Tom Kacich: Rauner to call for sweeping changes

Tom Kacich: Rauner to call for sweeping changes

Bruce Rauner last month promised to try to bring "a big transformation" to Illinois government, but I'm not sure anyone anticipated how big.

After listening to two separate "previews" (Rauner's term) of this week's State of the State address, I counted at least 15 major, sometimes controversial, sometimes dead-on-arrival initiatives that the new Republican governor apparently wants to undertake.

The list includes addressing:

— high property taxes

— elected judges and the ability of trial lawyers to make campaign contributions to the judges they argue cases before

— elected state officials and the ability of labor unions to make campaign contributions to the officials they negotiate contracts with

— reforming pensions

— getting "a handle on" Medicaid spending, the single biggest item in the state budget

— cutting the educational bureaucracy, which a Rauner chart indicated includes the number of school districts (863), school administrators (13,260) and regional offices of education (35) in the state

— teacher pension "spiking," which allows higher earnings in a teacher's last three years of employment in order to boost retirement earnings

— declines in vocational training

— an overhaul of the tax system, in particular broadening the state sales tax to cover more services

— infrastructure needs

— high workers compensation rates

— high unemployment insurance rates

— allowing cities, towns and counties to establish their own "right to work" zones

— elimination of the prevailing wage, which requires that non-union workers get paid at the same rate as workers covered by collective bargaining agreements

— project labor agreements between unions and government agencies

The last three are the longest shots and most likely DOA in the Democratic-dominated Legislature. Even Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker hasn't pushed right to work legislation or called for eliminating prevailing wage laws. Walker called the right to work idea "a distraction." Ohio Gov. John Kasich has voiced similar sentiments.

Local Republicans say they are puzzled why Rauner would even try such a sweeping change in Illinois. Maybe it's a chip to be bargained for some more realistic goal. Maybe it's a seed to be planted now for action in two or three years.

But all the talk about anti-union legislation ("I'm not anti-union. I'm anti-conflict of interest," Rauner said) will put Republicans, and downstate Republicans in particular, in a tough situation. Many of the GOP lawmakers have large numbers of union members in their districts, and receive significant campaign contributions from the public sector labor unions Rauner already has deemed guilty of conflicts of interest.

Here's the amounts public sector unions have given area GOP legislators in the last two years:

— Illinois Education Association: $62,500 to Rep. Adam Brown, $30,000 to Rep. Bill Mitchell, $16,000 to Sen. Dale Righter, $15,000 to Rep. Chad Hays, $10,000 to Sen. Chapin Rose.

— Illinois Federation of Teachers: $3,500 to Rose, $3,000 to Brown, $1,000 to Hays and Mitchell, $500 to Sens. Righter and Jason Barickman, $760 to Rep. Dan Brady.

— AFSCME: $4,000 to Mitchell, $3,000 to Brown, $500 to Hays.

— Illinois State AFL-CIO: $300 to Mitchell.

Just guessing, but maybe that's why there was only one Republican lawmaker (Rose) at Rauner's speech in Decatur last week, and none at the one in Champaign.

Tim Johnson campaign fund

Former U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson of Urbana must be serious about running for the Parkland College Board of Trustees. He's formed a campaign committee, Tim Johnson for Parkland College.

Johnson, a former Republican congressman and state legislator, is one of three candidates for two seats on the Parkland board in the April 7 election. The other candidates, Brendan McGinty of Philo and James Voyles of Tuscola, have not yet formed a campaign committee.

So far, Johnson's campaign fund isn't reporting any funds.

Davis-Callis fundraising

Final numbers are in from last year's 13th Congressional District race between incumbent U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and Democrat Ann Callis of Edwardsville.

During the 2013-14 period, Davis raised $3.49 million to Callis' $1.94 million. While most of Callis' money came from individuals ($1.54 million), nearly 60 percent of Davis' receipts ($2 million) came from political action committees.

There's the power of incumbency.

Davis spent $3.38 million in his campaign. Callis reported spending $1.94 million, and ended the campaign with no money.

She has terminated her campaign fund.

On a per-vote basis, Davis spent $27.42 for each one of the 123,337 votes he got in November. Callis spent $22.28 for each of the 86,935 votes she received.

That may sound like a lot but consider this: Bruce Rauner's campaign spent $35.82 for each of the 1,823,627 votes he got.

Or if you want to figure it based on the money the governor gave his campaign fund, he personally spent $20.59 per vote.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 217-351-5221 or at

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Sid Saltfork wrote on February 01, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Gov. Rauner is a north-of-I 80 native.  He is a friend of Rahm Emmanuel, Democrat anti-union Chicago mayor.  He is a Billionaire.  Democrat vs. Republican plays little difference in the Chicago area when it comes to state projects, hand outs, and bail outs.

"Down state" will continue to decline while Chicago, and it's suburbs will continue to receive the vast majority of funding.  The majority of the state's population lives in the Chicago area; but the rest of the state's citizens pay taxes for state services also.  Rauner's speeches to down state conservatives sound good; but have little to do with down state realities.  Isn't it time for down state legislators to break ranks with their Chicago area counterparts, and join together for their constituents regardless of their parties.