- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 10, 2015



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February 7, 2015

Belleville News-Democrat

Stay focused on changing

Virtually everyone agrees that Illinois needs to get in better shape. But it’s clear from the reaction to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposals for change that not everyone is willing to commit to the hard work and sacrifice needed to make that happen. Worse, some people are trying to trip up Rauner to protect the status quo.

Illinois may be a mess, but it’s a mess that works in their favor.

For instance, after Rauner’s State of the State speech, some public employee union leaders and special interests who disagree with Rauner tried to paint him as a 1 percenter who cares only about his wealthy friends, not the average people in Illinois. They would rather wage class warfare than try to justify current state policies.

The people of Illinois need to not be distracted and keep the focus where it belongs: on reviving the state’s economy, growing jobs and making this a place people want to live and do business.

It’s clear the policies of the past haven’t worked, and that we are at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states. The Illinois Policy Institute said Illinois was seventh from the bottom of states in GDP growth between 2002 and 2012. Employment declined 2.3 percent in that period, the fifth worst record in the nation. Between 1995 and 2010, Illinois lost $35.3 billion in tax revenue due to a net 855,196 people leaving the state. Twenty-six percent of every tax dollar now goes to state workers’ pension funds, which have more than $100 billion in unfunded liabilities.

People should question the motives of those who are trying to sabotage reform. Rauner pointed to one motive during a stop in Troy last week: “A lot of our government is not run for your benefit. It’s run for the benefit of the people in government.”

Rauner is offering leadership to turn things around. Let’s not squander this opportunity.


February 6, 2015

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

Rauner’s promising, but still vague ‘big picture’

Perhaps the most important objective of Gov. Rauner’s State of the State speech Wednesday was to set the tone for change in Illinois. In that regard, he got off to a strong, if imperfect start.

As for its strengths, Wednesday’s speech was void of the confrontation and condemnations of the past and focused heavily on inclusion and cooperation toward implementing solutions to Illinois’ many fiscal problems. He spoke of a “new beginning” and promised “a new partnership between the General Assembly and the governor.”

Then, he went on to emphasize important priorities for the state without belaboring the campaign rhetoric or the all-too-familiar rundown of Illinois’ dismal financial condition. He supplemented his speech with three separate packages of goals for economic growth, education and reforms of government and taxation, describing his plan as “bold, aggressive and comprehensive … both necessary and doable.”

And, while acknowledging his overview contains items an individual lawmaker will like and items that same lawmaker will dislike, he urged everyone to concentrate on “the big picture.” That indeed is the approach all government leaders — and all of us as citizens, for that matter — must keep in mind. In the end, each of us is likely to have to sacrifice something so that all of us can benefit.

But the huge question mark, the one that has loomed over the Rauner agenda from the early days of his political campaign, is how he plans to bring all this about, and his speech remained unsatisfyingly vague on that point.

To be sure, he offers some specifics. He called for a property-tax freeze. He urged a phased-in annual minimum wage increase of 25 cents an hour for seven years. He cited the need for consolidating governments.

But the dominant fabric of his program still cried out for detail.

On the whole, Rauner’s State of the State address laid a reasonable philosophical groundwork for turning around the fortunes of the state, but as for whether its most important elements are in fact “doable,” we’re still left to wait for the real discussion to begin in two weeks, when the governor will present the budget on which this agenda must be built — and following that, to see if his collaborative and leadership skills are equal to the ambition of his words.


February 4, 2015

The (Freeport) Journal-Standard

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner will see plenty of opposition to his agenda

History will determine whether Illinois’ turnaround began Wednesday or whether the state gets stuck in a roundabout.

Gov. Bruce Rauner set his agenda during his State of the State speech, but he’s going to need the General Assembly’s help to enact it. Given the lukewarm applause during his speech, that’s going to take some doing.

While much of what the governor proposed should get bipartisan support, there are ideas that will not advance no matter how hard he pushes.

A Democratically controlled legislature is unlikely to make any moves that will decrease the power of Illinois’ public unions. Rauner can talk about right-to-work zones all he wants, but Speaker of the House Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton control what gets voted on and what doesn’t.

Besides, the effectiveness of right-to-work zones is questionable.

“Since laws that hurt unions shift the balance of power from employees to owners, they tend to erode wages and lead to a more uneven distribution of the gains of economic growth,” says the State of Illinois Economic Forecast prepared by Moody’s Analytics for the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.

“Consequently, even if the impact of right-to-work laws is positive in the short run, it can diminish over time because of the downward pressure on incomes.”

The report, released in January, says “business costs in the state are only marginally higher than they are nationally. Costs are now lower than those in Wisconsin and Ohio but higher than those in neighboring Missouri and Indiana.”

There’s plenty of gloom in the Moody’s report, i.e. failed fiscal policies, awful pension problems, underperforming economy and so forth, but the report indicates the state’s turnaround doesn’t have to be 180 degrees. Probably 90.

Rauner wants to invest more in education and promote early childhood education, which sounded pretty much like what his predecessor, Pat Quinn, said in his State of the State speech last year. Rauner’s problem, as was Quinn’s, is how to find the money to do that.

Rauner reiterated his call for term limits, although we think redistricting reform is a better way to empower voters. Without fairly drawn political maps, voters would be trading one Democrat for another or one Republican for another. Only new maps would allow voters to choose between a Democrat and Republican.

Other issues Rauner mentioned have been on this Editorial Board’s agenda for years.

Rauner also talked about property tax relief, and decreasing the number of taxing units would help achieve that. He also wants to amend the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law to freeze property taxes for two years. We’re sure some local governments will complain loudly about that.

We trust that the governor’s upcoming budget speech will provide us with the details about how he intends to accomplish the ambitious goals he set Wednesday.

Overall, Rauner gave a good speech that hit popular themes. The transition from good speech to good government will be the challenge.

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