Governor Bruce Rauner presented his vision for Illinois on January 27 in the annual “State of the State” address, focusing on transformation and reform and asking lawmakers to break from partisan politics and do what is right for Illinois’ long-term future.
The Rauner Administration has been working to bring a new direction to our state, but has come up against a wall of politicians who are quite comfortable with the status quo and don’t want things to change. Governor Rauner continues to stress the need for economic recovery and comprehensive government reform, which I support. Let’s be honest, Illinois. How have the past 12 years of tax-and-spend policies and questionable budgeting practices worked out for us?
During the 30-minute speech, the Governor was clear that despite an ongoing budget impasse, he isn’t standing still. He’s moving forward with a transformation agenda designed to make Illinois’ government more efficient and effective for Illinois residents.
Preliminary reports indicate Illinois’ finances are a mess and the fiscal decisions we face over the coming months are going to be tough. We are fortunate to have a leader in the Governor’s Mansion who is committed to the kind of fundamental change that will turn things around. Bruce Rauner is not in this job to win a popularity contest. He will continue to stand up to entrenched politicians. He will not knuckle under to Speaker Madigan.
Included in this transformation are proposals to reform Illinois’ education system, criminal justice system, and health and human services system, as well as initiatives to spur economic development. The Governor says he’s focused on improving how our state operates at every level, and improving the lives of all Illinoisans.
Much of the speech focused on education reform, which the Governor called the key to rising family incomes, more high-paying jobs, and a better quality of life. Rauner committed to eliminating wasteful bureaucracy, and putting more money into the classroom.
Fundamental reforms designed to create economic opportunity and jobs were also part of Rauner’s plan for the state. According to the Governor, Illinois has the ability to lead the nation in growth and opportunity, but it must address its workers compensation system, labor regulations, liability costs and high property taxes to make Illinois competitive again.
Rauner discussed the need to restore Illinoisans’ trust in state government, starting with term limits and redistricting reform. He noted that in his most recent State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama had come out strongly in favor of both of these ideas.
Concluding his remarks, Rauner said, “We must break from the politics of the past and do what is right for the long-term future of our state. I’m ready – and it’s my genuine hope that you are too. Let’s continue this journey together. Illinois can't wait any longer.”
Different approaches to fund higher education
During the week, different approaches emerged for funding MAP grants, Illinois community colleges and universities. Higher education and MAP grant funding have not received a penny this fiscal year, due to the state’s ongoing budget impasse.
Pushed by Democrat legislative leaders, Senate Bill 2043 amounts to little more than an empty promise. Passed by the General Assembly on January 28, Senate Bill 2043 would appropriate $721 million to higher education, but the legislation does not identify a revenue source to pay for the appropriation. Additionally, the bill provides no funding for Illinois’ public four-year universities, only allowing for funding of MAP grants and community colleges. The Governor is expected to veto this measure when it reaches his desk.
A more comprehensive solution sponsored by Republican lawmakers, Senate Bill 2349 would allocate nearly $1.7 billion to fund MAP grants, community colleges and state universities. The plan is contingent on companion legislation, Senate Bill 2338, which creates the Unbalanced Budget Response Act. The Act would provide the Governor with the authority necessary to reallocate state money to fund higher education, as well as filling other budget holes during the current fiscal year and the next fiscal year.
One additional solution would be to tie a procurement reform proposal the Governor estimated would save taxpayers $500 million each year, to higher education funding as a way to finance the state’s community colleges, universities and MAP grants. Unlike the Democrat leaders’ proposal, this comprehensive approach would provide revenue to fund the proposal and ensure that neither higher education institutions nor students are left high and dry.
New IT Department to increase efficiency, security
Governor Rauner recently signed an Executive Order creating a new Department of Innovation Technology (DoIT), part of a strategic, statewide initiative designed to usher Illinois’ IT systems into the modern era.
DoIT will integrate and modernize more than 400 enterprise resource planning systems, of which 263 are dedicated solely to finances. These systems cost the state roughly $800 million per year, most of which is dedicated to maintaining equipment and systems developed in 1974.
While Illinois currently has the third highest IT operating costs in the nation, it is one of the lowest-ranked states for the quality of digital service. The creation of DoIT seeks to improve the state’s low productivity and outcomes, joining 29 other states that have integrated their IT structures. Not only will the consolidation effort reduce waste and increase efficiency in state government, it will improve consistency in cyber-security efforts through greater centralization and monitoring.