A day after Gov. Bruce Rauner’s “unorthodox” speech in Chicago, state Sen. Jason Barickman said he thinks the Republican incumbent needed a campaign reset and could still win in November.
Barickman, a Bloomington Republican, appeared Friday on GLT’s Sound Ideas.
“There are a couple questions: No. 1, is it too little too late? And No. 2, does the public believe him, that his second term is going to be different than his first?” Barickman said.
A humbled Rauner campaigned Thursday in Chicago with an address that was part apology and part stump speech. He faces Democrat J.B. Pritzker in a difficult re-election campaign.
“I'm a better governor now than when I took office because of what I've learned,” Rauner said.
The speech was a rare acknowledgement by Rauner of his weaknesses after taking office in 2015. Rauner said he was mistaken to demand an all-or-nothing conservative agenda in exchange for a state budget. What followed was a two-year standoff with Democrats that cost billions of dollars in debt and devastated social services and other programs.
“He does need to reset,” Barickman said. “You look at the polls—what’s clear is that Republicans by and large are going to have a tough time this November. (Rauner) is in a very difficult re-election. Part of the reality of where he is at probably led to his kind of unorthodox speech.”
Barickman’s support of Rauner has been mixed. He has criticized him at times, including for his media strategy of repeatedly attacking Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan.
But Barickman said he plans to vote for Rauner anyway. He said Pritzker’s support of a graduated or progressive income tax—a change from state’s flat tax—is another example of a politician “overpromising things we can’t afford.” That has gotten Illinois into trouble before, he said.
“On the choice of him versus Pritzker, I think it’s a no-brainer,” Barickman said. “I don’t think this election is over.”
Higher Education Funding
Meanwhile, Barickman said he’s looking forward to the possibility of a higher education funding formula rewrite, similar in scope to the one he helped pass for K-12 schools.
The bipartisan Higher Education Working Group recently began work on a new formula. Some are advocating for a more performance-based model, meaning schools like Illinois State University with higher graduation and retention rates might be appropriated more money.
Barickman said the K-12 rewrite was propelled by public consensus that change was needed—and it still took years to get done. He said advocates will need to educate the public on why change is needed for higher ed too.
“I look at (ISU), and I’d like to see us fund ISU better because they’re doing such a great job with the dollars they’re given,” said Barickman, an ISU alum. “That argument of course is more difficult when you get beyond central Illinois and Bloomington-Normal and those of us who live and die with Reggie Redbird. I think there’ll be an effort to educate the public on why things aren’t working the way we should be.”
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