Susana Mendoza, our state’s Comptroller, has emerged as one of Bruce Rauner’s most vocal opponents. And she wasn’t impressed with yesterday’s budget speech. She also tells us that she’s still strongly in JB’s corner, and she thinks the Quinn/Hampton mess has taught Speaker Madigan some lessons. “I think this is a…he’s had better days, put it that way,” she tells us.
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You can read full transcript of the show here:CN transcript Feb 15 2018
Below are some selected highlights from this show, which was recorded Thursday Feb. 15 at 10:45 AM.
Reaction to Gov. tuner’s Feb 14 budget speech
Ken: Sen. Cullerton says he thinks the proposed budget’s out of balance by 1.5 billion.
Mendoza: I think at least by one and a half billion. It’s…I believe it’s far more than that. It’s clearly not balanced, so let’s just start with that. I mean, for the governor to even pretend that this budget is balanced is again just…honestly, I don’t know how to say this nicely, but it’s like living in a fantasyland. It may be balanced in his head, but that’s the only place on earth. And again, at the end of the day you have to understand that you cannot balance a budget with just wishful thinking, with, you know, pixie dust or magic beans. You actually have to crunch the numbers, right?
I mean, his stuff doesn’t make any sense. And ultimately, you can’t tell the taxpayers that you’re gonna reduce their tax load without being willing to say where you would cut to make up for the difference in the lost revenue…He’s already tried that. It blew a $5 billion hole in our budget when that tax expired, yet the governor continued to spend as if that tax revenue was still coming in. And then just blames everybody else for the state’s fiscal problems, when in fact they’re his fault.
Reaction to Gov. Rauner’s plan shifting pension payments to local school districts
You’d have to be crazy to think that the Democrats and the Republicans are going to have enough votes to even move forward with a piece of legislation like that, because frankly, the greatest critics of his own legislation are the Republican members of his chamber, who he would normally have to rely on as at least a base to get started on any legislation.
And, you know, just based on the reaction of what I heard, forget about my opinion, the Democrats and the Republicans were leading the charge against Governor Rauner yesterday saying that he wants to hike people’s property taxes up, you know, dramatically. That’s dead on arrival. And it’s not dead on arrival even because the Democrats don’t work with the governor. It’s dead on arrival because his own party…will never let that happen.
Reaction to question about how Rauner will co-operate with Trump on the federal infrastructure initiative
Representative McSweeney actually was in Washington and even doubled down on realizing that there’s really been very little to no communication between the Rauner administration and the Washington folks to actually bring those transportation dollars here. So it was a real, real interesting moment in the speech when he said oh, we’ve been working hard and we’re ready to pull the trigger on this transportation thing.
And I turned to look at Representative McSweeney just because I thought, oh, that is the biggest whopper that has maybe come out so far. And you could see him like squirming in his chair, like that is so not true! But we have a governor who just really has an inability to…to accept responsibility for any wrongdoing, who has the inability to, frankly, just tell the truth to the public.
You know, he spouts these things off as if they’re true. And, you know, I just hope that by now, after four years of hearing this, the public is just smarter and can understand that the governor just can’t tell the truth. I mean, he’ll lie to a cardinal to his face and…and then pretend he didn’t. And so that’s who we have, and we need a new governor.
Reaction to Gov. Rauner’s proposals for Higher Ed funding
Governor Rauner has, you know, reduced funding to higher ed by 60%, 30% in his first year alone. And then we starved—he starved the state universities over the last two and a half years with that budget impasse… Meanwhile, because of Governor Rauner’s reticence on getting a budget done, those universities, five of our state universities, went into deep junk bond territory…And it’s gonna take them years to crawl out of it. And now he’s talking about, well, we should just get rid of some of these universities and consolidate them. If that was your plan, then you should actually put forth a plan, not just starve them to death and then have no other option, right? There are options. We need to invest more in higher education.
Reaction to recordings of JB Pritzker and Rod Blagojevich discussing a possible appointment to fill Barack Obama’s vacant Senate Seat, and Mendoza’s continued support forPritzker
Ken: You’re not deterred by these developments with the Blago tapes?
Susana: Well, I think, for example, to me the one that was…I felt like disappointed on was the one with Jesse White. And I feel it’s a terrible choice of words. But I also feel that J.B. has a lifetime of advocacy and championing causes that are important to that very community, along with so many others, right? Just what he’s done alone with early childhood education in preparing like Hispanic and African American kids to be able to compete with all the other children. Nobody has led on that issue, even nationally, as much as J.B. Pritzker has. School breakfast for kids—
Ken: Interestingly, you’re doing a little bit better job selling it than he is, I would have to say.
Susana: Well, I don’t know, but I’m just telling you why I still support him. And I think that what he did was, you know, an unfortunate use of words, but it doesn’t represent who he is as a person and what his entire life’s product has been. And I think that should weigh more heavily on voters when they’re looking at candidates than, you know, a less than stellar moment for him, right?
Here’s the other point that I’d like to say about that in particular, is that unlike Governor Rauner—and I think it’s important to compare the two, right, ‘cause they’re both running against each other and might ultimately be who is facing off—as much as you can be disappointed about what happened on that tape, J.B. Pritzker acknowledges that it was one of his worst moments, probably, and that he takes full responsibility, and it was a sincere apology, and he has been working hard to make things better.
And that is perhaps my biggest gripe against Governor Rauner, is that no matter what goes wrong in the state of Illinois, no matter what he’s done to actually single-handedly make these bad things happen, he’s never acknowledged any fault in anything. Like he is unwilling, he has a chronic inability to accept responsibility for any wrongdoing or any of the damage that he’s inflicted on the state.
And so as much as it’s not a stellar moment—I would say it was embarrassing and painful for J.B.—from my perspective it was nice to see that he actually owned up to it and that he’s really sincerely apologized and is gonna learn from that mistake. Because if you don’t even acknowledge that you made a mistake, how can you ever learn from that and fix it moving forward?
I’m the first person to say I’m not perfect, he’s not, and nobody should expect any of us to be perfect. I think we should always try to hold ourselves to a higher standard than, you know, your average taxpayers because we’re asking for their trust. But at the same time, we’re not perfect. The key thing here, though, is that when you do make a mistake, are you big enough, in his case is he man enough, to own it and to try to fix it and to never make that mistake again? And I think he certainly is.
Ken: You think he’d make a better governor than Biss or Kennedy?
Susana: I think he’ll make a…I think he’d be the best governor. This is why I’m supporting him versus the other candidates. And I think they’re all good men, so I would say on the Democratic side of the ticket, I mean, look at Bob Daiber. He’s probably one of the best people you’ll ever meet in your life, you know.
But who do I think—and I think that maybe, perhaps, my opinion, which I certainly don’t want to oversell to your public—but if anyone has had an up close and personal look at the devastation that Bruce Rauner has caused for our state, it’s me in my capacity as the state’s chief fiscal officer. I deal with it every single day. And so you better believe that I’ve been working very hard over the last year, and we’ve accomplished amazing successes in a short amount of time.
00:48:04 I want to fix the state of Illinois. And I…I decided to get behind the person who I think will be ready to actually lead on day one, who will be able to build the coalitions necessary to… And that means not just Democrats, but Republicans, too, right, that can actually bring people to the table where we’re all acting like adults, not kids, which is kind of what we’ve seen in Springfield, and…and get the job done.
He’s a business guy, but he’s not saying that we should run government like a business. He’s not the Bruce Rauner business model. Bruce Rauner built his wealth by taking over struggling businesses and firing thousands of people. J.B. has created businesses in Illinois. He’s the only candidate actually running for governor that has a history and a track record of actually building businesses and letting other people be self-sufficient, right, and provide for their families and so forth.
So I think, you know, he brings a lot to the table, and he’s a really good person. And while it wasn’t his best moment on that tape, I’ve seen so many really incredible, sincere, good moments from J.B., and I expect to see a whole lot more when he’s our governor.
Reaction to revelations that Alania Hampton accused her supervisor in Mike Madigan’s office of sexual harassment
Susana: I think it’s great that Miss Hampton came forward. I do, you know, you have to wonder why does an investigation take three months, right? But I don’t know. I wasn’t privy to that investigation. I do know, though, that the final product of firing this guy, without question, was the right move.
What I do think, though, is that this is a situation that all of us, as executives, have to look at, and look within our own organizations and see what can we do better. Because clearly the disconnect here was that this young lady had to go to the alderman to talk about a difficult situation because there was no other process in place to actually deal with issues of sexual harassment. And I don’t think that that’s unique to the Speaker’s situation here. That’s…you could say that about every elected official, every political organization, and every executive at any level, both public and private.
So I think all of us—and one thing that will definitely, I’m sure, come out of this scenario with the speaker is that I would believe that it’s incumbent upon him to crack down on this and to come forth with a plan on how political committees should operate in this new environment. It’s not a new environment in that this hasn’t happened before, but it’s a new environment in that everybody’s talking about it, and people feel more empowered about bringing forth these allegations. And so they should have like a way to follow my allegation, right? Like if I accuse someone of doing something to me, I don’t want to be like waiting in the wind for three or five or six months, because then I feel like no one’s really taking me seriously.
Susana: I’d like to have…there needs to be a process in place that you can follow that you feel like your allegation is being taken seriously, because it needs to be. And then number two, like you’re informed throughout this process.
Susana: And I think that there was a massive lack of—
Ken: Well, that’s—
Ken: —that’s the…that’s the issue here, isn’t it? Because Miss Hampton, I mean, certainly there’s no question about the fact she was…she was a Madigan ally.
Susana: Yeah, no doubt.
Ken: I mean, she was wholly in this thing.
Ken: And she felt that she had to resign because things were so uncomfortable.
Susana: Yeah, yeah.
Ken: And she accuses Madigan of running out the clock.
Ken: So she’s…she believes that he’s done her wrong.
Susana: Yeah. I mean, clearly she does.
Ken: And that’s one of his closest allies that is saying that.
Susana: Clearly she does. And again, I think because—
Ken: So I’ll ask again. Is he—
Susana: —there was no process in place.
Ken: —is he vulnerable?
Susana: I think this is a…he’s had better days, put it that way. So I think everybody’s vulnerable. I don’t think it’s just the speaker. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Ken: Do you think he’ll be able to ride this out, this one?
Susana: I do, because I think the speaker will learn from this, and he’ll put, you know, measures in place to make sure that it never happens in his organization. But I also think that as a result of that lots of other elected officials in both parties will be probably looking at how they can make their climates more conducive to people coming forward and knowing that there’s a path to monitoring what’s happening. So this is one of those, you know, teachable moments. And unfortunately Miss Hampton had to be the victim in here, and feels doubly victimized. But the bigger question is what are we gonna do to fix it? And—
Ken: What should they do to fix it? We only have like a minute. But what should they do?
Susana: Well, they’ve got to put some major teeth into processes, right? Like so in our office we’re looking at revamping even what we do have, which, we do have a process in place, but can we do better? And I think that everybody’s gonna have to do that. It’s not just at the speaker’s level. It has to be all of us that take responsibility for this as well.