Black lawmakers slam Rauner for bragging about helping black businesses

CHICAGO — Several African-American lawmakers are taking issue with Governor Bruce Rauner said he’s done historic things for black people in Illinois.

Speaking Tuesday on WVON Radio, which has a largely black audience, Rauner said, “It’s one thing to promote social spending and human services programs — that’s fine. We’ve done a lot of that. I respect that, and I support a lot of that too, but I’ve done more for black business, for black economic opportunity and for black education opportunity than anybody.”

Black lawmakers spoke out Wednesday about the governor’s comments.

“There’s nothing good to say that the governor has done on behalf of the black community,” State Sen. Kimberly Lightford said.

The Legislative Black Caucus blames Rauner for years of budget gridlock resulting in massive social service cuts.

“We lived through a historic budget impasse that created so much havoc and so much devastation across the board,” Sen. Toi Hutchinson said.

On the campaign trail, Rauner highlighted his work to provide African-American businesses with more opportunities.

He pointed to three executive orders.

One requires labor unions and companies doing business with the state to report how many minorities participate in training programs.

Another establishes sheltered markets, a procurement procedure in which certain state contracts are set aside for minorities businesses.

The third order is meant to hold state management personnel accountable for addressing underrepresentation of African-Americans in state contracting.

But black lawmakers said cuts to childcare and trauma centers have hurt black businesses.

“We didn’t get very much coverage in the media about what it did to those black businesses who were primarily owned by a lot of African-American women who were forced to close their doors,” Hutchinson said.

Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker also went on the attack Wednesday regarding Illinois’ black unemployment rate, the highest in the nation.  In a statement he said: "Bruce Rauner fabricated a track record of standing up for the black community when he’s been nothing short of a failure."

The Black Chamber of Commerce praised Rauner in a May newsletter and said there is no elected official in the nation showing the commitment of Rauner. But black lawmakers see things differently.