5 takeaways from Rauner’s inaugural speech
Five things to remember from Governor Bruce Rauner's Inaugural speech
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s message during his inaugural speech on Jan. 12 – that Illinois’ economy has tanked under a culture of cronyism, overspending and corruption – couldn’t have been more spot on.
Much of what Rauner said may have sounded familiar; that’s because Illinois Policy has been sounding the alarm on these crises for years.
Here are five things you should remember from Rauner’s speech.
1. Illinois is losing people.
“Today Illinois is not able to compete effectively with our neighboring states, our citizens are suffering because of it, and in many cases, they are up and leaving. Last year, we lost more people than any other state in America, and over the last ten years, we have ranked right near the bottom of all fifty states for out-migration.
“People are leaving to find jobs, or because they run companies, and they are taking their jobs with them.”
Illinois logged a record exodus in 2014, sustaining a net loss of 95,000 people to other states, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This net loss of residents speaks to the fact that Illinois has the worst job-creation rate in the Midwest in 2014, with food-stamp enrollment also hitting new record highs. Although Illinois has been a net loser of residents as far back as such data are recorded, never has the state lost so many people in one year. Illinois Policy issued a groundbreaking study on the state’s outmigration problem in 2011, and has continued to update readers and influencers on the issue.
2. Illinois has a spending problem.
“Our government has spent more than we could afford; borrowed money and called it revenue. Rather than responsibly budgeting the money we had, we implemented programs we couldn’t afford. In the face of a declining economy, we raised taxes. This hurt our economy even more, put more stress on our social safety net, and pushed more Illinoisans out of our state, leaving fewer taxpayers to support the government. As a result, today Illinois is not as competitive as we need to be and cannot be as compassionate as we want to be.”
Illinois has $111 billion in pension debt. The state has more than $6 billion in unpaid bills. Despite a constitutional requirement to pass a balanced budget, state politicians have used loopholes to avoid spending responsibly for years. These problems aren’t new – neither is the state’s Band-Aid approach to solving them: more spending and more debt. Each year, Illinois Policy has pointed out these problems and offered real solutions in Budget Solutions, a bold compilation of cost-saving measures that would allow state lawmakers to pass a balanced budget.
3. Illinois’ track record of corruption and cronyism must end.
“Our state’s crisis is not only financial. We have a MORAL crisis, an ETHICAL crisis as well. We have a state government that too few have faith in; that lack of faith is JUSTIFIED, and undermines people’s willingness to sacrifice and help the government in its mission. Illinoisans see insider deals and cronyism rewarded.”
Prior to Rauner’s inauguration, four of Illinois’ last seven governors were sent to prison. This culture of corruption permeated almost every aspect of government. Since 2001, Illinois has given select businesses nearly $1 billion in Economic Development for a Growing Economy, or EDGE, tax credits, while everyone else is forced to shoulder the 13th-highest state and local tax burden in the country. Many of these EDGE credits may have been given out illegally. Our Local Transparency Project has uncovered a lack of transparency in governments across Illinois, and our experts have worked with local officials to make necessary improvements. Our No Cronies project shines a light on Illinois’ cronyism problem and highlights the stories of the real people affected.
4. Government union bosses’ influence has drained the state’s coffers.
“[Taxpayers] see lobbyists writing bills for special interests and taxpayers being left with the tab. They see government union bosses negotiating sweetheart deals across the table from governors they’ve spent tens of millions to help elect.”
Unionized government causes or exacerbates many of the state’s problems. Government unions play this negative role so often because of a fundamentally flawed state labor law that grants government unions a great deal of power, but fails to make unions accountable to the general public or even, in many ways, to the public servants they are supposed to represent. When power is granted without accountability, that power inevitably will be abused – Illinois Policy’s “Labor Book” shed light on the inner workings of the system that makes this abuse possible.
5. Righting the ship will require shared sacrifice.
“… To achieve that will require sacrifice. Sacrifice by all of us – politicians and interests groups (sic), business and labor, those who pay for government and those who depend on government’s services. Each person here today and all those throughout the state will be called upon to share in the sacrifice so that one day we can again share in Illinois’s prosperity.”
An economic crisis as dire as Illinois’ will require bold solutions, not just for the state’s pension system, but also for education, health care and more. Each year, Illinois Policy provides those solutions in a robust compilation that would allow state government to pass a balanced budget. Stay tuned for Budget Solutions 2016, which will offer meaningful, reform-minded ideas to right Illinois’ fiscal ship.