This week Governor Bruce Rauner presented his annual State of the State Address in Springfield. It was a 40-minute speech that provided a road map to reforms that will lead Illinois to a better tomorrow. Following the address, State Representative Peter Breen spoke on camera about the highlights of the speech. You can watch the interview by clicking on the image.
Yesterday, I provided some initial thoughts about Governor Rauner’s State of the State address, but, today, I wanted to go deeper into the substance of his 45-minute speech. Click here to watch his address (it begins about 23 minutes into this recording).

Overall, I feel the Governor did a very fine job of laying out a roadmap to reform that would improve how Illinois government operates at every level. He focused on improved outcomes and maximizing the efficiency of every dollar sent to Springfield. It was a welcomed message that inspired hope and optimism for a better Illinois.

A recurring theme of the speech was the need to set partisan ideals aside in the interest of coming together once and for all to move Illinois forward. I sincerely hope the reiteration of his willingness to compromise is accepted by House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton. The time for excuses is over. The time for results is now.

The lack of a budget in Illinois monopolizes headlines and political discussions about the future direction of our state, but on Wednesday, Governor Rauner made it very clear that the impasse has not stood in the way of some meaningful and tangible accomplishments. Some of Rauner’s achievements during his first year include:
  • Eliminating more than half a billion in state spending through department action
  • Beginning to get out from under the 80 different consent decrees that have accumulated from decades of mismanagement
  • Reforming the EDGE tax credit program by eliminating special deals and only providing the tax credits for actual job creation
  • Banning the “revolving door” of state officials who become lobbyists so they can make money off of the programs they designed
  • Beginning a thorough review of police procedures with regard to the use of deadly force between officers and community members
  • Starting the process of selling the Thompson Center
  • Implementing fraud reduction practices that prevented $188 million in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims
  • Taking action at the Department of Health and Family Services (HFS) that will net taxpayers more than $250 million through improved redetermination policies
  • Producing improved outcomes for children by having the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) move more children from shelters to foster homes
But in my opinion, there was one key success of Governor Rauner’s first year that he did not mention on Wednesday. Our Governor, who campaigned on a platform of turning Illinois around, did not succumb to the status quo in Springfield in spite of tremendous pressures placed on him by entrenched politicians from the controlling party. Our Governor stood his ground on many initiatives and refused to allow business as usual to continue in Illinois.

During his address, we also learned about a new “transformation agenda” that will improve service delivery and add value to money spent on programs. Rauner said his plan puts a strong new focus on prevention and public health, and stresses value and outcomes rather than volume and services. Additionally, he said evidence-based, data-driven decisions will drive policy initiatives, with an overall goal of making Illinois both compassionate and competitive. His “transformation agenda” includes the following goals:
  • Moving more individuals from institutions to community care facilities so they can remain closer to their families
  • Improving the efficiency of the workforce by making public employee compensation based in part upon higher productivity and efforts to create taxpayer savings, rather than just on seniority 
  • Implementing fair and Constitutional Pension Reform (A bipartisan agreement is in the works between Governor Rauner and Senate President Cullerton on a pension proposal that will save $1 billion per year)
  • Modernizing the state’s antiquated information technology system to improve its efficiency and effectiveness through a new Department of Innovation and Technology
  • Implementing comprehensive procurement reform (legislative and administrative) in a way that maintains ethics and transparency, streamlines processes, improves flexibility and is based on other states’ best practices
  • Implementing criminal justice system reforms that aim to reduce the state’s prison population by 25% by 2025
  • Improving the Education System by eliminating wasteful bureaucracy, allocating more funds toward direct classroom instruction, reducing the amount of testing, and holding schools truly accountable for results
Governor Rauner finished his address on a positive note, stating that “If each of us commits to serious negotiation based on mutual respect for our co-equal branches of government, there’s not a doubt in my mind we can come together to pass a balanced budget alongside reforms. If we work together, Illinois can be both compassionate and competitive.” I accept the Governor’s challenge and look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the coming months.
Today, Governor Bruce Rauner presented his second State of the State address before a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate in Springfield. The Governor made it very clear that he is not letting the budget impasse stand in the way of transforming state government for the better. Today he presented a roadmap for how he will lower taxes on Illinoisans, while increasing the value of every dollar sent to Springfield.

With one of every four state dollars being spent on pensions, I was pleased to hear that pension reform remains at the top of Governor Rauner’s agenda. Bipartisanship will be a critical element of this process, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on making constitutional and responsible pension reform a reality in Illinois.

Governor Rauner's speech demonstrated how committed he is to improving the lives of every resident of Illinois. His plan to move our state forward has great potential and I hope to see many of his initiatives implemented.
The College of DuPage has been in the news a lot over the last year: for taxpayer-funded booze fests and hunting trips, sweetheart contracts for connected insiders, and federal and state criminal investigations. COD was even put on two years’ probation by the community college accrediting authorities.

Fraud, mismanagement, and corruption in state government are not shocking to Illinoisans. But folks in DuPage County don’t expect it locally. So, during the last election, those voters elected a group of three new trustees for the COD Board: called the “Clean Slate,” they were political outsiders who ran on a platform of substantial reform. After winning a mandate from the people, these three new trustees, plus the lone reformer from the prior board, formed a 4-3 majority.

An election like that one should have chastened the three holdover “establishment” trustees. But this is Illinois. Instead of backing down, the establishment doubled down. There are plenty of skeletons they’d prefer stay in the closest and arrangements they want to keep quiet. And when one of the reformers stepped down this past December, the old guard smelled blood and attacked even more furiously.

The COD board is now at 3-3, evenly split between new and old. The three old guard trustees have refused to show up for several regularly scheduled meetings—and they’ve even skipped numerous “special meetings” which they themselves called.

With the situation at a stand off, all eyes are on Lazaro Lopez, newly appointed by Governor Bruce Rauner to chair the Illinois Community College Board. By state law, Lopez must fill a community college board vacancy, if the local board doesn’t act within 60 days. Since the old guard trustees won’t attend any meetings, there’s no way they would agree to someone to become the deciding member of the board.

Love him or hate him, Governor Rauner ran for election on a platform of shaking up the status quo. While people of good will could disagree on who should be elected governor, there’s no room for reasonable disagreement here: the people voted for reform of the College of DuPage via a “Clean Slate,” and the new trustee must be someone who has the fortitude to stand for that reform. There’s no partisanship here: my friends who are liberal Democrats are just as mad about the corruption at COD as are my friends who are conservative Republicans.

I supported Bruce Rauner in the last election because I believed he would appoint the right people throughout Illinois government, to root out and upend the special interests and insider deals destroying our state. Even so, none of us knew that the resolution of the crisis at College of DuPage, the largest community college in Illinois, would come down to one of those appointments.

The issues are clear. The voters are fully behind reform. The deciding vote of the COD board is entirely within the hands of one of Governor Rauner’s trusted appointees. In a year of near-total gridlock in Springfield, the choice of a new trustee is one place where the Rauner administration can get a win: by appointing a real reformer to the College of DuPage board.
Today was supposed to be the first day of the 2016 legislative session for members of the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, my colleagues and I received a memo on Friday from Speaker Madigan, letting us know that he was cancelling our first week in Springfield. He did not provide reasoning for the cancellation, but we learned later through a statement by a member of his staff that the Speaker felt there was not a sufficient amount of work to require us to be in Springfield!

We need to negotiate and enact a balanced budget, along with the many other significant reforms necessary to improve the economic climate in our state. The General Assembly should be working nonstop until a compromise is achieved.

Our first day in Springfield will now be January 27, the day Governor Bruce Rauner is scheduled to present the annual “State of the State” address.

Consolidation Task Force Releases Report
After almost 12 months of hearings and consultations with citizens from throughout Illinois, the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force recently released a 400-page report to reduce burdens on local units of government and taxpayers. The Task Force was chaired by Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, who also happens to be a resident of the 48th District.

Illinois currently has nearly 7,000 individual units of local government. That’s more than any other state in the nation, and almost 2,000 more than the runner-up state of Texas. This often leads to duplication of services. Taxes are simply too high, and a primary factor for our over-taxation is the extraordinarily high number of local governments, coupled with financially burdensome unfunded mandates.

I support significant reform to the way that government services are delivered in Illinois. In my time on the village board in Lombard, we considered and enacted a number of the suggested reforms included in the report. Unfortunately, our state’s laws often prevent local officials and taxpayers from implementing creative and collaborative solutions to deliver services more efficiently. As a lawmaker I am committed to amending or repealing those laws, so as to ensure necessary government services can be delivered in a cost-effective manner.

House GOP Legislators Call for Tougher Balanced Budget Law
With the State’s budget impasse entering month seven, I’ve joined with a number of my colleagues to forward legislation that would withhold pay from lawmakers if a balanced budget is not passed. HB4399 would build upon and strengthen the state constitution’s balanced budget requirement. The bill demands that within 30 days of the enactment of a budget, the Auditor General’s Office must certify that the budget will be balanced, with expenses not exceeding expected revenue. If the Auditor General declares that the budget is not balanced then the Comptroller will:
Stop payment for the salary of General Assembly members and Constitutional Officers
Within 10 days of the Auditor General’s certification that the budget is not balanced, the General Assembly must convene to enact a new state budget

The bill is awaiting action in the Rules Committee.

Illinois Ranks 3rd in Net Outmigration as Citizens Continue to Flee the State
A recent survey found significant numbers of Illinois residents moving elsewhere within the United States in 2015. According to the survey, in 2015, the typical Illinois emigrant moved to Texas, Georgia, Colorado, Washington, or North Carolina. Net outmigration from Illinois is attributed to the almost stagnant job picture in the Land of Lincoln. The number of new Illinois private-sector jobs created since the 2008-09 economic downturn has not been sufficient to make up for jobs lost, leading to a bleak outlook for young Illinois adults and new entrants into the labor force.

The Census Bureau’s survey numbers are backed up with data from moving-van firm United Van Lines, which closely tracks the number of runs their trucks are forced to make as a result of imbalances in the numbers of households entering or leaving a state. In 2015, as in previous years, Illinois was ranked near the bottom of states in terms of net moving in activity. The overall table, published as the Annual National Movers Study, showed Illinois as the #3 net outbound state in 2015. New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut also had substantial quantities of outbound moving-van activity. States with net in-migration included Oregon, South Carolina, and Vermont.

The one consistent key difference between our state and these other states is our political structure. Too many of our elected officials refuse to acknowledge that our laws and regulations are strangling businesses and destroying jobs and that our corruption and spending are draining our residents dry and even driving them out of state. The states taking our citizens are red states and blue states, so the divide shouldn’t be a partisan one.

Government reform isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue: it’s a vital issue of our state’s survival. I’ll keep fighting for reform, and I hope that you will stick with me in that fight.

As your voice in Springfield, I’m working to make our state and our communities the best they can be. If you have any questions or concerns or would like to invite me to speak to a group in the 48th District, please contact my office at (630) 403-8135, or visit reppeterbreen.org and click the Contact button.
When you enter a new year, it’s a time to take a good hard look at where you are. A key part of this honest assessment is then making resolutions to improve the state of things in the year to come.

Unfortunately, the current state of affairs in Illinois is that the one who pays the most wins. This has been going on for decades. It’s more than just the whole “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” mentality: a prominent political commentator recently had the insight that our state’s government runs similar to the Corleone crime family portrayed in the movie, The Godfather.

Giving priority to special interests and not the people’s interests is how we got into the trouble that plagues us today. Because of this way of doing business, we are close to the bottom of the barrel in many key categories. Illinois is ranked 42nd worst in property tax competitiveness. Now, some of the other states with high property taxes will compensate by having other state and local tax burdens at a lower rate. Not us in Illinois—our other state and local tax burdens are higher than our neighbors in almost every area.

You may have seen the example in the news of the town of Harvey, a south suburb of 25,000 residents. It’s on the brink of financial collapse. People are taxed to the limit, but the mayor of that town wants more and more money. Years of rampant corruption and absolutely no transparency led them to this situation. Investigative reports have now found allegations of “questionable spending that benefited insiders.” Has the mayor been run out of town and replaced by those who would bring reform? No, not in Illinois. (The “reformers” in Harvey are instead asking for oversight and more money from the State and Federal Governments.)

It’s really about who you know, and that’s a sad state of affairs.

Next week, we are back in Springfield to kick off the 2016 session. There’s still no budget to speak of, much less a balanced one. There’s talk that Speaker Madigan won’t allow a budget to be voted on until after the November 2016 General Election. Nor will Speaker Madigan allow Gov. Rauner’s budget bills to the floor for debate, let alone a vote. If he did allow such debate and votes, it would put many of his members in a difficult place politically, since they would then have to explain to their residents why they refused to compromise and support a balanced budget.

But why not compromise and run on that as a campaign platform? Well, Speaker Madigan just received $2.8 million in political contributions in the month of December – with 68% of it coming from left-wing special interests. Rauner’s wide-ranging “Turnaround Agenda” includes several key reforms that could financially impact these connected interests, and these groups are dead set against them.

The problem is that doing nothing is not the answer. People continue to leave our state at record numbers – approximately 1 every 5 minutes.

Why are they leaving?

Job growth is on the decline. Manufacturing businesses can’t afford to stay in Illinois and are leaving for greener pastures in our neighbor states. Yes, we need to protect workers’ safety and rights, but there needs to be a balance. The 2011 worker’s comp reform had some very good changes, but there’s much more work to be done. For example, a loophole was discovered that allowed physicians to continue to dispense drugs at much higher costs than pharmacists – often between 60% and 300% more. There are also incentives for doctors to prescribe and dispense more drugs, because they make more money.  Because of this, certain providers win, while patients, employers, and ultimately our state, loses.

 Illinois is in real trouble, and it can’t be fixed without some tough and decisive action. No politician has all the answers, but Gov. Rauner has some good ideas worthy of discussion. We need true, sincere discussion, debate, and votes – without any games. It’s time to come together and hash out a plan to save our state.