By Jim Bowman
Illinois is "in deep trouble," Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner told a River Forest cafe audience Thursday night in a gathering pulled together by committeeman Tom Cronin with an assist from Oak Park committeeman Linda Tibensky.
Go after government unions, for one thing, whose "bosses bribe politicians." Gov. Quinn, for instance, while "not a standard crook . . . is inept and owned by government unions." Unions have "bought [even] a number of Republicans." To the unions Rauner would say, "You can't bribe me." He would limit collective bargaining rights if need be, as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker did. It's "a key part" of his platform.
Another "big union issue" is the "right to work" for government employees, which he called "critical." No one, he said, should be subject to "forced membership" in these unions.
Local voters can decide this issue as affecting private-sector unions -- a separate issue, he noted -- county by county. If union requirements scare off businesses, he said, the state "will suffer."
Heintends to run the state "like a business." He admires and would emulate three Midwest governors -- Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and Rick Snyder of Michigan -- and has gone to Indiana to study and learn from Gov. Daniels' operation.
Rauner supports vouchers, charter schools, merit pay for teachers and removal of tenure for "ineffective" teachers. Asked about federally approved Common Core State Standards -- adopted by 45 states including Illinois -- he declared himself "not comfortable with" a program which he said gives the federal government a role comparable to Obamacare's role in dispensing health care.
As to the state's $100-billion shortfall in pension funding, he would "freeze" the current system and put all pensions into defined-contributionaccounts -- which measure benefits by what employer and beneficiaries put into them. As to pension abuses, he cited a "former mayor of Chicago" maneuvering at retirement for a $100,000 annual payment for life, school districts giving raises before retirement to boost pension payments with money "not in district budgets," and similar behavior by the former head of the Chicago Federation of Labor.
Rauner's approach would be to prosecute what's illegal in these matters and seek legislation to end what's unethical, all with a view to saving "honest pensions," which are in jeopardy.
Action on term limits is "critical" to his program. He has "recruited" the U.S. Term Limits organization to come to Illinois and work to get 300,000 signatures, so as to put the matter on the November ballot -- prescribing an eight-year limit on all state offices. He and his running mate, Lt. Gov. candidate Evelyn (Pacino) Sanguinetti will limit their own terms accordingly.
Sanguinetti spoke briefly. A lawyer and law professor, she is daughter of a Cuban-immigrant mother and Ecuadorean-immigrant father.
Rauner told of his and his wife's 11-year-old daughter, one of their six children, objecting to his running for governor, for fear of his experiencing the fate of predecessors. "Don't go to jail, daddy," she told him.