Rauner: Get rid of court orders

Rauner: Get rid of court orders

SPRINGFIELD — As he marks the first anniversary Tuesday of his inauguration, Gov. Bruce Rauner said Monday that one of his goals for his second year will be to remove court orders and consent decrees that obligate the state to spend billions on services and programs.

The court orders and agreements are a large part of the reason the state continues to spend money even though the Legislature and Rauner have never agreed to a budget for the fiscal year that began more than six months ago.

And they've removed a large bargaining chip for the administration in its effort to get the Legislature to adopt some of the governor's Turnaround Agenda.

"One of the big things we'll be pushing — we have another round of legislation that we'll be proposing soon — and one of them is to get out of all these court orders and consent decrees. They are causing us to spend money on certain things beyond what anybody wants," Rauner said Monday during an interview in the Family Room of the Executive Mansion in Springfield. "We've got a plan. We're going to be discussing that in the coming weeks. There's a way to get out of each one, a process."

Mostly because of consent decrees and court orders, the state is spending more than 90 percent of what it spent last year, even though there's less revenue to work with and the only item the Legislature and Rauner agreed to was funding for K-12 education.

Getting rid of the court orders and consent decrees is "good government," said the Republican governor, who has been locked into a record budget stalemate with the Democratic Legislature.

"We're spending money unnecessarily," he said. "A lot of these consent decrees have been in place for decades. We have been a not well-run government. It was the worst under our prior two governors (Democrats Pat Quinn and Rod Blagojevich) but we've had a lot of problems for a long time. That's just bad management. We're going to have a well-run administration and we're not going to be run by the courts. We're going to do what's right for the people by our administration."

Rauner said he would continue to fight for "local control" on issues like prevailing wage and collective bargaining, changes opposed by labor unions and most Democratic lawmakers.

"Some folks will say that we think prevailing wage is important and it should be in place so our construction workers can make more. OK, I get it. Do it, but if you want that for Urbana, Urbana shouldn't tell Effingham how to run their community. It's hard for anybody to argue that," he said. "And if we get there on local control, that will free up a lot of resources. And we can have a competition of philosophy. Is the way Illinois' been doing everything for years the right way to stay, or is less governmment, more local control, more free enterprise, lower taxes, more flexibility the way to go?"

One part of the state budget that has gone unfunded so far is any support for higher education, and Rauner didn't indicate that it would be forthcoming.

"I'm not going to predict the future on these things. Hopefully every school can reform itself and get through these tough times," he said. "But more important than this one year is to provide real value for the students and the professors, and change the way they work."

Rauner said public higher education in Illinois, "like all education and most things in Illinois, needs reform. Higher ed has become its own mini version of state government: bloat, bureaucracy, pensions, overhead, layers of administration, patronage, cronyism. Universities in Illinois look a lot like government in Illinois. So we need reform."

And he indicated that some of the same anti-union proposals he wants to offer to local governments, such as the freedom to not abide by prevailing wage agreements, should go to public universities as well.

"Our reforms are going to apply to the universities just like they apply to local governments. I want to free up the universities to compete and put their resources with their professors in the classrooms and their students, not into the layers," he said.

Rauner said he wants "to increase support for the (University of Illinois), but I want to help the U of I reform itself and give them the tools to reform themselves. Our whole university system needs reform. We have redundancy. We have inadequacy and we have wasted money at a stunning level in the bureaucracy of the universities. And we need to help them change."

Rauner also said he wants the state to continue to provide MAP grants to low-income college students, but only if the Legislature provides a revenue source for the estimated $397 million a year expense.

"I say that I'm philosophically in support of that but my challenge to the General Assembly is that if you're going to do that, tell me where the money is going to come from because what we can't do — I won't let it happen — is have the state government run out of cash because we do that. I'm not going to let it happen.

"I want MAP grants done, it's ridiculous. But the General Assembly is not doing their job. If they want to help me sell the Thompson Center (state office building in downtown Chicago) so we can pay for MAP grants, fine. If they want to do pension reform with me to pay for the MAP grants, terrific. But if they're going to do nothing except fund MAP grants and create a crisis so the state runs out of money in the spring, no."

Asked if he could get behind UI President Tim Killeen's suggestion that the university expand its enrollment by more than 20,000 to 100,000 students statewide, Rauner said, "I haven't discussed that idea with the president. I think it would be premature to comment on it."

Rauner said he was not frustrated that the Legislature hadn't enacted any parts of his ambitious Turnaround Agenda in his first year.

"There are a number of things developing. It's not like this has played out enough. This is a long-term structural change and we're going to be doing a lot of things we haven't yet done as part of our process," he said.

Rauner said his agenda, which includes not only changes in collective bargaining and prevailing wage issues but term limits, worker's compensation and legislative redistricting done by an independent group, not the Legislature, requires "buy-in" by different constituencies.

"The scale in democracy of buy-in for major change, democracy is just built to go slow on that stuff. It's just designed for that," he said. "And that's mostly good, but it just means when people say, 'This should be done now,' well you know what, we're trying to do things, we're trying to correct problems that have been created over 40 years. It doesn't happen in nine months. It doesn't. But we'll get there."

Rauner said he's "the most persistent person on the planet and we'll just stay strong. We'll get there. I know we'll get there."


What he's done

1 He and the Legislature enacted the highest level of school funding in Illinois history, the only budget item the two sides agreed on.

2 He and the Legislature agreed to revisions in the state's unemployment insurance program, which are supposed to reduce costs on employers.

3 He and the Legislature agreed to a $1.3 billion "sweep" of hundreds of special funds to help eliminate a fiscal year 2015 budget shortfall. It's been suggested that a similar move is possible this year since more than $4 billion is in the special funds and state spending so far is far greater than state revenue.

What he hasn't done

1 More than halfway through the fiscal year, there's still no state budget, the longest such impasse in the state's history. It's a bipartisan source of concern, with even former Gov. Jim Edgar saying that passing a budget is a governor's most important responsibility.

2 He hasn't been able to enact any of the dozens of "Turnaround Agenda" items he campaigned on.

3 Shortly after his election, Rauner said he hoped to energize Illinoisans to come to Springfield and help him enact his package of reforms. It never happened. In fact, polls suggest that Rauner's popularity statewide is higher than House Speaker Michael Madigan's, but still far below 50 percent.

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catsrule wrote on January 11, 2016 at 8:01 pm

The article inaccurately states Mr Rauner campaigned on his so-called "turnaround agenda" items; this is demonstrably not true. He wouldn't have been elected if he campaigned on a platform of eliminating prevailing wage laws, enacting so called "right to work" and evisceration of collective-bargaining. Furthermore, these items are not the cause of Illinois structural deficit, something that has worsened under administrations of both political parties. Mr Rauner is holding the budget and many of the neediest citizens of Illinois hostage to an anti-labor agenda for which he was not elected. He has effectively bought the governorship and the majority of GOP legislators with his wealth.

catsrule wrote on January 11, 2016 at 8:01 pm

As it directly applies to the topic at hand, judicial intervention has been required due to the unwillingness of the governor to fulfill his responsibilities. There is not a budget stalemate; both sides proposed budgets which were out of balance. The governor could have used amendatory veto authority to fund his priorities and withhold funding from other things. Instead, he created and is maintaining a crisis impacting thousands of Illinois citizens in support of an agenda which has no mandate.

bluesky wrote on January 11, 2016 at 10:01 pm

I had to read the article twice to make sure the Governor said what he appears to say:  that the courts, and court-ordered decrees that have kept many programs and services from shutting down entirely, are to be done away with.  In some vague, unspecified fashion that is even now being cooked up.  And that funding for higher education is not a priority.  Indeed, colleges and universities must first enact (vague, unspecified) reforms before they are worthy of funding.  I'm sure this is alarming news to them.

This is amateurism of the most destructive sort.  Please, please, someone give the Governor tutorial help in how to function as the head of the executive branch of the state government.  

kiel wrote on January 11, 2016 at 11:01 pm

I think you summarize what the article says very well: Rauner either wants to strangle services for the entire state -- essentially a siege against the residents of Illinois -- or he wants vendors/businesses doing business with the state to take IOUs in perpetuity. What he HAS done is let marginal tax increase on the highest earners expire -- that's where the MAP money could have come from, sir, and much, much more. His vague, unspecified "reforms" are just smoke and mirrors; he has no serious plans, aside from carving up the state into feifdoms of inequitable pay and living standards to be ruled over by his cronies. In the universities, the waste derives directly from state laws/regulations and incompentent administration ($1.5+ million for the Scalia mess), NOT from anything having to do with actual education or research internal to the university. The other commenters are right: this is a completely contrived "crisis" engineered to push the agenda of millionaires like Rauner, and force the people of the state, from the poorest on up to the university system, into submission. I find it hard to believe that it is not criminal somehow.

Fedupwithstatereps wrote on January 12, 2016 at 10:01 am

Isn't it time to discuss impeachment? He is not fulfilling the most basic function of his job which is to craft and pass a budget for the state!  This is ridiculous and out of control.

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 12, 2016 at 10:01 am

Wouldn't life be grand if we did not have to follow laws, and court orders?  Rauner knows about the legal stuff.  He has ran into them before when he was a CEO (nursing homes lack of care).  Now as a public official, he wants to ignore the laws and court orders? 

amf wrote on January 16, 2016 at 8:01 am

My high school government class taught me that the three branches serve as checks and balances for one another.  Rauner appears to believe that the executive branch's role is to manipulate the balance of powers in some kind of 'win at all costs' game strategy.  But then, this is to be expected when we elect a CEO to be a public servant.  He is wholly untrained for his job.