Last week, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and California Governor Jerry Brown delivered their state-of-the-state speeches. Here are the highlights of each:
Gov. Rauner’s state-of-the-state address did not dodge the problems and uncertainties that the Prairie State faces, but his tone was more optimistic than antagonistic, in contrast to his typical stance. Instead of blaming his colleagues for the mess that the state is in, he suggested that they work together. By doing so, he assured, “we can overcome any obstacle. We have the best people and best location of any state in America. Through bipartisan cooperation, Illinois can once again be the economic engine of the Midwest and the home of innovation and prosperity for everyone.”
Nevertheless calling out the “broken political system,” the governor asked for support on legislation that imposes term limits and “fair maps” that will “[e]nd the power of incumbency and special interest groups, and give power back to the people of our state.”
The address touched on all of the issues one would expect: ethics reform, investments in education, and making Illinois more competitive and more attractive to job creators to grow the economy and bring in more good-paying jobs. Gov. Rauner also pointed to efforts in the areas of modernizing and streamlining government, increasing cybersecurity, facilitating communication between citizens and the state, leveraging online tools, eliminating fraud and abuse in the system, reducing bureaucracy, cutting down on exposure to lead, curtailing violence, especially in Chicago, building or rehabilitating transportation systems, recruiting employers, saving jobs, advancing green energy initiatives.
Last month, the governor offered a bipartisan resolution plan for the deficit, expected to reach $5.3 billion by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2017. As we explained at the time, it contains proposals for a personal income tax increase, a minimum wage hike, pension reform for legislators and Chicago’s teachers, reducing the debt, managing costs, restricting worker’s comp claims, and imposing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
In the state-of-the-state speech, Gov. Rauner revisited the topic, emphasizing that
We haven’t had a full year budget of some kind in a year-and-a-half– and we haven’t had a state budget that is truly balanced in decades. We have more than $11 billion in unpaid bills, a $130 billion unfunded pension liability, and the worst credit rating in the nation. We have the 5th highest overall tax burden and one of the lowest rates of job creation of any state.…llinois HAS to do something different. Our Administration has offered many proposals to achieve a truly balanced budget with changes that fundamentally fix our broken system. We must remember that to keep budgets balanced in the future, our rate of economic growth must be higher than our rate of government spending growth. It’s just simple math.
About the bipartisan plan, Gov. Rauner characterized the situation as “…heartening…Let’s build on that cooperation to achieve a truly balanced budget and changes that really move the needle on job creation and property tax relief.”
But not all lawmakers share his outlook. The Chicago Tribune reported that one democrat opined that the governor “’didn't say much’ in his speech and ‘crowed about accomplishments that weren't his’” on the grounds that it was the democrats that lead the effort to increase school funding and reform the criminal justice system.
Another worried that Gov. Rauner would end up rewarding large companies at the expense of middle class families. A third democrat “thought overall [that the address] was just an incredibly tone-deaf speech. It's tough to hear the governor cry crocodile tears when I would argue he has blood on his hands with all the anti-violence programs he's cut since he was here."
The paper also revealed that in contrast to the governor’s description of the heartening cooperation in the General Assembly, the budget plan has already hit a snag in the senate. In acknowledgement of the setback, the governor went off-script in his speech for a moment, and spoke directly lawmakers:
Thank you for working so hard to try to come together on a bipartisan basis to find a compromise to get a truly balanced budget with changes to the system to help job creators and protect taxpayers…We all know this is very, very difficult. There's a lot of arrows. Please don't give up. Please keep working. Please keep trying. The people of Illinois need you to succeed. Thank you.
Gov. Brown, who also appeared on NPR’s Science Friday on January 27 to reiterate his message, used his speech to tackle “the battle ahead.” Rather than delivering a customary address, he instead spent most of his time confronting the “vast and inspiring fervor that is stirring in the land…[and] reaffirm[ing] the basic principles that have made California the Great Exception that it is.”
Even so, he did not squander his opportunity to tout the state’s accomplishments, which he listed as follows:
- Increased – by tens of billions – support for the state’s public schools and universities;
- Provided health insurance to over five million more Californians;
- Raised the minimum wage;
- Reduced prison overcrowding and reformed the system of crime and punishment;
- Made California a world leader in the fight against climate change;
- Passed a water bond;
- Built up a rainy day fund;
- Closed a huge $27 billion deficit;
- Reduced the unemployment rate in the last seven years from 12.1 percent to 5.2 percent;
- Created almost 2.5 million jobs.
Looking forward, Gov. Brown pointed to the potential devastation to California’s economy that repeal of the Affordable Care Act could trigger, and work with President Donald Trump on road, tunnel, railroad, and even dam projects, which would also have the added benefit of creating “good-paying American jobs.”
The governor did not cover financial details, because he delivered his budget speech in early January, which we recently recapped. The economic issues he intends to focus on are these:
- Keeping the budget balanced;
- Bolstering state reserves;
- Increasing education funding;
- Continuing health care expansion;
- Counteracting poverty;
- Strengthening transportation infrastructure; and
- Combating climate change.
In his state-of-the-state, Gov. Brown, quoting a Woody Guthrie song, promised that “[t]his land was made for you and me….California is not turning back. Not now, not ever.”