Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn went on the attack against Gov. Bruce Rauner Thursday night, slamming him over the six-month-old budget impasse and his "anti-worker" turnaround agenda.
Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn came out swinging Thursday night against Gov. Bruce Rauner, saying in an interview with Progress Illinois that the Republican is "failing" at governing the state, which has been without a budget for more than six months.
Quinn called the ongoing budget impasse "very disappointing."
"I think it all begins and ends with arithmetic," he said following an Equality Illinois PAC event in Chicago celebrating the group's mission of electing pro-LGBT equality candidates to state and local offices. "You've got to have enough revenue to equal your expenditures. And I think that's the first job of the governor is to propose a budget that has adequate revenue to pay for the important expenditures of, not only education, but health care and housing and public safety and social services. So that's, you know, a real failing of Bruce Rauner."
Quinn, a Democrat, said it has been "hard to watch" what has "happened to the state budget" since Rauner took office exactly one year ago this past Tuesday. The former governor expressed concern over the budget impasse's impact on services, including the Monetary Award Program (MAP), which helps low-income Illinois students pay for tuition at state colleges and universities.
"Millionaires in Illinois in this past year got three-quarters of a billion dollars in tax cuts," Quinn said. "Meanwhile, 130,000 students got cuts in their ... scholarship for tuition, so it seems very unjust to me that the state is not acting on behalf of people who are trying to get a good education. ... The biggest cost right now in America is not credit card debt. It's college loan debt. So if we can help somebody with a scholarship, it seems to me that we ought to do that, and for the governor to stand in the way is shameful."
Rauner and Democratic lawmakers remain at odds over a budget for the 2016 fiscal year, which began July 1. Rauner is trying to use the budgeting process to win items on his pro-business "turnaround agenda," which, among other things, seeks to curb the power of unions.
Quinn said Rauner's turnaround agenda is "anti-worker."
"People should have the right to have collective bargaining and to have a union. It's been the key to having a middle class in America and in Illinois," Quinn said. "To try to take a sledgehammer to the right to organize and have a union, it causes great harm to everyday people. And I think that it's not a turnaround agenda. It's an agenda to harm the middle class in our state."
The Democrat also accused Rauner of being dishonest with voters about his budget plans when he was a gubernatorial candidate.
"From the day he announced [his run] for governor, he wasn't honest about the budget and because of that ... people have been put in a bad situation by a governor who won't lead," Quinn said.
Asked whether he has any plans to run in the next Illinois gubernatorial election, Quinn said he's currently interested in grassroots organizing.
"I'm not too interested in candidacy campaigns and [all] that. I'm interested in petitions and referendums. That's what I got started on when I started in Illinois politics 40 years ago. We did the petition drive that set up the Citizens Utility Board. So I'd like to do a referendum in Illinois this year, at least in the Chicago area. That gives people a chance to open up the government to more citizen participation."
"There's a lot of work to be done. This is the year to get it done," he added. "We can't let someone who stands in the way of progress, Bruce Rauner, stop the people of Illinois from getting progressive, fair government. And I want to say to the 130,000 students who are looking for their scholarship that they were promised, but it's being denied by the governor, that we're not gonna take that sitting down. We've gotta organize."
Quinn also weighed in on the growing controversy over police misconduct in Chicago that has Mayor Rahm Emanuel facing calls for his resignation.
"I think there needs to be a comprehensive overhaul of the whole Chicago government so that everyone in Chicago is treated with dignity and justice, and there's a ways to go before that's done," Quinn said.
Asked whether he thinks that overhaul should include the mayor's office, Quinn stopped short of saying Emanuel should resign. The former governor said he supports giving voters the ability to recall elected officials across Illinois, including Chicago's mayor. Illinois currently has a mechanism for recalling governors, which is a measure that was approved during the Quinn administration.
"I believe more in the power of having a recall," Quinn said. "I think that's the democratic way to do it, at the ballot box. That's what I got done for governor. I think we ought to do it for every office."