Governor Bruce Rauner said Democrats and Republicans need to work together to move the state forward. But a lack of trust in the shadow of an election year and the governor's own remarks seem to make that less likely.
In his State of the State Address Wednesday, Rauner mentioned Illinois needs to become more job friendly and restore the public's trust.
"It takes a collaborative effort. A forget about the politics and roll up our sleeves kind of approach," he said.
Some heard a positive tone that can help rebuild trust under the statehouse dome.
"I took it as very upbeat," Senator Bill Brady, the top Senate Republican said afterward. "A willingness to set the past aside."
Yet during the same address, Rauner called for prohibiting lawmakers from working as property tax attorneys -- which most viewed as a dig at Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan whose law firm is prominent in that field.
The Speaker responded with a written statement which described the proposal as an attempt to score "cheap political points." He went on to write that it may be best if the governor "continues sitting on the sidelines" pretending he is not in charge. Rauner had long claimed he is unable to reform government because of Madigan's control.
Other Democrats talked about previous attempts to work with the governor. They pointed to an effort to end the budget stalemate last year, known as the grand bargain. Negotiators on both sides of the aisle tried to hammer out a plan, but Rauner was blamed for pulling the plug. Later, some in the GOP sided with Democrats to pass a budget and tax increase over Rauner’s objections.
"Springfield is the art of compromise. It's the art of sitting down and getting to the goal line. And to get there you need a chief executive who is willing to do the heavy lifting. He is not," said Lou Lang, a Skokie House Democrat.
Rauner repeated familiar themes in his speech. He talked of rolling back taxes and indicated a balanced budget plan he’ll introduce this month will show the way to digging the state out of its fiscal problems.
"We cannot tax and borrow our way into prosperity,” Rauner said. “We can and must grow our way into a more prosperous future. We all know the people of Illinois are taxed out."
But there are plenty of skeptics considering Illinois still has billions of dollars in overdue bills. They add they can’t foresee how the governor’s priorities, including more money for schools, can be achieved if he trims revenue.
“How does the governor intend to pay for his deficit spending, that is in fact now making him the highest deficit spending governor in the history of the state of Illinois," said Susana Mendoza, the Democratic Comptroller for Illinois.
It wasn’t just Democrats to Rauner’s address, and for that matter his full tenure as governor.
Fellow Republican Wheaton State Representative Jeanne Ives is running against Rauner during the primary for governor.
“I did not see enough specifics in his address today that left us in any better condition than we are right now as a state that is bankrupt."
Ives argues the past three years have proven Rauner to be an ineffective leader.
Another Republican, Representative John Cabello of Machesney Park, told a Rockford television station that Rauner should resign.
The Governor will be back before a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly Feb. 14 for his budget address.