‘Emperor Wears No Clothes': Rauner, Emanuel Trade Barbs

Mayor Rahm Emanuel faulted Gov. Bruce Rauner for the continued gridlock in Springfield on Tuesday, urging the Republican to "just do your job."

"I think in the last 48 hours, everybody has come to the conclusion that the emperor wears no clothes. The governor," Emanuel said. "There’s nobody else. He can’t blame Mike Madigan. He can’t blame John Cullerton and the grand bargain. He can’t blame me. He can’t blame Chance. Everybody’s now seen what he stands for."

The mayor’s comments came amid an ongoing battle over the Chicago Public Schools’ $215 million gap the district needs to fill in order to meet its teacher pension payment on June 30. In December, Rauner vetoed a bill that would have injected CPS with $215 million in state funding.

Based on that veto, district officials then announced a spending freeze on $46 million of non-salary funds and later filed a lawsuit accusing the state of Illinois of violating students’ civil rights by perpetuating an unequal funding system – adding that the school year could end as early as June 1 if the case is not quickly resolved.

"We’ve gone three years without a governor that's introduced a budget," Emanuel continued, speaking at a ribbon cutting event. "Governor’s State now is cutting 22 academic programs. Kids for the first time in the state of Illinois are now leaving the state to go to college when we used to be a net gain. Ounce of Prevention and other social service agencies are suing the state. More people are leaving our state, and this is all under his tenure."

In a brief statement, a spokesperson for the governor responded, "Sounds like someone has a Napoleon complex."

The back-and-forth comes on the heels of Rauner’s highly-publicized meeting with Chicago musician Chance the Rapper, who slammed the governor for his veto, then announced Monday that he’s donating more than $1 million to the beleaguered school district.

The Grammy Award-winning artist’s father, Ken Bennett, served as a former deputy chief of staff and director of the Office of Public Engagement under Emanuel and now works for Chicago’s tourism agency. On Tuesday, Emanuel denied that he had any hand in Chance’s battle with the governor, as some suspected.

"I did not talk to him," Emanuel said. "The assumption or accusation or insinuation is condescending to Chance. He’s a product of Chicago, a nationally and internationally acclaimed artist. He went to Chicago Public Schools. He credits the Chicago Public Library for his ability to start putting music together."

"You don’t just veto $215 million that would finally create parity for the teachers of Chicago, the taxpayers of Chicago and the students of Chicago, and I think it’s condescending to assume that Chance couldn’t come to this conclusion on his own that this is wrong," he added.

Rauner outlined two paths to address CPS’ funding gap in a memo circulated Monday, plans that Emanuel quickly dismissed.

One of Rauner’s proposals would authorize Chicago to use Tax Increment Financing money to fund the beleaguered district. TIF funds are typically used to promote investment and economic development, but developing legislation would allow Emanuel to approve a one-time transfer of $215 million from Chicago's TIF funds to CPS. The other approach outlined in the memo would add the CPS request to Senate President John Cullerton’s pension reform bill.

"I would recommend the governor go back to the drawing board and one, introduce for the first time in his tenure as governor, a balanced budget. Two, don’t undermine the grand bargain that you said you were for, but then called people up to your office and tell them to vote no. Three, after your commission, finally introduce legislation on a school formula that doesn’t punish kids for being minority or poor, but actually helps them get ahead and break the cycle of poverty," the mayor said.

"The emperor wears no clothes," Emanuel repeated. "Gov. Edgar gave him recommendations. Gov. Ryan gave him recommendations. I have given him recommendations. Everybody has tried to give him advice. Everybody walks out with the same thing, including Chance the Rapper. Just do your job."

Facing mounting public pressure, Rauner announced Tuesday that he’s willing to sign off on bills to fund CPS and reform the state’s pension system, even if they’re not attached to the so-called "grand compromise," an elusive bipartisan budget deal that stalled Wednesday when the Illinois Senate failed to take action.

"We don’t have to do a balanced budget today comprehensively to get CPS $200 million today," Rauner said at an event in Chicago on Tuesday.

Cullerton blamed Rauner for derailing the ongoing negotiations, saying that state senators were in a "holding pattern" as bills were being amended to forge a compromise. Cullerton’s pension reform bill failed for the second time last Tuesday, noteworthy because all the bills in the package need to pass for any to become law.

"We could just pass the pension reform bill and pass the CPS payment bill, both of which are there," Rauner added Tuesday, indicating that he wants the Senate to vote immediately on the individual pieces of the interdependent package, which he described as "still evolving."

"These exist. These don’t have to be drafted or negotiated. And it’s done," Rauner said. "We save $1 billion for Illinois taxpayers a year and we get $200 million right now for CPS."

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