In his first press conference since losing re-election, Gov. Bruce Rauner said he was “scared” for where the state of Illinois is headed and he criticized a bill approved over his veto that could increase the payout to 12 families suing the state for negligence over the deaths of their loved ones at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy.
“I’m very scared for the people of Illinois,” Rauner said of the Democrats’ success in the November election. “Deficit spending, tax increasing, over-regulating, self-dealing — the things that have gotten us into a mess are now going to be dominant with no voice pushing back.”
Rauner’s Democratic opponent, JB Pritzker, won election with 54 percent of the vote. Democrats also retained control of the Illinois House and Senate, and in fact gained seats in both chambers.
In addressing reporters Thursday, Rauner also spoke out against some pieces of legislation that lawmakers passed over Rauner’s vetoes. In particular, he singled out a bill that would raise the caps on legal payouts for anyone who sues the state.
“Now, the incentive for the trial bar, the plaintiffs bar, to go look for problems, challenge, try to find problems, sue — the risk-reward for them to spend some time proactively suing now that the balance is on the side of, ‘Yeah, go ahead and sue.’”
The push to raise the limit from $100,000 to $2 million came after 11 families sued the state for neglect in the deaths of their loved ones at the Quincy veterans’ home who died during a 2015 Legionnaires’ outbreak. A twelfth lawsuit — filed earlier this year — stemmed from a 2017 Legionnaires’ death at the same home.
Rauner had used his amendatory veto in August to move the cap up to $300,000, far short of the $2 million adopted by lawmakers.
WBEZ has been investigating the state’s response to the Legionnaires’ outbreaks for the past year. The Illinois attorney general opened a criminal investigation into the matter. Nobody has been charged with wrongdoing. Rauner has denied his office or administration have been neglectful in the handling of the outbreaks.
Illinois’ $100,000 cap on Court of Claims judgments had been in place since 1972 and was the lowest in America, tied with five other states, according to the American Association for Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing trial lawyers.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois state government and politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.