Ald. Pawar: Rauner ‘needs the chaos’ of budget impasse for reelection


Lars Lonnroth , Freelance Reporter

Lombard, Ill.—As Illinois reaches 22 months without a budget, Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Ald. Ameya Pawar said that Incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is engaging in “textbook divide-and-rule,” claiming the governor is stalling budget talks to help his campaign for reelection in 2018.
“I fundamentally believes that Bruce Rauner doesn’t want a budget, he does not want equitable funding for schools—he needs the chaos,” Pawar said at a campaign event at The Helen M. Plum Memorial Library in Lombard on April 8. “He needs institutions to fail, he needs all this to happen so he can run against one person, or against a party, or against a city.”

Since the election of President Donald Trump, Pawar claims he has seem “dividing people based on where they live, what they do for a living, whether they are in a union or not,” which he claims Rauner has exploited to further divide the state. Tom Elliott, communications director for the Pawar campaign, said the trend is “a serious threat to our democracy” and contrary to Pawar’s message of “unity over division.”

“In the past, elected officials would work with their colleagues on the other side of the isle to collaborate on legislation that benefits their respective communities,” Elliott said in an email to The LION. “In the past, people didn’t identify themselves based on who they voted for in the last election. But that’s not how it is today and we need to overcome these divisions.”

The remarks underscore the growing recrimination regarding the budget impasse here in Illinois, with Democrats placing the blame on Rauner’s administration and Rauner placing it on Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and his allies.

Illinois has incurred $12.8 billion of unpaid bills, a press release from the Comptroller of Illinois said. In addition, Illinois is facing a $9.6 billion deficit as a state, Reuters reported, both of which Elliott points to as Rauner intentionally “undermining our state institution.”

The impasse has also lead to much uncertainty at agencies across the state, leaving those that depend on state funding relying on short term stop-gap budgets as lawmakers attempt to hammer out a deal.

“Across Illinois, social service agencies are closing. Jobs are fleeing the state. Public schools aren’t sure how they open their doors in the fall. Our state universities and colleges are being starved of resources,” Pawar said in a campaign email. “This is all because Bruce Rauner has decided that destroying unions and gutting wages for working families is more important than passing a budget that lifts up all Illinois families.

However, Steven Yaffe, spokesperson for The Illinois Republican Party, dispelled the notion that Rauner is intentionally holding up budget negotiations—claiming that the governor is only working to create a budget that includes provisions that has bipartisan support among everyday people—and Democrats are only proposing short-term fixes.

“While Democrat politicians throughout the state want to tape over Illinois’ challenges with higher taxes and more spending, Gov. Rauner is pushing to pass a truly balanced budget, freeze property taxes, enact job-creating reforms and fix our broken political system by passing term limits,” Yaffe said. “Those are all issues that Illinoisans agree need to happen, but Democrats refuse to make transformational changes to improve Illinois.”

While Illinois has had multiple “stop-gap” budgets, or temporary spending measures, during the state’s long-running budget stalemate, Rauner has attempted to blame Democrats—and Madigan in particular—as the reason for the lack of budget.

In a video on the governor’s Facebook page, Rauner said that the stopgap spending plans Democrats are proposing “do nothing to balance the budget” and fail to “fix our broken system,” only helping the politicians in Springfield.

“Instead of focusing on stopgaps that serve the Springfield insiders, we should be coming together to pass real and lasting solutions to our problems: a truly balanced budget, job creation, property tax freeze, spending caps, term limits and pension reform,” Rauner said. “We can’t accept a Madigan stopgap without a permanent property tax freeze to protect the hard working taxpayers of Illinois.”

While the governor argues that Democratic intransigence is to blame for the state’s budget debacle, the Pawar campaign argues the same thing—levied against Rauner, though. Elliot, Pawar’s communication director, claims that the governor is attempting to insert frivolous provisions that have no pertinence to the budget.

“Rauner is holding up budget negotiations by refusing to compromise on issues that have little to do with the budget (i.e. term limits, collective bargaining, workers comp) instead of coming up with a plan to raise the revenue we need to pay our bills and prepare for the future—and it is having devastating consequences on people,” Elliott said.

Rauner says that the policies that he wants to be attached to a stop gap budget would help working people, but Pawar claims that it would actually do harm to those individuals.

“We have a leader, a governor, who believes that the best way to help working people is by hurting another group of working people,” Pawar said. “I can’t think of a single time in history when hurting working people helped working people.”