Morning Spin: Rauner's improbable fundraising pitch: Balanced budget without tax hike
The speculation at the Capitol held that if the state’s budget impasse continues through next year’s election, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner will campaign on the fact that he blocked Democrats from hiking taxes.
End the speculation. Cue the campaign.
In a fundraising letter sent to Republican supporters from the governor’s campaign, Rauner says: “Speaker Mike Madigan and the Springfield Democrats REFUSE TO FIX our state. Illinois taxpayers deserve a balanced budget WITHOUT any tax increases.”
That’s a sharp contrast to what the governor previously has said, including his acknowledgment that the state needs more revenue as well as spending cuts to achieve a balanced budget. (He's not alone in that view — leading Democrats have said the same. The shortfall is just too big.)
Of course, Rauner has made as a precondition for approving a tax hike his list of “structural reforms” (previously known as his “turnaround agenda”), which include a property tax freeze, changes to workers' compensation, term limits for politicians and a plan to take much of the politics out of the drawing of legislative districts. Those demands have met with opposition from Madigan and the Democratic-controlled legislature, leading to the stalemate.
“In the midst of the ongoing budget impasse in Springfield, I don’t normally have time to write personal letters like this but I urgently need to hear back from you ASAP,” Rauner said in the form letter addressed to “Dear Fellow Taxpayer” and marked “Personal & Confidential, Urgent Reply Requested, Please Respond in 7 Days.”
In the letter, Rauner calls himself “the only leader in Springfield standing between Illinois and more job-killing, taxpayer-crushing policies!!”
“I’ve fought tooth and nail to bring back Illinois because I’m sick and tired of career politicians who are more concerned with taking care of their special interest allies than families like yours,” he wrote.
While most fundraising appeals start at the low-dollar end to generate at least a few bucks, Rauner — a wealthy former private equity investor who put $50 million into his re-election campaign in December — isn’t shy.
“Now, facing what could be the most expensive governor’s race in Illinois history, I urgently need you to consider partnering with my campaign with your most generous PLEDGE OF SUPPORT of $2,000, $1,000, $500 or $250 today,” Rauner wrote.
“Make no mistake: Illinois has come too far to allow Mike Madigan to install yet another liberal puppet in the Governor’s Mansion he can pull the strings on,” he wrote.
Rauner contended that “every tax-and-spend liberal in Springfield and nearly every liberal newspaper have called on me to capitulate to Mike Madigan’s demands, raise taxes on you and your family with no reforms to show for it, and pass yet another un-balanced budget.”
“I refuse to pass the buck to the next generation,” the governor wrote, adding that “after doing my level best not to fundraise for the last two years, I’m reaching out to request your immediate support.”
Rauner, who spent nearly $28 million of his own money in defeating then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in 2014, added a P.S. to his letter: “I won my first campaign for governor of Illinois on the promise to Shake Up Springfield — and delivered.”
By the way, don’t expect those ads featuring Rauner and a roll of duct tape to stop anytime soon. A report on cable TV ad buys shows the commercials running through at least the end of April. The ads are being paid for by an affiliate of the Republican Governors Association. (Rick Pearson)