Updated 2:56 P.M. CT
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday would not say how much responsibility he has in the state’s unprecedented budget impasse.
“We all need to work together — Republicans, Democrats, everybody — to get a truly balanced budget,” Rauner said during an appearance on WBEZ’s Morning Shift.
When pressed by host Tony Sarabia, Rauner said “it is immoral what has happened in our state government for the last 35 years. It is wrong for us to leave $190 billion in debt to our children and our grandchildren. We are not going to let that happen.”
Sarabia and Rauner also discussed campaign finance reform, abortion rights, the Democratic leadership and more. Below are highlights from their conversation.
On being booed before a graduation ceremony at Chicago State University
Tony Sarabia: What would you say though to the students who booed you?
Rauner: I stand with them. I agree. This system is broken. Chicago State has been suffering for years and we’re going to fix it together.
Sarabia: But it hasn’t been fixed and it still continues. And a lot of them are placing the blame at your feet.
Rauner: Well, look at the new board of directors that we just brought in in January. For the first time I had an ability to put board members on there. We have put superstars on that board and we assembled a superstar team of advisory board members. … Since January, when I’ve truly been able to get control of that institution, we’ve done great things. And you watch, we’re going to make that place wonderful here in the next couple years.
On Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan
Rauner: I like John [Cullerton] very much, and I understand his frustration. [Cullerton] and Speaker Madigan and their majority in the General Assembly has been in charge in our state government for about 35 years — 35 years where they’ve controlled our spending, they’ve controlled our tax policy, they’ve controlled our business regulations, they’ve controlled our hiring and patronage system. In those 35 years, we’ve accumulated $190 billion in debt. We’ve never run balanced budgets. We’ve pushed our jobs out of the state. We have not funded our schools properly. In those 35 years, we’ve become the worst state in America for funding schools.
This all predates me. This has been going on for decades. And anyone who would argue, “Well, we’ve been doing great up until the governor got here and now he’s the problem. He doesn’t know how to do this” — what I don’t know how to do is continue to have failure. What I refuse to do is continued failure. What we’re going to do is grow our economy, get more jobs, we’re going to balance our budgets and we’re going to properly fund our human services and education systems.
On divisive exchanges about the budget impasse
Rauner: I’m very proud of the Senate Democrats and Republicans who are working hard. They’re very close. And in the meantime, Speaker Madigan and his caucus have been sending over special interest groups to attack. As John Cullerton said, he’s being attacked ruthlessly by Speaker Madigan’s allies who don’t want to see a deal.
Sarabia: But even John Cullerton has indicated that you keep moving the goalposts.
Rauner: There’s a lot of rhetoric that gets spun. One of the ways we can hurt the process is just by going in the press and getting emotional. We need to focus. We need to compromise. We need to get an answer.
Sarabia: But with all due respect, that’s what you’re doing now right here. Kind of sniping, laying everything on Michael Madigan’s feet.
Rauner: You have to look at who’s been in charge of the system.
On whether he would support campaign finance reform
Rauner: Money clearly plays a role in politics. It is part of free speech — that’s been affirmed again and again — but you can look at races around the country, dozens of races, where the candidate who spent the most did not win. In fact, I could find, you could find — it’s not hard, go online — you could find races where the candidate spent five times as much, 10 times as much as the ultimate winner, they lost.
It’s not just about money. It’s who’s got the message. Who’s the right candidate. That’s what matters.
Sarabia: But isn’t that a starting point? That if we have some campaign finance reform, that could be part of the whole package to making things fairer and making, perhaps, even changes that you want to see?
Rauner: Far and away, the more impactful, the more beneficial move we could do would be to put term limits on all elected officials. Me, everyone in the General Assembly, all statewide office holders, and do a fair maps redistricting reform. Those two changes would transform democracy and restore good government in Illinois.
On HB40, which would protect abortion rights if Roe v. Wade were overturned and expand taxpayer funding for abortions
Rauner: Critically important: I am pro-choice. I support protecting women’s reproductive rights in the state of Illinois. We have good reproductive rights today in Illinois. We’re one of 17 of the most progressive states in America, and I want to protect existing law. Some people don’t agree with me. They think we should have more restrictions. I think the law in Illinois is good.
I want to support it, I want to protect it, and I always will.
Sarabia: So does that mean you would sign? You won’t veto the law if it came to your desk the way it is now?
Rauner: What we need is to have the “trigger language” — the language that would protect Illinois’ existing law so that irrespective of what happens at the federal level, we protect existing Illinois law for reproductive rights. That’s what I want to sign. I’ve asked them to send me that bill.
The bill that would expand taxpayer funding to take us to a level that only two other states have, I do not believe that’s the right thing to do now. That’s too disruptive. That’s too controversial. That’s not the right thing to do.
Sarabia: Well, why not? You just said you support reproductive rights for all women in Illinois and by vetoing that portion, that could leave out a proportion of women in Illinois.
Rauner: We have very good law in Illinois. It’s been in place for decades. We need to protect it so that irrespective of what happens at the federal level we protect reproductive rights here. And I stand with that and I will support it. Always.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Press the “play” button above to hear the entire segment.