If there’s one trick Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner knows well, it’s telling people what they want to hear.
Whether it’s flip-flopping on the state’s minimum wage, waffling on whether Illinois should allow same-sex marriages or simply telling voters the multi-millionaire is really just a down-home regular guy, Rauner has proven himself the master of molding himself into what he thinks voters want him to be.
His most recent trick? Presenting a tax and jobs-growth strategy that doesn't make any sense and still getting voters to believe it makes him a better candidate.
On July 17, the Rauner campaign released an economic plan called the “Bring Back Blueprint”. The plan calls for rolling back the 2010 tax increase, along with new taxes on services such as advertising, legal services, and mini-storage centers. It also calls for a property tax freeze, and predicts massive, unprecedented economic growth in future years to make up for any budgetary shortfalls.
At the center piece of the plan is the proposal to roll back Illinois’ temporary tax increase, signed into law in 2011 to deal with the state’s massive budget shortfall. Rauner says he'll phase out that tax hike over four years, and says he’ll fill the gap in state revenue with economic growth.
There’s only one problem: it ain’t gonna happen. According to the state's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, income tax revenue growth averaged just 6.8 percent between 1998 and 2013 in Illinois. But in order to make up for any gaps in his budget plan, Mr. Rauner expects those revenues to jump by almost 67 percent over just four years.
In other words, like so many Republican budget proposals, Rauner’s plan guts state revenue collection from one set of taxes and expects that miracle economic growth will make up the difference.
Read the plan, and you’ll discover there’s a bunch of other budget shenanigans in there, too, such as an expectation that he can freeze property taxes and not raise income taxes without gutting the way education is paid for in Illinois.
Still, whether Rauner’s budget plan makes sense or not doesn't really matter for his campaign. A recent poll, taken the day the budget plan was released, shows voters are ready to believe what Bruce is selling.
As detailed by Rich Miller in Crain’s Chicago Business, the blueprint polled very well, with 53 percent saying they'd be more likely to vote for Mr. Rauner as a result of his plan and just 32 percent said they'd be less likely to vote for him.
Which just goes to show: if you want voters to like you, tell them what they want to hear.
Especially if you’re promising them a tax cut without saying how you’ll make up the difference.
It’s one of the oldest political tricks in the book.
It’s also no surprise Bruce Rauner believes it’s going to work.