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Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017 12:20 am

The governor’s credibility problem

PHOTO BY ALAN SOLOMON/TNS
One reason why Gov. Bruce Rauner promised to veto HB40 last spring was to prevent a House Republican revolt on the state budget.

The bill deletes a so-called “trigger” provision in current law which states that if the Roe v. Wade case is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, Illinois would automatically revert to outlawing abortions. There’s a dispute about whether this is needed, but the more controversial part of the bill would allow state funding of abortions through Medicaid and the state employee group health insurance program.

Everyone knew from the beginning of the two-year budget impasse that the House Republicans were the key to victory for both sides. As long as Rauner could hold them completely together, he could continue the impasse fight with the Democrats. By April, however, mutinous rumblings were growing in that caucus, and one way Rauner could placate them was to swear he would veto HB40 if it ever reached his desk.

There are no remaining pro-choice Republicans in the House, and there are certainly no supporters of taxpayer funded abortions in the caucus. Legislative threats were made to the pro-choice governor that there would be holy heck to pay if he signed HB40 into law. They’d abandon him in droves and there would be nothing he could do to stop them from working with the Democrats on a budget solution. So the governor told several House Republicans to their faces that he’d veto the bill.

But then a couple of months later, some of the same House Republicans who’d been demanding an HB40 veto broke with the governor and voted for the tax hike.

That tax vote may have played into the governor’s decision to become the first American governor to sign a taxpayer-funded abortion bill into law. He may have simply decided that he wasn’t bound to his promise because the House Republicans didn’t hold their caucus together.

The trouble is, he made that veto promise to more than just the House Republicans. As Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) pointed out after Rauner signed the bill into law, the governor made a “public commitment” to veto the bill. “His flip-flopping on this issue,” McConchie said in a statement, “raises serious questions on whether the Governor’s word can be trusted on other matters.”

The reason this issue became such a huge crisis in the first place is that Rauner’s word can’t be taken as truth. This started to become apparent on election night, when the governor claimed during his victory speech that he’d spoken to House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton even though he hadn’t.

Rauner spent more than two years traveling the state to tell everyone who would listen that he would stop the Democrats from muscling through a Chicago Public Schools “bailout,” but then he signed a bill into law that actually gave CPS more money than the Democrats had proposed.

The governor told the Chicago Tribune in the spring of 2015 that a budget crisis would give him the leverage to obtain concessions from Democrats on his pro-business, anti-union agenda, then flat-out blamed the Democrats for the next two years for creating the crisis the governor had wanted.

I mean, the man repeatedly lied about his own grandfather to score political points. The governor has claimed over and over that his “best friend” growing up had immigrated from Sweden – the last time was when he bragged about it during a speech to an immigrant rights group when he signed a bill into law restricting what the police can do to undocumented immigrants. In fact, his grandfather was born in the United States. Politifact awarded the claim its harshest rating: “Pants on fire.”

The list is just endless with this guy. When Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich publicly calls you out for breaking your promise to veto HB40, you know you have a problem.

Candidate Rauner explicitly promised the pro-choice group Personal PAC in 2014 that he would sign legislation for government-funded abortions. So the question really boiled down to who the governor would wind up lying to.

With a tax hike passed over his veto and an education funding reform plan in place, the calculation could’ve been that he just doesn’t need the House Republicans for much of anything next year.

But the governor’s campaign insists that Rauner is running for re-election. If he manages to win, he’s going to have to eventually find a way to re-establish his relationships with legislative Republicans. Time will likely heal some of these wounds within his own party, but only if he makes a genuine attempt to re-establish his credibility.

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

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