Rauner’s ‘nothing’ stance is anything but

Gov. Bruce Rauner has said for the past several days that

he’s open to just about any sort of compromise in order to get school funding

reform signed into law.

For example, he recently told Amanda Vinicky on Public

Television’s “Chicago Tonight” program that there was nothing on his

list that he had to have. “Nothing,” he said when asked to clarify.

“Absolutely nothing has to happen. The only principle we should be guided

by is what’s best for our children, what treats them all the same so they have

the best chance they can at the American dream.”

That could be a very big caveat. It more than just implies

that he intends to stick to his guns on stripping money from the Chicago Public

Schools, which he contends is given special treatment in the education funding

reform bill he vetoed. The Democrats will most definitely not like that.

But even if the negotiations among the four legislative

leaders do produce some progress, some folks are still doubtful that Gov.

Rauner can bring himself to sign the bill, or that his new staff can get him to

stick to his word.

If you go back to 2015, you may remember that after weeks of

negotiations over a stopgap budget and after a tentative deal had been reached,

Rauner decided during the ensuing weekend that he had some additional demands

that would clearly be unacceptable to the Democrats. His top staff fought back

hard, insisting that he couldn’t back out after accepting terms. Rauner signed

the bill.

More recently, near the end of June, you might recall that

Rauner’s office publicly berated the Democrats for not officially transmitting

the Chicago gun crimes bill to his desk in order to deliberately deprive the

governor of a “win.” The Democrats denied they had any such

intentions and the legislation was quickly sent to Rauner. The governor’s staff

set up a press conference for the very next day and Chicago’s police

superintendent came down to the Statehouse for the signing ceremony.

Just before he was set to sign the bill, however, Rauner

blew up at his communications staff over a single sentence in a Chicago Tribune

article which detailed his battle with Mayor Rahm Emanuel about the sale of the

Thompson Center. As it turns out, Rauner had misread the sentence, but the

blowup was “like nothing I had seen before,” said one person who was

present.

And then the governor reportedly had second thoughts about

signing the gun bill, other sources say. Mind you, this was just before the

signing ceremony was supposed to begin.

A task force inserted into the legislation to help the

Illinois State Police combat violent crimes was what reportedly set him off.

Sources say he flip-flopped and wanted to veto the bill. Again, this was

minutes before he was set to publicly sign the thing with Chicago’s most senior

cop on his way to town.

His top staff had to intervene again and eventually

convinced him to calm down and sign the bill.

Most of those staffers had been with Gov. Rauner since the

campaign. They’d learned over the years how to deal with him and, since they

helped get him to the governor’s office, Rauner trusted them enough to

eventually listen. But Rauner fired some of them when he brought in far-right

Illinois Policy Institute staffers and the rest quit in disgust.

Nobody on his current upper echelon staff has a similar

personal history with Rauner. And so far, nobody on that staff appears to have

the ability to steer him in the right direction. They’re letting Bruce be

Bruce, and that has its consequences.

Rauner’s former staffers negotiated what started out as a

quasi “sanctuary state” bill for illegal immigrants to a point that was even

further to the right than where the governor wanted to be. While he is expected

to sign the bill as I write this, Rauner hedged publicly about it during an

appearance on the Fox News Channel and proponents couldn’t get him to firmly

commit to make it a law.

So, there’s naturally some informed doubt that the governor

will be able to bring himself to sign something as big and important as an

education funding reform bill. The governor publicly denied last week that the

First Lady has become more involved in his administration, but by all accounts

she most certainly has and she now may be the only hope of keeping him on

track. This piece of legislation will forever define him, one way or another.

If it’s passed over his veto (in whatever form), he may never live it down.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and

CapitolFax.com.

Rich

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