Senate Democrats react to State of the State address (VIDEO)

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The Illinois General Assembly heard Governor Bruce Rauner's second State of the State address today. The following statement was released by Senate President John J. Cullerton regarding the governor’s State of the State address:

"Clearly there are numerous issues over which we disagree. But I'm going to focus on the few areas where there might be some agreement. That's the only way we're going to work our way out of this situation.

"Today, I heard the governor echo my call for making school funding reform a priority and his desire to come up with a system that better recognizes the needs of students living in poverty and those facing other challenges. I commend him on that stand. An equitable school funding system is the turnaround Illinois needs.

"If the governor wants to work with Senate Democrats, committing to a better school funding system is a good way to start.

"I also appreciate the time the governor has taken to better understand our model for what we hope would be constitutional pension reform. He's moved a long way from his initial proposal and I know that wasn't easy. I look forward to working with him.

"However, while I appreciate the governor's support in these key areas, there are many areas of disagreement. On a daily basis our safety net is unravelling, leaving disabled seniors and homeless veterans nowhere to go.

"We're not honoring our student aid commitments to college students. We're not providing any public support to our public universities and colleges. That's all because of the stance the governor has taken over the state's budget. He caused this. He can end it.

"But I don't want to get hung up on disagreements. We've got to find ways to work together to solve problems, and we need to start now because Governor Rauner's first year in office didn't work for anyone."

Other Senate Democrats shared their reactions to the topics covered in the governor's speech:

In response to the governor’s State of the State address, Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford released the following statement.

“While it is good to hear that the governor may be changing his tone on education and criminal justice reform, there are still children and teens in Berwyn right now that aren’t receiving mental health counseling today because of this continued impasse.

“There are parents who haven’t had the security of child care services for months. College students in Chicago and across the state don’t know how long their universities will stay open, and that’s if they aren’t already leaving school because of MAP grants going unfunded.

“No words are going to change any of this – only actions. Until I see substantive progress, my patience with this charade of cooperation has all but dissolved. I will keep repeating the call for responsible, humane action on these issues until every student, child and family has what they need to succeed and has a fighting chance at a healthy, happy life.”

State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) issued the following statement regarding Gov. Rauner’s State of the State address:

“Clearly we need to do more to encourage government consolidation and remove redundancies, waste, fraud and abuse. I sponsored the legislation that helped do this in DuPage County and look forward to working with the governor to find a responsible solution.”


State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) issued this statement:

“The problem this past year has not been with the governor’s initiatives, but with his actions,” Bush said. “After a year that pulled the rug out from under seniors, children and the needy, I hope his call for cooperation is real. It is time for Illinois to move past partisan bickering.”

State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign):

“Students at Danville Area Community College just started a second semester without MAP grant funding. They are looking at us for answers. We need to push the restart button and work together to find a responsible solution.”

State Senator Gary Forby (D-Benton) released the following statement:

“The governor talks about the need for jobs in Southern Illinois,” said Forby. “I wonder if he realizes what he’s done to our region. He shut down the Sparta shooting complex, he cut off funding to Southern Illinois University and John A. Logan College. Those decisions cost people jobs. I hope he realizes he’s made a mistake and is going to work to undo his decisions and finally invest in Southern Illinois.”

20160127 121536State Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines):

"It's clear that Gov. Rauner has 'unfriended' working families, seniors, Illinoisans with developmental disabilities and college students who, because of his abandonment of higher education, now face an uncertain future.

“State government needs reform and Springfield needs to do more with less just like families have had to. But it is profoundly wrong and unfair for the governor to victimize those who rely on state government for quality of life help, to suffer disproportionately because of his misguided policy agenda."

State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

“Starting his speech by attacking hardworking union men and women in the south suburbs was inappropriate. I believe a leader should unite the people rather than divide them.

“Our state is struggling without a budget, our social service and higher education institutions are at the brink of collapse.

“However, I do applaud the governor on his initiatives to modernize the state IT infrastructure to save money and streamline the process. I also applaud him on increasing partnerships between high school and community colleges to increase student job training and allow them to step into better careers; this is an initiative I have been working on for three years.

“I am committed to working with anyone to improve Illinois, but more importantly I am committed to improving the south suburbs.”

State Senator Julie Morrison (D – Deerfield):

“As recent news events have alluded, the continuation of our budget impasse is having a devastating impact on our non-profit entities, affecting community services for adults with disabilities and home care for seniors. It is also making our business climate that much worse. I agree with the governor that some common sense reforms are needed in Illinois. However, solving this budget crisis once and for all must be our top priority.”

State Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton) released the following statement:

“I appreciate the governor trying to be more bipartisan and acknowledge he is willing to work with us on some issues,” Haine said. “However the fact is we are not paying our bills. College students are not receiving their financial aid, homebound seniors continue to suffer and mothers are lacking access to day care. I hope the governor is ready to sit down and engage in an open and constructive dialogue on these issues. I am willing to work with the governor in order to get Illinois back on track.”

Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) issued the following statement:

"I appreciate the governor’s bipartisan tone during his speech. However, I was hoping he would discuss the necessity of funding services that many Illinoisans are not receiving as a result of the budget impasse. Unfortunately, I did not hear a plan for approving a budget so that our college students can receive promised aid and our most vulnerable populations can get the services they need.

"Personal agendas need to be set aside and everyone needs to work collectively to move our state forward."

State Senator John G. Mulroe (D-Chicago) provided this reaction:

“I would hope that we can chalk the first year up to a learning curve,” Mulroe said. “Unfortunately, we can’t walk back the clock and some of the mistakes made in the past year have caused people harm. But I am hopeful that together we can work towards bipartisan legislation that would benefit all people in Illinois. Compromise is the path we should be taking, and I look forward to seeing my fellow legislators and the governor do just that.”

Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) issued the following statement:

“Gov. Rauner’s focus on economic development in Illinois is odd given that the budget impasse under his leadership is harming businesses and stifling economic growth faster than anything or anyone else ever could. Passing a state budget must be the governor’s top priority. Without a budget, businesses will continue to view Illinois as a risky place to invest.”

Vernon Hills Democratic Senator Terry Link released this statement:

“Now that the governor has been on the second floor for a year, maybe we can get away from the rhetoric and move to real solutions for our state. Our communities and families are hurting and this governor desires more rhetoric. It is time that we move along and see real progress for all Illinoisans,” said Senator Link. “With social services being demolished and many universities on the brink of disaster, I urge the governor to come to the table with a sensible plan to put Illinois back on the path to stability. I look forward to working with Governor Rauner and my fellow senators to restoring necessary services our constituents depend on.”

State Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora):

“As Governor Rauner spoke about our state’s accomplishments this past year, he left out that it was a disaster for everyone who looks to government for crucial aid, from children who need daycare to seniors who need food,” Holmes said. “I agree with his calls for government consolidation on the local level and even served on the task force that explored those issues, but I’m disappointed that he’s married these ideas to his anti-union agenda. I am ready to make 2016 the year we set aside these politicized issues and do the work of the state.”


State Senator William Delgado (D-Chicago):   

“Despite what the governor insisted, I still don’t see any progress being made because the state is still without a budget,” Delgado said. “Social service providers are being dismantled, the quality of senior care is eroding and many working families still are unable to access affordable childcare.”

“We all need to focus on finding solutions that help move our state forward. No more blaming and finger pointing, just cooperation,” said Delgado.


State Senator Michael Noland (D-Elgin):

“Today, to his credit, the governor sounded less like a cowboy looking for a showdown,” said Noland. “However, he still seems intent on starving the townspeople into submission. Instead of a showdown, the good people of this state are now mired in a meltdown, a slow and painful meltdown.”

“For the past year, the governor has insisted on pushing an agenda that is harmful for Illinois families, especially those reliant on social services. The people of this state deserve action, not speeches. We need a legislature that will pass structural tax reform and a governor that will sign it.”

Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston):

“I am glad to hear Gov. Rauner is interested in working with the Legislature on such vitally important issues as criminal justice and education funding reform. However, I hope he does not use these critical reforms as further opportunities to leverage his agenda against Illinois’ working families and middle-class public servants.

“Notably missing from the governor’s speech was an acknowledgement that Illinois’ network of human services and higher education are in crisis because of the budget impasse. This problem must be resolved quickly. I look forward to the governor’s budget address next month.”


Senate Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago):

"I appreciate that the governor appeared to be more willing to compromise and work in a bipartisan fashion. However, it’s just a speech. It did not get us any closer to a budget. The governor needs to focus on approving a budget so that our seniors can get the meals and support they need, our college students can get the financial aid the state committed to them and those who are homeless can be helped."


Senator Napoleon Harris III (D-Harvey):

“This isn’t the time to talk. Words don’t feed seniors, keep college students in school or provide childcare for working families. We’ve heard a lot of talk in the last year, but haven’t seen action. He has yet to grasp the reality of our situation. The lack of a state budget is affecting communities and destroying services people in need depend on. It’s disappointing that the governor believes his agenda comes before the most vulnerable lives in our state. I’m tired of it. We need a budget, not more speeches and not more press conferences.”


State Senator Pat McGuire (D-Joliet):

“Illinois has been without a proper budget for nearly eight months. Eight months. It’s time to get past the divisive rhetoric and political sloganeering. Let’s all of us — the governor and the General Assembly — roll up our sleeves and work on a budget so that low-income college students can afford to continue their education and so that the developmentally disabled can continue getting the services they need.

“Only then can Illinois become a state that is compassionate and competitive, as the governor has repeatedly claimed is his goal.”


State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill):

“The governor’s firm commitment to embrace school funding reform is a major, positive step to end this decades-old crisis, prioritize the real needs of students and ensure that every child has the same access to opportunities.

“I look forward to working with him, Senate President Cullerton and the rest of the General Assembly to finally fix Illinois’ broken system of funding public schools,” Manar said.

State Senator Steve Stadelman (D – Rockford) released this:

“The governor had a chance today to lay out a proposal to end the dysfunction plaguing Illinois. The state is doubling its backlog of bills and spending billions of dollars more than we collect.

“Illinois does need reformed, but not at the cost of eliminating in-home senior care and respite services for veterans in Rockford. The governor and legislative leaders need to craft a bipartisan solution before it is too late.”


State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th):

It was good to hear the governor say that 'we must cast partisanship and ideology aside.” I’m happy those words came from his lips, and I’m hoping someday they’ll make it to his ears, because during his first year in office, he’s allowed his ideology to hijack the budget and do costly, long-term damage to state services for those in greatest need.

His refusal to compromise also has kept us from achieving many of the worthy goals he mentioned today, including full and fair funding for education. Meanwhile, he’s gone on the warpath against Illinois’ public institutions of higher learning, a system our employers depend on for a skilled workforce, our young adults rely on to secure decent jobs and our communities count on for continued economic growth. In particular, the governor’s attack on Chicago State University is founded on a twisting of statistics, comparing this unique institution, which serves as a safety net for students whose backgrounds and biographies are nontraditional, to those with very different profiles.

I appreciate and applaud the governor’s recognition of the work of the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform and its chairman, Rodger Heaton. This group’s recommendations should be given serious consideration during this legislative session. But as I sat in meetings with other members of the Commission, one clear truth emerged: success requires investment. Without a serious, deliberate investment of resources into community-based programs that deter youth from criminal involvement and prevent recidivism among ex-offenders, our best efforts will fall far short of the goal.

In the past year, the governor’s ideological intransigence has hijacked the kind of purposeful, sustained, data-driven investment Illinois needs – in education, criminal justice reform, economic development and social services. Now, after more than half a year without a budget, his actions matter far more than his words.

Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) recorded this response to the speech: