Illinois now has five public universities with junk-bond credit ratings. That has to be some kind of record.

Last week, S&P Global Ratings lowered the credit score of both Southern Illinois University and Western Illinois University into junk-bond status. Eastern, Northeastern, and Governor’s State were already in junk-bond territory, and their ratings were lowered even further last week. The University of Illinois, the state’s flagship, was also downgraded to just three notches above junk status and put, with the rest of the universities, on a “credit watch with negative implications” – meaning it could be downgraded again within 90 days.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner denied that his two-day tour of the state last week had anything to do with the 2018 election, but it was pretty darned clear that he and his team were tuning up the band for the big show down the road.

Campaign funds not only paid for the tour, but political money was used to promote in it advance. I'm told Rauner's advertising on social and online media served more than a million impressions in the days leading up to the fly-around.

I suppose it’s too much to expect that we get an honest debate about the need for more state revenues in the already-active gubernatorial race. Candidates will be candidates, after all.

Governor Bruce Rauner’s campaign blasted out an e-mail last week telling supporters that newly announced billionaire Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker wants to raise the state income tax to over 5 percent, which, the campaign claimed, would be “higher than it was under Pat Quinn!”

Never mind that Rauner himself privately supports raising state taxes to historically high levels. He’s okay with a 4.99-percent income-tax rate and a 7-percent corporate tax rate. But he also backs a new tax on sugary beverages and a new sales tax on several services. If all that were implemented, state government would be taxing residents billions of dollars more than it ever has before.

As the Senate’s two leaders tried again to find the votes to pass their “grand bargain” last week and end the state’s two-year governmental gridlock, Governor Bruce Rauner began spending more than a million dollars on two new TV ads that portray him as an everyman hero in the fight for Illinois’ future.

“Illinois is broke and broken,” Rauner says to the camera while standing in a well-kept garage and wearing a plaid flannel shirt. “And the politicians that got us into this mess, their solution is this,” Rauner says as he holds up a roll of duct tape. “Higher taxes,” he says as he yanks out a piece of duct tape. “More spending,” he says with another jerk on the roll. “No real reforms,” he says as he takes one more strong pull.

You might have heard about a recent Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll that found that Governor Bruce Rauner’s job disapproval ratings have almost doubled in the past two years, from 31 percent in March 2015 to 58 percent this month. According to the poll, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s current disapproval rating is 61 percent, about the same as his 63-percent disapproval rating last October. Rauner’s disapproval rating last October was 55 percent.

During this long governmental impasse, Madigan has championed the cause of unions and working people against the governor’s attempts to take rights and benefits away from them. But the Democrat is actually underwater with union members. According to the Simon poll, 55 percent of respondents who said they belong to a union disapprove of Madigan’s job performance, including 38 percent who strongly disapprove. Just 34 percent of union members approve of his job performance, while only 12 percent strongly approve. All this pain and they still don’t like him.

But union members dislike the governor far more. The poll found that 72 percent of union members disapprove of Rauner’s job performance, and half of union members strongly disapprove. Only 24 percent approve. On Rauner, anyway, the union message has gotten out.

If Attorney General Lisa Madigan succeeds in convincing the Illinois Supreme Court to consider ordering the state to stop paying employees without an appropriation, and if Governor Bruce Rauner’s legal team uses the same arguments it did in St. Clair County, it will be important to understand the repercussions of his strategy.

According to a recent poll, Governor Bruce Rauner is a whole lot less popular than a one-cent-per-ounce state sales tax on sugary drinks.

If you’re running for office anytime soon, or if you currently hold office or are a “public figure,” please try to keep one thing in mind: So far, the only person to prove he can thrive by talking like President Donald Trump is ... President Donald Trump.

Before Governor Bruce Rauner’s budget address last week, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno made a rare visit to the Senate Democratic caucus meeting.

Radogno assured the Democrats that she and her GOP caucus were working in good faith to achieve a bipartisan “grand bargain” in the chamber. And then Rauner gave his budget address.

You may have read a news story or two about the latest blistering report from New York-based S&P Global Ratings about Illinois’ fiscal and economic woes.

But it’s far more brutal than anything reported by the media, and it pretty obviously lays the blame for much of the morass at Governor Bruce Rauner’s doorstep while calling on legislators to assert “governing control.”

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