Have you seen Gov. Bruce Rauner lately?
Sure you have. It’s been hard to miss those TV ads in which the plaid-wearing executive chides lawmakers for their “duct tape” spending solutions.
And last week, with the Legislature on spring recess, the first-term GOP governor was crisscrossing the state on a two-day tour. He delivered stump speeches and had photo ops at restaurants and businesses in Chicago, Springfield, Quincy and Champaign. Two weeks ago, he was in Decatur.
So is Rauner campaigning?
He insists no, saying the tour, which was funded by his campaign, “has nothing to do with the election” in November 2018.
We’re not that naïve.
We think the whole thing highlights what’s fundamentally backwards about how the budget impasse is being handled by our elected officials. Rauner is on a PR blitz instead of what he should be doing full time – working with Democratic lawmakers to find common ground.
We’ve been supportive of Rauner, especially his calls for property tax relief, term limits and workers' compensation reform, which are all needed to get this state back on track.
He’s a smart, fiscally responsible chief executive who made millions in the private sector, and does a good job connecting with local voters. He speaks their language.
But we fear the budget chaos that’s been festering for almost two years continues to force the governor to wade into water that’s contrary to his “outsider” image.
He’s taking the message to the people instead of working with lawmakers on the down and dirty details and hammering some mutual understanding with nemesis House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.
Consider those TV ads. They were purchased by the Republican Governors Association, a Washington group that’s funded in part by billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch.
The spots are airing in the Chicago, Champaign-Springfield, Rockford, Quad-Cities and Peoria-Bloomington markets. The Herald & Review last week reported $95,115 was spent on ads in Decatur alone.
That’s a lot of money to convey the message that the governor is the one trying to help the state.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, one of several the governor could face a year from November, said Rauner is "putting politics ahead of doing his job."
We’re not sure it’s as black and white as that. But it is clear the fine line between governing and campaigning is getting less and less clear. Such sideline campaigning muddies the water when finding a budget solution should be goal number one.
Instead of talking with one another, our elected officials continue to talk past each other.
Something’s got to give.