Cutting government spending is not the way to win the hearts of constituents.
That might be the lesson in a new poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, which finds that the approval rating for Gov. Bruce Rauner, just months into the Republican’s first term, stands at 36.5 percent.
“The governor is making some tough and controversial decisions and that’s reflected in the sizable number of people who aren’t happy with him,” said David Yepsen, director of the Simon Institute.
Lyndsey Walters, a spokeswoman for Rauner, said: “After years of mismanagement, insider deals and financial recklessness, Gov. Rauner is making the difficult decisions needed to bring back Illinois. Gov. Rauner will judge his performance by his ability to fix the state’s broken finances, get Illinoisans well-paying jobs and give students better access to high-quality schools.”
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There were 31.4 percent who either strongly or somewhat disapproved and 23.1 percent who had no opinion about the newly-elected Republican chief executive. The poll of 1,000 registered voters was taken Feb. 28 to March 10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The state’s budget for the current fiscal year, which ends in June, has a shortfall of about $1.6 billion, due to Democrats approving a spending plan prior to the November election that didn’t include enough money to cover expenses. They had planned to return after the election to pass an extension of a temporary income tax increase that was scheduled to roll back on Jan. 1, but Rauner’s win over Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn put that plan on hold.
Rauner says raising taxes isn’t the answer and will hurt economic growth. He wants legislators to give him broad authority to move money and make cuts.
The state faces a more than $6 billion shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. Rauner’s proposed budget for the new fiscal year would cut more than $1 billion from Medicaid, slash in half the amount of tax revenue the state gives to municipalities and reduce funding on everything from higher education to public transportation. Cities, interest groups and agencies that get state funds have been sounding the alarm.
Rauner saw his highest job approval ratings downstate, where 43.3 percent either approved or somewhat approved and only 26.7 percent disapproved or somewhat disapproved. In the Chicago suburbs, 34.6 percent approved and 32.2 percent disapproved of his performance.
Rauner’s lowest level of support was in Chicago, where 36.5 disapproved and 31 percent approved.
Partisanship is also strongly evident in Rauner’s job approvals. He enjoys the approval of 60.6 percent of Republicans, with only 10.3 percent who disapprove or somewhat disapprove. This is followed by 36.7 percent of Independents who approve and 32.7 percent who disapprove or somewhat disapprove. There are 46.1 percent of Democrats who disapprove or somewhat disapprove while only 24.2 percent approve or somewhat approve of the governor’s job performance so far.
Another new poll, conducted by Ogden & Fry for The Illinois Observer, found Rauner’s approval rating at 40 percent.
Ogden & Fry pollster Tom Swiss attributed Rauner's weakening standing with voters to the reception of his proposed budget for fiscal 2016.
“Bruce Rauner has continued his aggressive government reforms from his ‘turnaround budget’ to reducing by half municipalities’ share of the state income tax,” Swiss wrote in the polling memo. “Gov. Rauner's vision of fiscal discipline is being met with heated rhetoric from local politicians, Democrats, and the media.”