— Belleville News-Democrat | Mendoza, S. —
I really wish you would pay closer attention to what I say during my frequent visits to your Editorial Board. At no time did I ever “blame Rauner” for the entirety of “Illinois fiscal meltdown” as you misrepresented in your editorial.
I have told you on multiple occasions that Rauner walked into a mess and deserved no blame for the $5 billion backlog of bills he inherited. What he does own is more than tripling that backlog by deficit-spending more than any other governor in state history.
I did not “blame Rauner” alone for the bad practice of hiding staffers on other agency payrolls to mask the size of his staff and budget. My exact words to you were:
One of the reasons Republican and Democratic legislators join together to pass so many of my bills unanimously is because I listen to both sides and target bipartisan problems with bipartisan solutions. My Truth In Hiring bill passed the House unanimously because both sides see the simple truth that the governor’s staff should appear on the governor’s payroll.
All the polls indicate we will get a Democratic governor this year. So if I wanted to be partisan, I would drop all my transparency initiatives right now and let incoming Governor Pritzker operate under the same lack of transparency that Governor Rauner and his Democratic and Republican predecessors have been able to. Instead, because I have always been bipartisan, I seek to saddle my candidate, Gov. Pritzker — and his successors — with new requirements to open the state’s books and make them more accountable. Does that sound like a “political lapdog”? Whether you want to support good government or just be partisan Republicans, you should support my initiatives either way.
As you know, I am one of the Democrats who led the impeachment efforts against the governor of my own party, Rod Blagojevich. As a legislator, I always had Republicans and Democrats on my bills. The only elected Republican in Illinois I have criticized since I took office is Bruce Rauner — not because of his party but because he has been a disastrous governor.
My most recent visit was not to have you sway your local state senator you don’t like. I never mentioned him during our meeting. You did. Bipartisanship starts with people of different parties listening to each other.
I work hard to pass my bills with more than party-line votes. I prefer bipartisan consensus. That’s why I talk to Republican legislators as well as Democratic legislators. That’s why I meet with conservative editorial boards, like yours, as well as liberal ones. If I present you with ideas we can all see the merits of — even though we back different candidates for governor — that’s the start of the bipartisan dialogue you say you’d like to see in Illinois.
You are upset with me for reporting that Governor Rauner ran up more late payment interest penalties in 2½ years than all the Republican and Democratic governors and legislatures did in the previous 18 years combined. I say if the shoe fits, Gov. Rauner can wear it.
You say the governor is the “last guy to arrive at the blast furnace” of the state’s fiscal meltdown. That may be, but he then shoveled more than $1 billion dollars into that furnace in late payment interest penalties. And that number continues to grow. I showed on my report the actual numbers of late payment interest penalties that each of his Republican and Democratic predecessors ran up. I admit there are no clean hands here.
I try to show with all my legislative initiatives that bi-partisanship can work. I invite you to try it.