Back in 2014, when Crain’s endorsed Bruce Rauner in the primary and general elections, we saw him as a pragmatic businessman who would bring long-overdue solutions to a state government in serious need of reform.
We agreed that a shake-up was most definitely in order, and we agreed with many of the ideas Rauner championed, including workers’ compensation reforms, fairer taxes, a sensible solution to the state’s pension crisis, less red tape, increased spending on education and reinvigorating the state’s economic development agency.
At the time, we were skeptical that the governor could accomplish much with a Democratic-controlled Legislature. But Rauner assured us that he’d dedicate himself to persuading his opponents—and he promised he would wield his executive powers to work around House Speaker Michael Madigan if he had to.
Madigan, of course, bears the lion’s share of responsibility for the mess Illinois is in, thanks to his decades in power. But Madigan is not the governor. Rauner is. And there’s no way to deny it: By nearly every measure, the state is worse off since Rauner took office. Pension liabilities now top $110 billion and are rising by the minute. The stack of unpaid bills is ballooning, turning Illinois into a notorious deadbeat. Vital social service agencies are being cut. Students are abandoning the state’s universities. Illinois’ credit rating hovers just above junk-bond range. We’re in Year Two without a budget—and the best hope for one is months away, after the Nov. 8 election.
In short, Illinois needs fixing more than ever. No matter how beneficial Rauner’s idea of reform might be for the state’s economy long term, what he’s doing to get there is not working.