CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois' Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, is getting some sharp advice from a GOP predecessor who questions his focus on non-budget reforms and says state government is in the worst shape he's seen in nearly five decades because of partisan gridlock.
Former Gov. Jim Edgar, who ran the state from 1991 to 1999, is pressing Rauner and Democratic leaders to negotiate a spending plan and warned of consequences to higher education, the business climate and social programs. Edgar says Rauner has to be the one to lead the state out of the impasse and not hold the plan "hostage" to other pro-business reforms he wants.
Edgar, an adviser on Rauner's transition team, made the comments last week at a lecture in Chicago and then expanded on them in an interview with The (Springfield) State Journal Register.
Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said Edgar is entitled to his opinions but "structural and fiscal challenges facing the state have been decades in the making and require major reforms to fix."
Here are excerpts from Edgar's lecture and interview:
On the budget:
"We've come to the time where we got to get a budget and we can't hold the budget hostage for other issues," Edgar told University of Illinois at Chicago students. "The governor talks about economic turnaround. I think some of his proposals are good. But I think we have to set priorities and the priority, I believe, is the budget."
On state government:
"An unstable state government — and that's what we have right now, very unstable — is a detriment to economic growth," he told the newspaper. "I mean, folks aren't going to come to this state and make an investment if they think state government's dysfunctional."
"He does not come from government," Edgar told the newspaper. "He doesn't even really come from mainstream business. He comes from (being an) entrepreneur where you buy a business, you tear it apart and you sell it. ... I don't think you're going to tear apart the state and sell it. He might want to, but you can't do that."
On supporting Rauner in the future
"I guess the question is, 'Would I support him next time?'" Edgar told the newspaper. "And I would say, 'I hope so,' but we won't know until we get to that point in history."