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After Rauner's Address, How Much Bipartisanship Is Possible In Election Year?

Seth Perlman
Gov. Bruce Rauner delivered his State of the State address on Wednesday.

Gov. Bruce Rauner says bipartisanship is needed to move the state forward. But a lack of trust in the shadow of an election year and the governor's own remarks make that less likely to happen.

In his State of the State Address on Wednesday, Rauner said Illinois needs to become more job friendly and restore the public's trust.

"It takes a collaborative effort,” Rauner said. “A forget about the politics and roll up our sleeves kind of approach.”

During the same address, Rauner called for prohibiting lawmakers from working as property tax attorneys, which most view as a dig at Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan whose law firm is prominent in that field. The speaker responded with a written statement which described the proposal as an attempt to score “cheap political points.” He went on to write that it may be best if the governor “continues sitting on the sidelines” pretending he is not in charge.


The governor will deliver his budget plan in two weeks. The governor said he'll present a balanced budget that will reduce spending and show how Illinois can cut taxes. But there are plenty of skeptics considering Illinois still has billions of dollars in overdue bills. 

“The greatest minds out there in actuarial science say that’s not going to happen,” said David Paul Blumenshine of Normal, a Republican who’s challenging state Rep. Dan Brady in the GOP primary on March 20. “We have too many issues that we have to deal with first.”

Blumenshine has endorsed Rauner’s primary challenger, Jeanne Ives, for governor.

Democrat Ben Webb, who would face either Brady or Blumenshine in November, said Rauner’s focus on past accomplishments belied the recent gridlock in Springfield.

“The governor has to accept responsibility for a budget impasse that lasted over 700 days that’s really harmed our public university system,” Webb said. “And yet the chapters of history he’s choosing to include are picking and choosing the parts of our history that we’re most proud of.”

State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, said he’s optimistic that the governor’s change in tone during the State of the State address will prevent another deadlock over the budget.

Barickman said true compromise over the budget and other issues will result in a trade.

“Whether Democrats believe him or not, he did say he’s willing to do that, and just like we do with Democrats, we need to take him at his word and work through the legislative process to get opportunities to come together in a bipartisan manner,” said Barickman.

The two major parties were close to an agreement on workers comp reform. Barickman said that might be a potential area Republicans could gain one of their goals. He also said some Democrats favor property tax relief. Rauner’s push for term limits has very little traction, Barickman said.

Even though this is an election year, Barickman said this is an opportunity to find common ground.

In contrast, Brady said this will be a very difficult year to negotiate a budget and it might look very similar to last year with a late-session compromise driven by lawmakers—and not the governor.

“It has a recipe to be similar, and that’s what we’re going to have to guard against,” said Brady, a Bloomington Republican. “The Democrats are not going to be in a mood, from a political standpoint, (to) work with the governor. Therefore, that will put things back on the leaders themselves, on their rank-and-file.”

Rauner spoke of ethics reform, enacting term limits and property tax reforms. Republican state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington said he found these to be important topics where bipartisan solutions are needed.

“There is no question that the governor differs with Democrats on many issues,” said Brady, the GOP Senate leader. “The Democrats don't believe in term limits, the people of Illinois do, and the governor does. The Democrats don't really believe in rolling back the tax increase—the governor does. There are differences the governor will speak to that will be difficult for a bipartisan solution.”

Bill Brady said the tone of Rauner’s speech was very positive. He said he’s optimistic the spring session of the legislature will not deadlock like the last three years.

“One of the things that changed the tone is our ability, in a bipartisan way, to pass probably the most monumental piece of legislation I can ever recall—the funding of our schools,” Brady said.

Other lawmakers are less positive, fearing that Democrats will not want to give Rauner any solid achievements he can use to campaign for a second term. Brady said he disagrees and believes that being in charge of something that fails the people of Illinois is not anyone’s ambition.

“I don’t think anybody—I know Bill Brady doesn’t want to be on the ballot in November without a budget,” he said.

You can also listen to GLT's full report:

GLT's full report on State of the State reaction.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
Sean has led the NPR Illinois news operations since the fall of 2009.
Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
Becky Fletcher is a GLT social media and online writing intern, as well as a student at Illinois State University's School of Communication.
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