By: Mark Glennon*
Governor Rauner, you know.
You know our fiscal crisis is far worse than you’ve let on since you were elected.
I know you know.
I know you know because I was among your active supporters early in your first campaign some five years ago. [Wirepoints subsequently adopted a policy under which all of us avoid campaign involvement.] Then, you were blunt, crisp and accurate about how broke Illinois was. You weren’t afraid to talk about pensions and other things you now think are politically off limits.
This probably won’t be enough to overcome your fifteen to twenty percent deficit in the polls, but it’s the best thing you can do now for Illinois, your successors and your personal legacy:
Come clean. Go back to the message you launched with five years ago, which worked, but you abandoned it. Tell Illinois how severe its financial problems are, how the forces of politics have driven most elected officials, including you, to deny how drastically the state must act.
The change in you started after you won the primary in 2014, when the professional handlers got hold of you.
Start with your communications people who are so miserably incompetent I’ve seriously wondered whether they are plants working for your opponents. Next, fire your political advisors who have ripped you off for millions. They’re more concerned about their next lobbying and campaign gigs, which accounts for their go-along, get-along impotence.
Then, gather all the press in that big room in the Governor’s Mansion. Let the cameras roll. Tell them all to sit down, get comfortable and listen up.
Speak from your heart. Provide the sort of cold, factual financial assessment you’d have demanded from a CFO of a portfolio company in distress back when you were an investor. Speak like you did five years ago when I heard you often.
Start by saying you haven’t turned out to be a good politician. That’s forgivable. Tell them you haven’t been forthright. That’s not forgivable, but say it. Admit you’ve been wrong that a tax cut would be an easy matter. Tell Illinois why it will take years to restore competitive levels of services and taxes. Feel free to repeat that the other guys, not you, caused most of Illinois’ problems, and that Pritzker has sold Illinois on impossible promises, because that’s all true.
But be very specific on Illinois’ challenges and how everybody has been ducking them. Tell them, for example, that the “consideration model” of pension reform you and Cullerton have been promoting won’t solve much. Explain why property tax rates over three percent aren’t sustainable and must be slashed, not frozen. Detail why our “balanced budgets” are fraudulent, just as you did before you were elected.
Forget the Hail Marys like your new ad using a muddled F-bomb. An Act of Contrition is what you need.
It will earn you at least some forgiveness and the state will be much better for it.
-Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.