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Gubernatorial campaign looms over budget session in various ways

The action was outside the dome this week
The action was outside the dome this week
Levi Moore

This week marked the first full week of the 2014 Budget Session in Springfield. But, as legislative ideas, concepts and proposals started to trickle out of committees for the February 14th deadline to introduce bills in the House, they kept getting trumped by gubernatorial campaign news – from both political parties.

To start the week, Governor Pat Quinn got the date of his mandated budget address changed. Initially, the speech was slated for February 18th. But now, via legislative approval, it will be held on March 26th, eight days after the Primary Election. In addition, Quinn will not provide a traditional upcoming fiscal year “wish-list” speech. The plan is for him to announce a 5-year budget outline which will essentially be a commercial for what his vision is for the balance of his current term and what his priorities will be if he is re-elected in November.

On Thursday, Illinois Treasurer and GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Rutherford stated that his campaign was going “full steam ahead” with ad buys and stumping before voters. This was significant because last week Rutherford held a press conference to get “out front” on allegations he expected to be made about him. He was vague about what the allegations were at that time. But by early this week, the news started to trickle out that a former employee of the Treasurer’s Office was going to implicate Rutherford in a harassment claim and that the employee was pressured to do political work. Thursday, like at the press conference, Rutherford issued a statement that the allegations were false and that he was conducting an internal investigation that would vindicate him and (the salacious part) prove that Bruce Rauner was behind the claim to boost his chances of winning the GOP gubernatorial primary. Rauner, however, denies that he had anything to do with the timing of the allegations.

Yesterday, Governor Pat Quinn’s office officially stated that there would not be a debate between him and his lone primary challenger Tio Hardiman. Although it was not a surprise, some of the Illinois Statehouse insiders were hoping it would happen. Thus, the heat will not be on Quinn until after the primary.

The heat is on GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner though. Starting today, an estimated 500,000 Illinois GOP households will receive a 12-page document from the Republican Fund for Progress & Jobs that states “Don’t Vote Rauner…Vote Republican” with an additional tagline showing Rutherford, Dillard and Brady as the only Republicans running for Illinois governor. The scathing piece really goes after Rauner by attacking him on the amounts of money that Rauner has donated to Democrat politicians over the years and also picks at and pans many of his positions on policy issues.

This is the time in Springfield when governing normally takes center stage. The exception is during an election year and this one is carrying on that tradition in very high fashion.

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