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Senate President: Together, we make Illinois better

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SPRINGFIELD — Senate President John J. Cullerton used his inauguration speech Wednesday to call for a new era of cooperation focused on putting people to work and investing in roads, bridges and other projects needed to make Illinois better for workers and businesses.

“We didn’t get elected to save the world. Voters put us here to make Illinois better. And together, that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Cullerton told senators on the first day of the 101st General Assembly. The Illinois Senate he leads now has 40 Democratic members and 19 Republicans.

Cullerton highlighted a training program at Richland Community College as a potential statewide framework for putting people to work. The school and employers partnered to identify specific community needs for getting people working. More efforts like this are needed, Cullerton said, as nearly half the state’s 580,000 manufacturing workers are expected to retire over the next decade. “We’re going to train thousands of workers with the skills needed to walk into the workforce and succeed,” he said.

In lending his support to the growing push for a statewide construction program, Cullerton cited projects that benefit workers and businesses by making it easier for people to get to their jobs. Examples included updating the aging Metra train fleet prone to breakdowns and delays, and expanding to four lanes a Central Illinois stretch of US 24 along the Illinois River.

“Ten years ago, we approved a statewide construction program. We did it because we’d gone too long without investing in the people, employers and systems that make Illinois great. We did it to symbolize a new chapter in Illinois government,” he said. “It’s time to do it again.”

Cullerton expressed lingering frustration with the nearly two-year state budget impasse that decimated social service agencies and higher education. But in moving on, he urged senators to learn from mistakes.

“We will not be defined by past failures. As the saying goes: the world only spins forward. Today, a new chapter in Illinois history opens just for us. The people of Illinois have no patience for impasses and infighting,” Cullerton said. “They want us to get things done.”

“Welcome to a new year, a new start and a brand new Illinois.”