It's rare to hear Republicans criticize Gov. Bruce Rauner.

After all, for the first time in a dozen years, the GOP has its own man in the Executive Mansion, bringing them into play in the Legislature after years of toiling as the minority party.

There has been an almost total blackout on public criticism of the chief executive by Republicans, despite him taking actions that have directly affected their districts, including slashing funding for autism treatment, freezing grants to park districts, bashing union members who work in local prisons and threatening to cut things like local universities and passenger train service.

So, it is worth noting some comments that came from state Rep. David Harris last week.

During a hearing last week, the Arlington Heights Republican wondered if Rauner's constant bashing of Illinois as a place to do business was actually hurting the state.

"It doesn't help sell Illinois," Harris told officials at the state's economic development agency during a budget hearing.

Democrats on the committee agreed.

State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, who is no relation to David, said the litany of claims by the governor that Illinois is not a good place to do business is counterproductive.

"There are so many very positive things about our state," Greg Harris said.

More money or less service

While most of the attention this spring has been on what Rauner wants to cut from the state budget, one group came out last week with a list of potential tax increases that could help fill the massive $6 billion hole that emerged when the state's temporary tax increase expired on Jan. 1.

During a press conference in the statehouse last week, the Fiscal Policy Center at Voices for Illinois Children offered a laundry list of options.

Among the possible sources of new revenue is taxing retirement income, which they said could generate up to $750 million in new revenue. Rauner has previously said he had no plans to pursue such a tax.

They also said Illinois could raise $600 million by taxing sugary beverages. As much as $38 million in new revenue could flow into the state if Illinois begins taxing electronic cigarettes.

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Other proposals floated by the group include closing a number of tax loopholes that lawmakers have been unable or unwilling to touch for years, including one that would raise $32 million by ending a tax break on newspaper ink.

Rauner hasn't slammed the door on tax increases to offset his proposed deep cuts, but he wants the Democrat-controlled Legislature to give him some wins on his business friendly "Turnaround Agenda" before he'll move in that direction.

Minimum wage

For now, it doesn't look like downstate Illinoisans will be paying for Chicago's decision to raise the minimum wage for workers in the city.

When the city raised the minimum wage in December, it forced the state to begin implementing a personnel rule change for state workers earning the minimum wage in Chicago.

The ordinance will boost the city's minimum wage to $10 in July, $10.50 a year later, $11 the year after that and then $1 annually until reaching $13 in July 2019.

The current state minimum wage is $8.25 per hour.

However, the Department of Central Management Services says its no big deal, for now.

"There is no additional cost to the state for employees covered by the Personnel Code because we do not have workers in Chicago who earn less than $10 an hour," said CMS spokeswoman Meredith Krantz.

Cubs or Cards?

Mark June 26 down as Andy Manar and Scott Bennett night at Busch Stadium.

According to state campaign finance records, the Credit Union Political Action Committee has rented a suite at Busch Stadium for the two Democratic state senators.

If the legislative session is still underway — it is supposed to end on May 31 — the fundraiser shouldn't get in the way of their work in the Senate. June 26 is a Friday night and the game against the Chicago Cubs doesn't start until 7:15 p.m.

Although there are no dates listed, the Downstate Democratic Caucus also paid some big bucks to host an event at the Skybox on Sheffield, one of the rooftop bars looking out over Wrigley Field in Chicago. Records show the caucus spent $17,832 for the Cubs-Cardinals matchup.

Follow Kurt Erickson on Twitter @Illinois_Stage


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