Credit: Photo by Grace Donnelly

Under Gov. Bruce Rauner, Illinois now has the highest unemployment rate in the nation.

The record is quite clear.  Before Rauner, the state’s jobless rate was “in the middle of the pack” among states, and unemployment was going down, said Frank Manzo IV of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute.  Since Rauner came into office, unemployment has gone up in Illinois while it’s continued to drop nationally.

The lack of a budget ­– which is the defining feature of Rauner’s governorship – is certainly a factor, Manzo said.

“Businesses value certainty and they want to have confidence that the places where they’re doing business will be able to provide essential services and provide education and higher education so they can get the skilled workers they need,” he said.

Another factor: The budget impasse is really going to cost future taxpayers, Manzo said. Today’s unpaid bills will have to paid, someday, by somebody. “If you’re a business, if you’re a worker or a family, you’re noticing that.  You’re going to bear the burden of the mistakes that are being made now.  And the cost of inaction going forward gets compounded, and the tax rates will only have to go higher if we don’t do something about it now.”

Rauner appears to think the pain caused by the budget impasse is worth it: If he can bust unions, reduce wages, cut public services, drive state retirees into penury and perhaps drive Chicago Public Schools into bankruptcy, he’ll create a capitalist wonderland where the magic of free enterprise will take care of everything.

Manzo thinks the past year and a half constitute “a great case study” for the idea that “lower taxes and fewer government services are the key to spurring the economy.”  Tax rates are down, public universities and private social agencies are cutting back – and unemployment is steadily going up.

Now it looks like the case study will continue, with House Democrats for the second year passing a spending plan with no new revenue. Rauner and Republican legislators agree new revenue is needed – an income tax boost and a sales tax expansion are starting points, along with closing tax loopholes – but won’t sign on without “reforms” they know are unacceptable to the other side of the aisle.

I’m not sure what choice the Democrats had. They could have passed a full budget, but couldn’t override a subsequent gubernatorial veto which would open them to attacks in the coming election. They could toss Rauner a bone from his agenda; reducing access to workers’ comp is often cited here though in other states such changes have driven injured workers into poverty, and here they seem to have lined insurance companies’ pockets rather than reducing premiums for businesses.

And it would have encouraged Rauner to hold the budget hostage again next year for more trickle-down “reforms,” which would likely just depress the economy further.

As a wealthy businessman and non-politician, Rauner has been impervious to pressure.  He and his billionaire friends Ken Griffin and Sam Zell can easily fund his reelection campaign along with any number of legislative candidates.  Other business leaders and Republican elders trying to talk sense to Rauner about the need for a budget have gotten nowhere.

Plus, God bless him, he’s a true believer, and damn the consequences.  He’s not worried about his personal political fortune (his financial fortune being an entirely different matter).  He’s willing to go down burning.

And he seems to be willing to take the state down with him.

Curtis is an opinion writer for The Chicago Reporter.

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  1. This guy is the worst governor of Illinois that I’ve seen in my lifetime. Ryan, Blago, and Thompson were corrupt, but they got stuff done. This jerk can’t even get a budget passed.

    1. I realized I am a bit late on reading this article and in my reply, but do you realize that these former Governors didn’t get anything done to right the way of Illinois. They just continued the scheme. Things are really, really bad in Illinois. I don’t think the majority of people truly grasp how bad things are and in my believe, it cannot be fixed; certainly not through more taxation, the gap is too big.

  2. Manzo is a Madigan ass-kisser . Every single economic woe Illinois is enduring is on the non-existent conscious of Sith Lord Madigan. Rauner is a bandage on a severed head. Illinois can’t recover.

  3. Governor Rauner is trying to fix Illinois by making Illinois competitive with other states in terms of business practices, regulations and the salary and benefits of state employees. The unions have bought and paid for their elected officials and they in turn have given them outstanding pay and benefits, way above most other states and certainly above the average Illinois worker in the private sector. This type of article will only help to continue the cycle that has brought Illinois to be the laughing stock of the country.

    1. I don’t want to “competitive” with Texas, Kansas, Mississippi, and Wisconsin.

      I want to be better.

      Following their path will only lead to low wages and more welfare spending.

      1. Maybe this will help…Imagine you’re on the deck with Kate Winslet but you’re playing Leonardo’s role. Iceberg has already been hit but in this case you have a choice, you can climb aboard another ship.

        This ship is going down…take a hard look at the state’s financial situation and it didn’t start with Madigan…

    2. The powers that be, viz., Democrat legislatures were crafting ways and means to Banckrupt the state and crush the constituents

  4. Yes, everything was rosy before Rauner came along. The unsustainability of Illinois’ past policies and pensions was papered over. He is the first to expose the gangrene that unattended will make Chicago into the new Detroit.

    1. Everything wad not rosy before Governor Rauner. The volcano wsd etching to a blast. The state finantially wasbeaming at the seams about to explode due to mismanagement and chronism

  5. Governor Tantrum can’t do anything unless he is willing to work with the Statehouse. His office has not been granted plenary powers under the constitution. If the billionaires around Bruce want to buy the state, they are going to have to offer me something other than I’m going to have to work harder so things get easier for them.

  6. Really? You’re going to blame Rauner when Madigan is behind all of this. God Illinois Democrats need to wake up and see where the problem is, but they never will. Get rid of Madigan and implement term limits and Illinois will turn around. Get rid of the cancer which is Chicago politics.

    1. You are right on. I am a Democrat who supports parts of the governor’s turnaround agenda. It may be crushing but it is the best solution

      1. Thank you for replying for the positive. Both parties have their people who follow blindly. I’m conservative but some of my party old timers I would love to hang them and be done.

  7. Looks like the clueless ifiot who wrote this doesnt realize that Rauner didnt put us in this massive debt problem! Illinois is about $90 billion in the hole in pensions. Cook county is about $50 billion in the hole. People like this dolt writing this article need to see who really put us here!

      1. Thanks for proving your ignorance by reading the total BS from those reports. I know people on the inside and they are $90 billion in the hole! The US is not $18 trillion in debt. We are $21.5 trillion as of the end of 2015. Rauner looked over the books with his experts and there hasnt been a real budget since the early 90s. You liberals dont get it. Illinois is the worse state. Between the state and chicagos pensions we are broke. Quit listening to the lying politicians!

      1. The link below is a LIE! I know people in the Illinois government and the figures they put out are padded to make things look better than they are. Illinois is BILLIONS in the hole for pensions. Soon there will be a problem. Why do you think they want pension reform? We will go the way of Detroit.

        1. I see you are one of those self fathomed conspiracy cracks. Why would they specifically do that to ILLINOIS?!

          1. No I have friends in the government you moron. They are getting worried about their own pensions. Their only fix to this is keep raising taxes. Thats exactly what Quinns plan was. Rauner wants to balance the budget which hasnt been in 25 years. They looked over all the financials. Liberals like you do NOT get it! Just like our national debt and unemployment. The REAL debt is $22 trillion and the REAL unemployment figures are 15%! You need to quit listening to the lying biased media! And reading liberal figures. You dont get how much trouble we are in financially!

          2. The national debt has been and will be paid IN FULL by 2052. The type of person like you refuse the truth because you want terrible things to happen to this country. Do you believe in the earth blowing up in a few centuries and or Illinois becoming Detroit 2.0? You must have a love for destruction as all republicans think and want the USA to end up in chaos. The “lying biased” media just wants to make things BETTER. You are the type to try to make it worse because you want and like it that way!

          3. LMFAO! You have NO clue about economics. We can barely pay the interest on our debt! We actually have to BORROW money to pay part of the interest. Our national debt will NOT be paid by 2052. Have no idea where you got that stupid comment from. We are borrowing money like crazy just to keep up with everything. You have to be liberal. Liberals dont get where the state of this country is right now. Matter of fact where the world is. Only strong economy that will actually grow is India.

            And thats another reason why you are clueless loser liberal. You have to make up lies about others to hide your stupidity. I dont want the country to end up in chaos! But Obama is doing that just fine right now. He lies about our real unemployment figures. He lies about the debt. He has divided this country more than I have ever seen it. And he LIES about his religion! He IS muslim! My brother in law did his garage door in Hyde Park before he was senator and caught him praying like a muslim on his living room floor. And no, the media does NOT want to make things better. They lie and hide all the problems Obama has created. This is a fact! You liberals sit there and complain about the conservatives being for the rich…. WRONG! Obama has made the rich richer and the poor poorer! Our middle class has dwindled away more than any time under Obama. Sorry you are brainwashed….but this country is in a major mess. Did you hear Alan Greenspan recently? He came right out and said we are in a crisis! He said if we dont do something soon this country is in trouble! Keep ignoring the facts!

          4. What you just said made me sick to my stomach from the stupidity. What does Obama’s religion have to do with anything? If anything Obama makes America better because of him being a Muslim. We’ve probably never had a president of such prestige.

            Illinois is in their hole because traditionalists such as yourself cannot face reality and still think it’s the early 1900s. Wake up. The whole reason why this country even is in debt is because you conservative screw heads take the hard earned tax money and reserves and use it up on long term outdated contracts! Not to mention phoning it in for yourselves. What about the much needed welfare spending, healthcare, pensions, retirement, and even social agendas? But no. That stuff doesn’t matter because only being able to see one viewpoint, the one overseeing your own life, is enough for all of you. The country will experience a renaissance when you all are finally annexed from your silly investments! If you really want to see who’s brainwashed, look no further than the mirror.

          5. I really dont care if I make a stupid liberal like you sick to your stomach.I am telling you the FACTS! I am showing you that he lies about everything! Just like Hillary! Obama is NOT making america better you moron! He has divided this country like never before! He has racked up more debt than all of the president combined! Doubled them actually! We are in trouble! You dont get it!

            Wow I can tell you are a socialistic clueless liberal. No Illinois is in the hole because the last 25 years liberals have NOT balanced the budget. You are too stupid to get that the over spending and not budgeting is going to ruin it for people who really need the welfare and help! Its is going to ruin the pension system. Its going to ruin the healthcare system! Obamacare is a $160 billion failure. Peoples rates have gone from $100 a month when it first started to $1000 for many people. These are facts! I know a lot of people on Obamacare and they cant afford it anymore. Even their biggest insurance company backed out. Didnt hear about that did you? You are too busy listening to lies. The more I read your posts the more I realize you are on some type of welfare sucking from all the people who really want to work! Socialism doesnt work moron! Read about other countries. You clueless libs think its free. No! You pay for it one way or another. It keeps people slaves to the government. But you dont get this. You are too busy sucking from hard working americans!

  8. …..The steadily rising tide of A.I. robots will be enforcing a permanently high human unemployment rate coming soon to a decade near you. Among a number of hybrid or innovative solutions to meet this certainty,…. the economic adjustments will have to include a guaranteed annual income…. It’s either that or the dark side flavors of soylent green……

  9. Half truths. Illinois has had the highest unemployment rate even before rauner.

    You need to lay this at the feet of the legislature that will not work except to take money from the people they are elected to serve.

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