No reforms? What about those bill signings?

State Journal Register – 

When Gov. BRUCE RAUNER was in Naperville on Thursday and talked to reporters about a bill he approved concerning police pensions, he made a familiar claim.

Rauner, who often points the finger of blame at House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago, said Madigan had been successful at “breaking the General Assembly to force a tax hike with no reforms whatsoever. …”

I have wondered about Rauner’s repeated claim, in absolute terms, about the lack of reforms, as he has made his way across the state signing bills that sure seem like they contain some of what he wanted.

Take for example his announcement in Urbana on Aug. 9, when he signed Senate Bill 8, described in his news release as “a bipartisan bill that makes the state procurement process more efficient and transparent, thus saving money for Illinois taxpayers.”

“Reforming the procurement process allows more flexibility for vendors,” Rauner was quoted in the release. “Removing red tape will make it easier for small and midsize businesses to bid on state contracts. This is a win for our government agencies, for universities, for businesses and, most importantly, for taxpayers.”

In the budget package itself, there is some pension reform, with elements of a 401(k) style defined contribution program included. The legislation he praised Thursday in Naperville would keep retired police officers from re-entering the pension system a second time if they return as chief or join another force. And in Oak Brook on Aug. 14, he signed Senate Bill 3 and House Bill 607, both of which help enable local officials to consolidate governments. But the headline of that day’s news release also showed he thinks “more action is needed.”

I asked state Sen. DON HARMON, D-Oak Park, chief sponsor of the procurement bill, about the Republican governor’s continued claims of no reform.

“It seems inconvenient for the governor to admit that we enacted significant reform, largely at his direction and request,” Harmon said. “He seems to like playing the victim. He seems to like saying he didn’t get his way, when in fact he got his way on a significant number of bills.”

Harmon added that he and a chief co-sponsor, Sen. PAM ALTHOFF, R-McHenry, negotiated in a bipartisan fashion, and the bill was largely done months ago.

“But the governor didn’t seem to want the reforms when we agreed to them because he wasn’t getting everything he wanted in all other areas,” Harmon said.

Rep. AL RILEY, D-Olympia Fields, House sponsor of the bill, said of Rauner’s claim of no reform: “He does that all the time.”

Riley said he too was involved with bipartisan negotiations on the bill, including having “hearings all over the state,” and the final product eased some restrictions put on state purchasing following excesses seen in the era of now-jailed Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH. The new law combined streamlining with still-needed safeguards, Riley said, and he noted that in its final version, it passed with no one voting against it.

Riley also said Rauner shouldn’t be able to go unchallenged in his own definitions of words such as “reform.”

“Most of the things that he calls reform are things that he wants his way, which really aren’t good for the public,” Riley said. “They may be good for some of his friends in business, or things that don’t help the common person. … It’s not a reform just because he says it’s a reform.”

Riley also takes issue with Rauner claiming to be on the side of “taxpayers” as if “this is an amorphous group of people that just sit back and pay for everything. Members of unions are taxpayers. Teachers are taxpayers.”

Rauner also has been critical of the income-tax increase in the budget, which brought the rate on individuals from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent. But before the budget was passed, Republican lawmakers had presented a package called the Capitol Compromise that they said Rauner agreed with, and it included the same income-tax increase level, but for four years, not permanently. There were of course other things — “reforms” — in that package that the governor also wanted.

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