “fis­cal sta­tus quo” is to grow the econ­omy by mak­ing the state more busi­ness- friendly.

“We must en­act struc­tural re­forms that al­low us to be as com­pet­i­tive as we need to be, so we can be as com­pas­sion­ate as we want to be,” Rauner said, a vari­a­tion on a line he used in all his early speeches.

It’s the na­ture of those “re­forms” that have al­ways been the devil in the details for Rauner.

Those re­forms gen­er­ally in­volve re­duc­ing the rights of gov­ern­ment work­ers to col­lec­tively bar­gain at ei­ther the state or lo­cal lev­els. Rauner has ar­gued lo­cal gov­ern­ments should set their own la­bor reg­u­la­tions in­stead of the state.

Rauner had pre­vi­ously ar­gued giv­ing school dis­tricts and other units of lo­cal gov­ern­ment such “tools” would al­low them to re­duce prop­erty taxes with the cost sav­ings.

But in the big­gest de­par­ture Wed­nes­day from his prior ap­proach, the gover­nor in­stead ar­gued the in­creased “flex­i­bil­ity” would help lo­cal school dis­tricts off­set his new pro­posal to shift the cost of teach­ers’ pen­sions now borne by the state.

That cost- shift­ing pro­posal was im­me­di­ately crit­i­cized by Rauner op­po­nents as a recipe for forc­ing school dis­tricts to raise prop­erty taxes.

Rauner told the Sun- Times Ed­i­to­rial Board he still hopes to see his pro­posal for lo­cal gov­ern­ment right- to- work zones ( he calls them “em­pow­er­ment zones”) come to fruition in a sec­ond term.

Rauner said he is bank­ing on a fed­eral court case in­volv­ing the vil­lage of Lin­colnshire to clear the way for lo­cal gov­ern­ments to free them­selves from state la­bor laws to help en­tice pri­vate em­ploy­ers.

Asked by the Sun- Times about the orig­i­nal Turn­around Agenda ear­lier this month, Rauner stood be­hind it.

“I laid out the vi­sion very clearly. And I knew we weren’t go­ing to get 44 points in my first term. We’re not go­ing to get 44 points prob­a­bly in two terms. But there’s the vi­sion. There’s the road map,” he said.

Ar­guably, the Turn­around Agenda never re­ally went away, only moved to the back seat as Rauner tried to ma­neu­ver through a rocky first term.

Since he burst on the scene with his mas­sive cam­paign bankroll, Rauner has never de­vi­ated far from his core be­liefs — even if both con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans and mod­er­ate Democrats be­lat­edly dis­cov­ered that his po­si­tions didn’t quite match what they might have come to be­lieve dur­ing his first cam­paign. Twit­ter: @ MarkBrownCST

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