CRYSTAL LAKE – State Rep. Jeanne Ives is confident she’s the only electable Republican running for governor.
In a nearly 50-minute interview with the Northwest Herald Editorial Board on Monday, Ives called incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner a “crony capitalist” and blamed him for the state’s budget shortfalls.
“Like many Republicans, I helped elect Bruce Rauner in 2014 because I felt like he was going to lead the revolt on behalf of taxpayers against the political ruling class that presides predominantly in Chicago and does all their dirty deeds in Springfield,” Ives said. “Well, it ends up that Bruce Rauner isn’t the reformer we thought he would be.”
Ives is a 53-year-old West Point graduate who served in the U.S. Army from 1987 to 1993. A self-described social conservative, she said Rauner has abandoned Republican principles on abortion and gender issues, and has shown he is not up to the task of leading Republican opposition to the Democratic Party’s agenda.
She pegged Rauner’s greatest offenses as his support for billions in subsidies for power giant Exelon Corp., and the governor’s inability to prevent a third of the Republican Party caucus from voting to permanently raise the state income tax on residents and businesses by more than 30 percent.
“He did nothing to stop that tax increase,” Ives said. “In fact, he signaled early on that he was OK with it. Well, that’s all the opening [House Speaker] Mike Madigan had needed to stick it to him in the end.”
In July, the House voted for a budget plan that included increasing the state income tax by 32 percent on individuals and 33 percent on corporations. Although Rauner vetoed the budget and the tax hike, the Democratic-controlled House and Senate, with help from some Republicans, voted to override him, giving the state its first spending plan in more than two years.
Rauner blasted the state’s most powerful Democrat, Madigan, over the income tax hike passed as part of a deal that ended a more than two-year state budget impasse.
But the governor should have done more to galvanize GOP opposition, Ives said.
“He didn’t hold Republicans together,” Ives said. “He did not make one phone call. He did not actually introduce a balanced budget that we could actually rally around to begin with – he did not lead the revolt and call people in.”
Rauner backed down, Ives said.
“So he didn’t do anything for taxpayers,” Ives said. “He capitulated to Madigan on that instead of standing up.”
Ives labeled Rauner’s latest stance on abortion as the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“No governor – Democrat or Republican – has ever put in, via legislation, taxpayer funding of abortion,” Ives said. “For Republicans, it is just an outrageous thing to think that a Republican governor did this to us.”
In September, Rauner signed legislation allowing state health insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortions – a reversal of the first-term Republican’s stance on the proposal months earlier.
As a candidate, Rauner supported expanding coverage for abortions; but in April, he said he opposed the legislation and Illinois should focus on economic issues. Rauner later signed the bill.
He said that although he’d talked to advocates on both sides, he always supported abortion rights and had to take action consistent with his views.
Ives said Rauner’s signing of the bill violated the 1977 Hyde Amendment, named for Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde. The piece of legislation restricted public funding for abortions to women who are victims of rape or incest, or in cases where pregnancy endangers a mother’s life.
More than two dozen states follow the Hyde Amendment, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group supporting abortion rights. But a state can use the state portion of Medicaid state-federal program funding for women seeking abortions for other reasons.
The issue generated a subplot when Rauner signed the plan. Rauner, a private equity investor, ran for governor in 2014 supporting abortion rights and maintaining that he had no social agenda.
“No governor should start a brand-new entitlement program in a state that is bankrupt,” Ives said. “The state of Illinois is technically bankrupt. We owe more than we own. We spend more than we take in. You’re bankrupt when you do that.”
The primary election is March 20.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.