Rich Miller Ignores Supermajority Reality to Demand Rauner Capitulate


Written by Eric Kohn

Rich Miller wants Bruce Rauner to surrender.

This has been a theme of Miller’s since shortly after Rauner was inaugurated.  [Recently] in a guest column at Reboot Illinois, he used the loss of two high profile Rauner-backed primary candidates to renew his call.  Miller begins with this sentence:

It’s almost impossible to make a deal with somebody who won’t accept reality.

Let’s talk about reality.

Miller is correct that Rauner lost two races where he had made a significant investment.  State Sen. Sam McCann (R-50th) defeated challenger Bryce Benton, and State Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-5th) went down in defeat to Juliana Stratton.  Rauner, and groups supporting Rauner, like Dan Proft’s Liberty Principles PAC, had invested millions to defeat McCann and keep Dunkin.  It didn’t work out.

Despite Team Rauner racking up several other primary wins for candidates supporting Ruaner’s vision for Illinois, Miller views these two losses as a sufficient reason for Rauner to abandon his Turnaround Agenda and negotiate (read: capitulate) to Mike Madigan and the legislative Democrats:

Everyone with even semi-honest eyes could see that Rauner was a big loser. Yes, he won several other primary races, but he basically steamrolled a bunch of unprepared amateurs with overwhelming financial resources and (in most cases) viciously negative ads. Without a doubt it’s important to win those little races (Madigan himself does it a lot), but the marquee contests against formidable foes – who are far more like the legislative Democrats Rauner will face in November – most definitely went south. …

Like I said at the beginning, accepting political reality is not this governor’s strong suit. If that wasn’t abundantly clear before the primary election, it surely became clear the day after.

There’s a rather pertinent piece of reality that Miller does not now, and rarely, if ever, mentions:

House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and legislative Democrats don’t need Bruce Rauner or a single Republican to pass a budget.

The Democrats hold supermajorities in both houses of the legislature.  As long as their caucus holds together — and any follower of Illinois politics knows that Mike Madigan is particularly effective at enforcing discipline — they can pass any budget they want.  If Governor Rauner vetoes the bill, it returns to the legislature where they can use their supermajorities to override the veto.  The budget then becomes law.

But Democrats in the legislature don’t seem to want to go that route.  They don’t want to own a big-spending tax-hiking budget all alone.  They saw what happened to former Governor Pat Quinn who gave his “temporary” income tax hike a great big bearhug in the election 2 years ago by promising to make it permanent.  Quinn was soundly defeated by Rauner, who promised to oppose making the tax increase permanent, as well as institute other reforms to the structure of Illinois state government.

Miller accuses Rauner of having “made one politically unrealistic demand after another while refusing to negotiate a budget until those demands were met.” In light of the supermajority reality, it’s pretty clear to every with even semi-honest eyes that Mike Madigan is making politically unrealistic demands.  He wants Rauner and legislative Republicans to provide political cover and sign off on a budget of Madigan’s choosing while not giving anything in return, even while he get everything he wants without them.  Talk about intransigence.

Miller either forgets or chooses to ignore that Rauner has a constituency to represent, too: the people who elected him as the state’s executive.  They were faced with a pretty clear choice in November 2014.  They could go with Gov. Pat Quinn, who would have gladly signed a budget with more and more spending, and more and more taxes.  Or they go with Bruce Rauner, who promised to “shake up Springfield” and oppose higher taxes and the big spending status quo of Illinois government.  Rauner won handily.  And even though Rauner has negotiated (mostly with himself) by putting a tax increase on the table in exchange for other structural reforms to state government, Madigan and Cullerton have not budged.

Gov. Rauner is not himself on the ballot this November.  But what is on the ballot are a host of state house and senate races.  If the voters send Madigan and Cullerton more reinforcements, they’ll have even bigger supermajorities and will continue to have complete run of the place.  If voters defy the gerrymandered map to send some incumbent Democrats home and bring to an end that party’s supermajority control of the legislature, then the game will have changed dramatically.

Not that I imagine any of this will change Miller’s calls for Rauner to capitulate.

This article was originally posted at