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Rauner Gives State Of The State Speech Amid All-Too-Familiar Budget Crisis

By aaroncynic in News on Jan 25, 2017 8:58PM

Governor Bruce Rauner outside the Director's Lawn at the Illinois State Fair in August 2016. Photo by Aaron Cynic

Gov. Bruce Rauner continued to stick to his guns well-worn talking points about the state budget crisis in his third annual “state of the state” speech, delivered in front of lawmakers in the state capitol Wednesday afternoon.

“Like many of you, I’m frustrated by the slow pace of change in Springfield,” Rauner said in the opening of his speech, while also saying despite uncertainties, he remains “deeply optimistic” about the future of Illinois. “We know that much in our state has been broken for many, many years; but we know that there is a way forward - there is a path to a better future for all Illinois families.”

Like most of his other speeches and recent forays into Facebook Live, Rauner’s address stuck to the core message he’s been telling Illinoisans since the budget impasse began - that the only way to end the more than one-and-a-half year-long crisis is for state lawmakers to capitulate to his “pro-business” agenda.

“Our state’s economy could take off like a rocket ship if we could just come together on major pro-jobs changes that need legislation to take effect,” said Rauner, who added that Illinoisans have a “moral obligation” to “work together to bring change.”

The governor said he’s made progress on three goals his administration set forward for the state: investing in education, making Illinois “more competitive and attractive to job creators,” and making it “the most ethical and efficient state in the nation.” He also touted his changes to an overtime policy for state workers represented by more than 20 unions, saying that starting overtime pay after 40 hours a week instead of 37.5 adds “greater flexibility in the workplace.”

Rauner also appealed to the state legislature to pass his term limit and map redrawing reforms.

“We worked hard to change our broken political system and restore competitive general elections in our state,” said the governor, who donated $50 million of his own money to his reelection campaign in December. “I ask you today, on behalf of all the people of Illinois—Democrats and Republicans—please do the right thing and pass the bills to put term limits and fair maps on the ballot.”

The governor also referred to ongoing violence in Chicago, though in a vastly different manner than our current president. While calling it “intolerable,” Rauner did not however, make a veiled reference to what some could interpret as a call for martial law in the city.

“Violence experts say there’s no single cause and no single solution. But with the right mix of policies—with a joint commitment between the city, the county, the state and the federal government—we can and must find solutions to curb the violence.”

While referencing barriers to “good jobs and economic opportunity” along with education, Rauner did not address the effects the current budget impasse, particularly the loss of funding for social services, has had on the violence in Chicago.

In fact, Rauner can’t drop the entire budget crisis in the laps of Democrats as easily as he arbitrarily drops the letter ‘g’ (at least 56 times) in his public speeches. He let the “temporary” flat income tax rate of 5 percent fall back to 3.75, which increased both the budget deficit and pile of backlogged bills. The continuation of the stalemate is as much his fault as it is state lawmakers, in that he’s refused to sign a budget until the legislature agrees to his demands.

Critics of the governor seized on this in response to his address.

“Governor Rauner attempted to borrow from the Trump playbook and layout alternative facts about the state of Illinois under his leadership, but the reality is that his time at the helm has been an unmitigated disaster for Illinois families,” Amisha Patel, executive director of the Grassroots Collaborative, said. In a statement provided to Chicagoist, Patel said that Illinois needs a “new way forward” that includes funding education by closing capital gains loopholes, universal childcare, and criminal justice reform that “takes money out of incarceration and reinvests in the communities most affected by policing.”

“Rauner's preferred audience is the gilded group of political donors, lobbyists, and corporate executives who have profited handsomely from his reign,” the group United Working Families said in a statement. “He bailed out Exelon with a rate hike on working people. He handed out $100 million in tax giveaways to large private corporations.” The Chicago Teachers Union called out the Exelon bailout and tax breaks to corporations as well, adding:

“Inner city communities need jobs, infrastructure investment and gang intervention to stem the devastating rise in violence. That’s not a priority for the Rauner administration.”

Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez and AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan, both co-chairs of llinois Working Together, said that the state was worse off than when Rauner took office and called on him to drop his agenda.

“The way to move Illinois forward is by raising wages, making the wealthiest and big corporations pay their fair share, fully funding schools, and ensuring a secure retirement for all working people in our state," they said in a statement. "Hardworking families in Illinois simply cannot afford another two years of hostage-taking and bullying from the governor.”