Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner on Thursday accused Democrats ruling Springfield of not having a plan to deal with the state’s shaky finances, even as he promised to provide his own proposal “in due time,” “at the right time,” "long before the election” and “soon.”
Rauner, who has made similar pledges on a variety of key issues facing Illinois during his 15 months on the campaign trail, occasionally brushed off with nervous laughter questions from reporters pressing for details of his tax and spending plans after an appearance before a group of Chinatown business executives.
Earlier this week, Rauner accused Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and the Democratic legislative majority of “playing political games” with the issue of making permanent the 2011 income tax increase that is set to roll back in January and basing a preliminary budget that included revenues from the levy before the tax hike had been made permanent.
Rauner has campaigned on allowing the income tax hike to roll back as scheduled and is paying for automated telephone calls to voters in the districts of Democratic lawmakers urging opposition to making the tax increase permanent.
But the Republican governor hopeful also has said he would not provide details of an alternative until after lawmakers had adjourned their spring legislative session, set for month’s end.
Asked by reporters Thursday for details on his own proposal for a state budget — without the estimated $4 billion in annual revenue the tax hike would provide — Rauner repeatedly said specific plans were in the works.
“We will be coming out with our plans and our recommendations long, long before the election and the voters will have a clear choice,” the Republican nominee said.
Asked what was taking him so long to give specifics on how to deal with the long-scheduled elimination of the tax hike, Rauner said, “We will be coming out with our plan in due time — long before the general election” on Nov. 4.
Asked what “due time” meant, Rauner replied, “At the right time.”
“To be clear, we’re going to be coming out with a plan on taxes and in spending in due time, at the right time, and long before the election,” he said.
Rauner did not directly respond when asked if Republicans, a minority in the General Assembly, would benefit at the end of session from knowing the budget agenda of their governor nominee.
Asked about his credibility in repeatedly promising detailed plans regarding such major issues as the state’s finances and unfunded pension liability, Rauner did not respond but fielded a question on a different topic. Rauner sought to shift attention from his lack of detail to Quinn and Democrats who control the state House and Senate in Springfield.
On Wednesday, House Speaker Michael Madigan shifted gears and ordered up a budget plan that does not include revenues from making the income tax permanent in an effort to generate more votes to back extending the levy. Madigan has said there are only 34 Democratic House votes supporting an extension of the tax, with 60 of his 71 majority members needed for approval. He previously led approval of a spending plan that had included maintaining the current tax rate.
“Our legislature and our governor are failing the people. They are in a taxing and spending mode, they’re breaking their promises, they’re breaking their word,” Rauner said of the 2011 tax hike that Quinn and Democratic leaders want to make permanent.
“They could do a budget. They could do a plan. They’re not,” Rauner said. “And here’s the issue, they’re dodging, weaving. They don’t have a plan. They’re not getting things done. They’re not driving results. We will.”
Here is a partial transcript of the Rauner exchange with reporters:
Q: The other day you referred to Democrats in Springfield as using the budget for political football. You are doing robocalls out to various districts telling people to vote no. You have not presented any kind of alternative plan and you say you are not going to do that until after the legislature is gone home. Aren’t you playing political football...Don't you feel responsibility to say where you actually do stand so that Republicans in the General Assembly might have an idea what you actually stand for, specifically.
RAUNER: We will be coming out with our plans and our recommendations long, long before the election and the voters will have a clear choice.
Q: What’s taking so long? Because you’ve been running for 15 months. You know what the problems were. You knew that the tax is going to expire in 2015 as scheduled as you propose. What is taking so long? Who are these experts by name that you are working with?
RAUNER: We will be coming out with our plan in due time, long before the General Election.
Q: What is due time?
RAUNER: At the right time…
Q: What’s the right time? You've said this for months?
RAUNER: (Laughs) OK, I understand, next question.
Q: When are you going to tell us what you’re for instead of against?
RAUNER: (Laughs) Soon.
Q What is soon? Seriously? This is what everybody's saying. You’re ducking the question. What tax rate would you agree to?
RAUNER: As I’ve been clear throughout, we will come out with a plan, both on tax policy and tax plan as well as a spending plan.
Q: What they're going to do in the next two week, you're going to have to live with next year if you win the election. So don't you have a responsibility to weigh in, to explain to voters and to politicians what you think you want them to do?
RAUNER: I’ve been clear. I want them not to extend this temporary income tax.
Q: What you want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do?
RAUNER: (Laughs) To be clear, we’re going to be coming out with a plan on taxes and in spending in due time, at the right time, and long before the election.
Q: Will that come with your pension plan, too, that you've promised?
RAUNER: (Laughs) We’ll have a pension plan, an education plan, a transportation plan.
Q: Why should anyone believe this after hearing it month after month? Aren’t you shortchanging the voters?
RAUNER: (No response).