Lame-duck Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday said he was "very scared for the people of Illinois" as a result of Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker's victory and expanded Democratic legislative majorities in the state House and Senate.
Answering reporters' questions for the first time since his Nov. 6 defeat, Rauner also responded to the actions earlier this week by lawmakers in both parties to override several of his vetoes, warning their actions could be "devastating for taxpayers and economic growth" in the state.
Rauner was asked why he was handily dispatched by Pritzker after one term in office. Instead of answering that question, he issued a warning over Democratic control of state government.
"I am very scared for the people of Illinois. I believe that the folks who put Illinois into a financial quagmire are now back in complete control of the government," he said. "The policies that have created the financial mess for the state of Illinois are now the policies that will be dominating completely without any resistance whatsoever."
Contrasting with his call for unity in his postelection concession speech, Rauner on Thursday predicted a future of "deficit spending, tax increasing, overregulating, self-dealing" by Democrats with "no voice pushing back."
Rauner has a little more than a month left in office, ending a four-year term marked by a historic budget impasse, battles with public worker unions and a political war with powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also chairs the state Democratic Party.
Rauner on Thursday didn't preview what's next for him after years of leading and using his personal wealth to heavily subsidize the state Republican Party, but he did offer some clues.
He said it's his intention to live in Illinois. He also said he soon will be talking more about his ongoing contract conflict with the state's largest employee union. And he said he'd have more to say about President Donald Trump.
"I will be commenting more about the president in the future, not today," Rauner said.
The governor had a complicated relationship with the president during his term, at first largely avoiding saying Trump's name in public. Then at the end of his re-election campaign, he traveled to a Trump rally in southern Illinois and never took the stage.
Rauner also blasted lawmakers for handing him a string of defeats over the past few weeks by overriding many of his vetoes.
He called out for specific criticism an override of his veto of legislation aimed at helping families of more than a dozen residents at the Downstate Quincy veterans home who died of Legionnaires' disease and have filed negligence cases against the state.
He said the plan to raise limits on lawsuit damages in state Court of Claims cases from $100,000 to $2 million was "falsely sold as a Quincy veterans bill" because it would apply to all manner of complaints against the state, not just families of Quincy victims.
"This is going to be a massive invitation for lawsuits against the state," Rauner said, calling it "a major sop" to the state's civil liability attorneys who are a major backer of Democratic lawmakers.
The legislation got caught up in controversy this week when a Democratic state lawmaker on Tuesday said she wanted to pump a lethal "broth of Legionella" bacteria into the water system of a Republican colleague's family. She apologized a day later.
As he prepares to leave government, Rauner said he hasn't talked to Pritzker personally since conceding the election not long after the polls closed on Nov. 6. But he said his staff has worked closely with Pritzker's transition team to help the incoming Democrat get started.
"My immediate predecessor did the exact opposite," Rauner said of former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. "I learned what not to do."
Riopell reported from Springfield and Pearson reported from Chicago.
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