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Seven Issues Facing New Governor Bruce Rauner

Several things could send Illinois—and the new gov—climbing or sliding.

Governor Bruce Rauner   Photo: Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune

As Bruce Rauner takes over the governorship, here are seven issues he’ll have to contend with if he wants to move forward with his agenda.

1. The Democrats

House speaker Mike Madigan and Senate president John Cullerton both retained their veto-proof Democratic majorities. Unless Bruce Rauner wins their support, he won’t get much done.

2. Pension reform

If the Illinois Supreme Court rules the state can’t cut payments promised to retired public workers, Rauner will be left holding the bag for $111 billion in pension obligations.

3. Education

Rauner pledged to up education funding and cap property taxes—a serious contradiction. Still, if he can come up with significant money for schools by tapping his ultrarich peers for contributions—including Illinois’s wealthiest man, Ken Griffin—the governor will be a hero.

4. Mayor Emanuel

Can Rauner get Rahm the money he wants for schools and transportation while sticking to his promise to free state government from the Chicago machine? These guys are buddies. They’ll work out how to make each other look good.

5. Income tax drop

The temporary income tax increase expired January 1, taking $4 billion in revenue with it. Rauner owns this mess because he campaigned against making the 2011 hike permanent.

6. Diana Rauner

She heads the nonprofit Ounce of Prevention Fund, which receives millions from the state. While she has said she will not step down, don’t be shocked if she exits to head off the inevitable conflict-of-interest complaints and focuses on being the most energetic gubernatorial spouse in the country.

7. Minimum wage

Rauner was “adamantly” against a hike. Now he’s for one, so long as it comes with workers’ comp reform and tax cuts for businesses. Don’t expect Dems to give him those, and without a statewide wage increase, Rauner will get blamed.

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