Legislative Update: January 29, 2016

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.