Newly-inaugurated Illinois governor Bruce Rauner is the state’s first Republican governor in 12 years. In a state suffering the worst fiscal crisis of any in the Union, save perhaps California, the billionaire businessman is expected to restore sound principles to state management. Yet in his first “State of the State” address, Rauner failed to mention the words “pension,” “debt,” or “deficit”–and focused on other issues, including labor union reform and a proposed minimum wage hike to $10.
There were some conservative ideas–workers’ compensation reform; greater local control of property tax rates and revenues; “right to work” laws “giving local government employees the ability to decide for themselves whether they want to join a union”; and limits on some union political contributions. But proposals for fiscal reform were absent. Instead, Gov. Rauner proposed new spending on prisons and education.
The politics of the minimum wage hike are favorable in President Barack Obama’s home state. Still, conservatives have contended that raising the minimum wage actually reduces job opportunities for the most vulnerable workers. Gov. Rauner spoke at length in his speech about how Illinois has driven jobs out of the state in recent years, and pledged to reverse that trend, but did not seem to acknowledge the ways in which a higher minimum wage might make that problem worse.
Elsewhere, Gov. Rauner sounded other liberal-leftist themes–including, bizarrely, a focus on race. He complained that “80% of individuals in Illinois apprenticeship programs are white even though Caucasians make up fewer than 63% of our population.” To correct that supposed problem, Rauner proposed a new state regulation to “require unions that contract with the state to have their apprenticeship programs reflect the demographics of Illinois communities.”
For a reformist governor, it was a mixed start.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak