Rauner Bites Back At Edgar, Thompson Critiques
Former Gov. Jim Edgar is still a popular figure within the Illinois GOP, which is why the harsh nature of his recent remarks garnered a lot of attention. Edgar scolded Rauner for putting his pro-business agenda ahead of the budget. Then another Republican Governor from the past, James Thompson, also said that Illinois is in the worst position it's ever been.
"I don't spend any time criticizing my fellow Republicans," Rauner said in response. "I don't spend any time criticizing decisions made in the past that created the mess that we're dealing with." Rauner says he's focused on the future.
Democrats say Rauner's vision of the future will kill unions and hurt the middle class; the governor says his plans will grow the economy long-term.
As they fight it out, government and social service agencies are caught in the crossfire. Rauner defended the struggle, saying "We're going through some change. Change is difficult. Change causes pain. We believe very strongly that we're going to go through short-term pain for some very big long-term gain."
Rauner made several stops a day earlier in southern Illinois with union proteters alongside. He drew the ire of union members across the state when he talked about a right-to-work proposal. Those union members reminded him of their opposition to his proposal as he left the Marion Civic Center.
AFSCME union representative Jeremy Noelle said they wanted inside the governor's meeting with local leaders, but were turned away. He said unions are curious about what the governor is saying.
"We're just wanting to see what his new message is, if there is a new message," he said. "It's the same old bust the unions message and we're seeing if he might come with something different."
Inside the civic center, Rauner said he's not out to bust the unions, in fact the governor said he's no longer pushing the union measure with the General Assembly. State Senator Gary Forby (D-Benton) was outside with the union protesters. He said he's unaware of Rauner's change of heart on right-to-work.
"Maybe he just changed his mind today," he said. "I don't think he changed his mind yesterday or the day before. Maybe today he changed his mind, but let's see where it goes."
Forby said the governor needs to put his Turnaround Agenda on the back burner until a budget deal is reached, then lawmakers might take up his proposals once again.