“In 2013, annual average unemployment rates declined in 43 states and the District of Columbia, rose in two states, and were unchanged in five states.”
— U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Feb. 28, 2014.
Nobody who lives here can be surprised that moribund Illinois is one of this nation's Wrong-Way Two. We might console fellow loser Massachusetts but for our dark envy: Grim as the Bay State's unemployment rate, it was more than 2 percentage points better than Illinois' sorry average of 9.2 percent for all of 2013. And Illinois today? This state's jobless rate is ... America's third-worst.
Governors don't precisely dictate how much job creation Illinois loses to more hospitable locales. State government does, though, set a tone. And for more than a decade the tone emanating from official Springfield has been a populist, tax-more-to-spend-more hum: Nothing personal, but to keep our political coalitions intact, we've got to keep raising your costs of doing business in this state. Sorry.
That's what happens when so many pols, from both major parties, focus primarily on extending their incumbency — enhancing their clout. Their top priority becomes making sweet with industries, unions, lobbyists and other pals who deliver political money and muscle. Thanks to this chronic pandering — the notorious 67-percent income tax grab included — Illinois' nearly 13 million citizens cannot escape three crises:
Our economy languishes while innovative and bold states around us surge. Our leaders collect more in taxes year after year, yet prefer constant budget strife to paying the bills for all they've spent. Our job growth to strengthen families, communities and future state revenues? Keep murmuring: We're the weaker of The Wrong-Way Two.
Look at how low this state has sunk. Yet, election after election, citizens sabotage their interests: They squander opportunities to reform their government and keep re-electing the Democratic and Republican oligarchs whose cozy relationships suffuse sclerotic Springfield.
Enough. Illinois is in desperate need of a change agent. Disrupting the risk-averse status quo won't be simple or pretty. But voters simply can't expect members of the entrenched political class to make state government spend fewer taxpayer dollars, or to reverse this state's miserable prospects for job growth.
With hope that independence and urgency will achieve what collegiality and timidity profoundly have not, the Tribune Editorial Board today endorses businessman Bruce Rauner as the Republican candidate who is best equipped to be governor of Illinois. We urge voters to nominate him in the March 18 Illinois primary election.
Rauner isn't campaigning to be elected Most Popular Pol, or Warmest Neighbor, or State Teddy Bear. During Wednesday's candidate debate sponsored by the Tribune and WGN-TV, he repeatedly pledged to be a disciplined governor who would "focus like a laser" on Illinois' economic crises and "not get distracted" by other people's issues. His blunt and ubiquitous ads evoke a simple theme: We have to rescue Illinois from broad decline and narrow self-interests.
Among some Illinoisans, Rauner's self-made wealth stirs suspicions and resentments. Among others it attests to his liberation from having to please anyone but voters: He would be a man with nothing to lose, accepting a job he does not need. Worst case, he someday returns to the private sector having tried to influence the cause that for many years has animated his public life: improving public education, especially for children trapped in dead-end schools.
Even Rauner's harshest critics don't doubt his willingness to lower state government's vast overhead and raise efficiency -- hence the frantic endorsements and TV ad spending by public employees unions to keep Rauner off the November ballot. They know that, if Republicans nominate him, he might win the governorship and reduce state spending.
While any of Rauner's opponents — state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford — would be safe and steady choices, their state government knowledge and experience leaves them with a cringe-worthy boast: I can get along with everyone in Springfield.
We do appreciate comity. But we think Rauner would have a much easier time wielding a veto pen. A much easier time saying No to legislative leaders.
Of the four Republicans, Rauner best communicates to citizens the indelible fact that Illinois is broken. If nominated now, in November he would force voters to choose a future for this state:
If that future resembles the failed past, it will feature lawmakers of both parties battling openly over proposed marginal changes to the derelict status quo.
If that future takes this state in a new direction, it will embrace changes wrought by governors of neighboring states with balanced budgets, healthy pension funds and lower unemployment.
The best solution for all that now cripples Illinois would be a jobless rate of 6 percent or less, with more workers bringing home paychecks and contributing tax revenues.
Of the Republicans running for governor, Rauner is the change agent who could best begin to rescue Illinois.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun