Gov. Bruce Rauner said Thursday that he is “very scared” for Illinois residents since Democrats took complete control of state government in the election three weeks ago.
In his first meeting with reporters since his loss to Democrat J.B. Pritzker, Rauner also complained that the General Assembly’s votes to override two of his vetoes could cost the state millions of dollars in additional costs.
Rauner met with the news media in his Capitol office after the General Assembly concluded its veto session. It is only the third public appearance since Rauner lost the election and the first time he’s taken questions from reporters.
”I’ll say this about the election, I’m very scared for the people of Illinois,” Rauner said when asked why he thought voters roundly rejected his bid for a second term. “I believe the folks who put Illinois into a financial quagmire are now back in complete control of government.”
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Rauner predicted that deficit spending, higher taxes, over-regulation and “self dealing” will be the order of the day with Democrats in charge.
”The things that have gotten us in a mess are now going to dominate with no voice pushing back,” he said.
In addition to holding all six statewide elected offices, Democrats also hold supermajorities in both the House and Senate.
Rauner said Thursday was not the day to discuss whether it was a mistake to have made opposition to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, a key component of his campaign and that of other Republican candidates. Rauner said simply, “We worked hard and ran the best campaign that we could and we did not prevail.”
Despite his stated misgivings about the incoming administration, Rauner said his office is “making every effort to make sure the transition is smooth and very effective. It’s the right thing for the people of Illinois.”
Pritzker’s office agreed that the Rauner administration has been cooperating in making a smooth transition of power.
Rauner complained that lawmakers have opened the state to potentially millions of dollars in costs because they voted to override his vetoes of two bills in particular during the veto session. That included a bill to raise the cap on damage awards in the Court of Claims for state negligence from $100,000 to $2 million.
”This is going to be a massive invitation for lawsuits,” Rauner said. “Our taxpayers could be on the hook for many millions, hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The bill was prompted by the deaths that occurred at the Quincy veterans’ home from Legionnaire’s disease. Lawmakers said survivors of the deceased veterans should be entitled to more than $100,000 in damages from the state.
Rauner said the bill was “falsely sold as a Quincy veterans bill” even though it will apply to all lawsuits filed in the Court of Claims.
”I view this as a major sop, a major giveaway to the trial lawyers who are major funders of many legislators’ campaigns,” he said.
Supporters of the bill said that raising the cap doesn’t guarantee that every claim against the state will win or that the maximum amount will be awarded.
Rauner also complained about a bill that says people entering medical facilities like nursing homes are presumed to be eligible for Medicaid benefits until the state determines otherwise.
”That has the likelihood of costing tens of millions and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars that cannot be recouped,” Rauner said. “It is a huge mistake on the part of the General Assembly.”
Rauner had proposed changes to the bill that he said would help control costs. However, the House and Senate voted to reject those changes without any dissenting votes.
Lawmakers passed the bill in the first place because the state is far behind in determining if someone is eligible for Medicaid assistance. They were concerned that nursing homes were assuming costs for patients who should have been covered by Medicaid but weren’t because the state was behind in its work.