Governor calls for General Assembly to enact laws to bring prosperity to all citizens and all parts of Illinois.
In the midst of budget standoff that has lasted more than seven months, Gov. Rauner delivered Illinois’ annual State of the State address Wednesday. During the address, the Governor briefly touched upon his administration’s accomplishments in his first year in office which they believe saved Illinois $938 million. According to the Governor, these savings were achieved by reducing state spending by $500 million; saving $188 million through unemployment insurance fraud reduction; and saving $250 million through reforms within the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. The Governor also touted implementing a revolving door ban on state officials becoming lobbyists and reforming the EDGE credit to eliminate special deals.
In his annual address to the General Assembly, Gov. Bruce Rauner told lawmakers that “Illinois’ economy has been split in two – one part with modest growth, the other in decline.” Some neighborhoods, suburbs, and workplaces located within 90 minutes of O’Hare have partly participated in global recovery from the severe economic downtown of 2008-2009. Gov. Rauner reminded lawmakers that the remainder of the state, including areas traditionally oriented towards industry and manufacturing, have not benefitted from this global recovery. These regions need to see changes in Illinois laws and policies that will be sufficient to help communities throughout the state share in economic growth and opportunity.
Pointing out that “factory workers in Texas are now making more than Illinois folks, even without adjusting for the cost of living,” Rauner renewed his call for serious discussion, debate, and enactment of his Turnaround Agenda. Job-creating elements of the agenda include workers’ compensation reform, mandate relief for local governments, changes in relationships between the public sector and labor unions, and property tax relief. Striking a bipartisan note, the Governor called attention to elements of the Agenda that have, in the past, been supported by a wide variety of leaders.
The Governor noted that in order to improve the quality of life for all residents, Illinois needs to increase the economic opportunity for all individuals. This requires excellent education and vocational training combined with multiple career opportunities made available by companies competing to hire workers. The Governor stated that despite the natural benefits that Illinois has to offer, including economic and strategic viability, Illinois is failing its citizens by promoting an economic status quo that benefits politicians and trial attorneys at the expense of the middle class. This failed economic policy forces people and businesses out of Illinois which exacerbates the middle class deterioration while depleting the state of much needed taxes dollars that could be used to promote and protect infrastructure and programs for the most vulnerable citizens. The Governor’s proposal to address these problems is his Turnaround and Transformation agendas.
In closing, the Governor admitted that the last year was difficult but wants to build off the bipartisan progress that resulted in Criminal Justice Reforms, Police Reforms, and Unemployment Insurance changes to jumpstart mutual participation to achieve a grand compromise to move Illinois forward.
As is always the case, immediately after the State of the State, each caucus leader spoke to the media. Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin made it clear that Illinois requires the structural reforms contained within the Governor’s Turnaround and Transformation agendas rather than relying on just raising taxes. They echoed the Governor’s belief that raising taxes without real institutional reform will continue Illinois’ political, structural, and financial downward spiral.
House Speaker Michael Madigan organized some human service program advocates to present their concerns regarding the lack of a state budget to the media during his press conference. Speaker Madigan reiterated that he is willing to work with the Governor, but he believes that discussions should only include budget matters and he has doubts about the Governor’s sincerity of bipartisanship when he continues to advocate for changes that are in direct conflict with Democratic Caucus core principles.
During the State of the State, Governor Rauner trumpeted his tentative bipartisan agreement to support Senate President John Cullerton’s pension proposal. In somewhat of a surprise development, the Senate majority caucus voiced their hesitancy to pass their pension proposal with the Governor’s support before a budget solution is in place.