Gov. Bruce Rauner is taking the big picture into consideration when it comes to the state's finances.
Years ago, when Republican Gov. Jim Edgar held office, he earned the enmity of Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and other legislative Democrats.
What was Edgar's sin, aside from being a member of the other party? He vetoed bills that authorized the spending of money the state didn't have.
Mightily offended by that novel concept, Democrats tried to make political hay of Edgar's vetoes. They called him "Gov. No," suggesting that Edgar was unalterably opposed to doing good — and expensive — things for the people of Illinois.
Actually, it wasn't that at all. Edgar knew that reckless spending, however politically advantageous in the short term, wouldn't do anyone a favor. It would, instead, turn the state's finances upside down and generate the kind of budget chaos that paralyzes the government's ability to carry out its core functions.
As a matter of fact, what Edgar feared most — although he probably never thought that the state's finances could get so bad — is what Illinois has now — financial disaster across the board.
Some people, of course, never learn. This being an election year, Democrats are running the same play they ran against Edgar. Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker slightly revised the language. He's not calling Gov. Rauner "Gov. No." Instead, he's chosen "Gov. Veto."
"Governor Veto is on a roll, nullifying bill after bill that would benefit working families," he said.
Pritzker cited a list of bills Rauner vetoed that he, apparently, happily would have signed. Of course, if a Democrat was governor, it's not clear the Democratic legislature would have passed some of these bills. Politicians of both parties have been known to pass bills with the expectation that a governor of the opposite party would veto them and that the veto could be used against the governor in an election campaign.
Among the bills Rauner vetoed was one that would raise minimum teacher pay to $40,000, an unfunded mandate that had local school superintendents screaming bloody murder because their districts don't have the money. No one begrudges teachers a decent salary. At the same time, few dispute the reality that money intended to be used to pay higher salaries has to be available to be spent.
Another veto concerned legislation that would increase the state's liability from $100,000 to $2 million for individuals injured while under the state's care. It's an outgrowth of the Legionnaire's disease contagion at a veteran's home in Quincy.
Once again, there's the question of what the state can afford. In his veto message, Rauner said "the current law is outdated and in need of adjustment," but that $2 million is too high. If legislators really wanted a bill Rauner might sign, Madigan and his minions might have passed a more reasonable increase. Kentucky caps claims at $250,000, Missouri at $300,000 and Indiana at $700,000.
Pritzker, of course, again denounced Rauner.
There's no disgrace in being "Gov. Veto," just as there was no disgrace in being "Gov. No."
Rauner is showing he has the courage to take the big picture into consideration — what can the state do with the resources it has? Judging from his rhetoric, Pritzker is indicating he'll sign whatever the Democratic-controlled Legislature sends him, which is what helped put Illinois into its current state of effective bankruptcy.
-- The (Champaign) News-Gazette