Senators react to governor's State of the State speech

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Members of the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus listened to the governor's State of the State speech today, then released the following comments in response:

Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago): “He hasn’t met with the four legislative leaders since December of 2016, yet the governor called for better collaboration in state government in his State of the State address. With so much divisiveness at the federal level, we need a governor who will take charge and lead instead of pointing fingers.”

Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood): “For the last three years, Gov. Bruce Rauner has given the same speech. Yet for the last three years, we have been waiting for him to make a genuine effort to work with us. The governor’s speeches and soundbites are far from reality. Meanwhile, schools are still waiting for their funding and we are waiting for the governor to quit attacking and to reach across the aisle.”

Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake): “While Governor Rauner has a good record of talking about bipartisanship and the need to work together to turn our state around, his actions over the past three years say otherwise. Since he took office, Rauner has repeatedly refused to compromise and at times blocked bipartisan efforts to move our state forward and pass a balanced budget. Governor Rauner is quick to blame others for our state’s problems, but has failed to provide meaningful solutions. I truly hope that this year the governor takes charge and follows his calls to reach across the aisle.”

Senator.Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago): “We heard much today of working together and trying to make a better Illinois, but what I never seem to hear from Governor Rauner is how we will do this for the working man, for the single mother, for the communities that remain marginalized even as the stock exchanges go around trumpeting their news of their historic highs,” Collins said. What we’ve seen the past three years from this governor is a divisive and spiteful agenda that has closed day care centers, devastated universities and put social services on life support. All these developments have affected communities of color the hardest. I would have appreciated hearing, now that he is speaking of compromise, how the governor plans to undo all this damage.”

Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park): “Today was simply another Bruce Rauner pep rally from an alternate universe. Back-porch deals, crony warehouse contracts and a public health scandal at a veterans’ home are all he has to show for three years in office. This governor continues to live in a fantasy land while everyone else tries to deal with the realities he ignores.”

Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton): “Once again, Governor Rauner offered vague ideas, but he lacks a specific plan to accomplish any of them. In the last three years his failure to present, negotiate, and support a bipartisan balanced budget has caused needless layoffs at SIU in Edwardsville and forced organizations like Senior Services Plus in Alton to reduce vital Meals on Wheels programs.  There are three weeks until the governor gives his Budget Address. I hope in that time he is finally able to offer a detailed, balanced budget that finally gives our state stability.” 

Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park): “Everything the governor said today is empty rhetoric if he breaks the promise he just made and again next month fails to present a balanced budget. The more the governor speaks, the more obvious it is that he is living in an alternate reality. He talks about working together across the aisle, when his refusal to compromise on a balanced budget tripled our state’s debt and left us on the brink of disaster. He talked again about decreasing property taxes. In reality, the only way to provide tax relief for middle-class families without causing more financial damage is to move to a fair tax system, something I’ve never heard the governor support. I hope Governor Rauner joins us in reality next month when he presents his budget address. If not, we will have to do his job for him again.”

Senator Napoleon Harris III (D-Harvey): “The governor needs to build on the work done by the General Assembly last year and take advantage of our current stability to make Illinois the prosperous state he constantly describes. South suburban residents want to see an Illinois where business booms and jobs are plentiful, and I’m committed to fighting for and delivering on that vision. We need to strengthen our education system, reform our criminal justice system, lower property taxes and provide more opportunities for business growth throughout our state.”

Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park): “The governor’s extreme agenda has amplified Illinois’ challenges and put us on the brink of collapse, and now he wants to stand up and talk about bipartisanship.  The people of Illinois have had to rely on makeshift budgets for vital services because, frankly, the governor has no idea how to make government work. The damage he has caused will hurt working families, seniors and disabled populations for years to come.”

Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora): “In his address, Governor Rauner bragged about a veto that would have gravely harmed communities across the state had it been allowed to stand. By refusing to support the budget, Rauner refused to support programs like state-subsidized childcare for working families. Early childhood education centers across the state were forced to close their doors due to Rauner’s inability to lead or budget realistically. One of those centers was the Child Development Center in Aurora, which was licensed to provide care to 74 children. I hope that this year will be different.”

Senator Toi Hutchinson (D – Chicago Heights): “The governor once again did not come up short on laying out numerous policy positions he would like to see enacted into law. However, the problem has always been the distance between those positions and reality as well as the inability to stop campaigning long enough to govern. “Every problem Illinois had was made worse over the historic budget impasse. I am hopeful this year will be different, because the governor cannot continue to operate the way he has for the last three years and expect a different result. The governor has a chance to lay out specifics during his budget address. I look forward to those details. I’m here and ready to work.”

Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria): “The governor’s call for unity is three years too late. When Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together last year to find a grand bargain to address issues the governor requested, he intervened and destroyed any progress that was made toward a bipartisan agreement. This is a failed governor who took Illinois to the brink of junk bond status by refusing to sign a bipartisan budget. Thank goodness we have Republican colleagues in the House who voted for both the budget and the veto override to save our state.”

Senator Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills): “After three years in office, I would've liked to have heard concrete plans from the governor on how he's going to take charge and move our state forward. Calls for bipartisanship are empty when they come from a governor who has consistently refused to compromise on important issues, resulting in chaos for residents and organizations in my district and across the state. I hope the governor finally chooses to heed his own advice to roll up his sleeves and work across the aisle because the people of Illinois can't afford another year under a governor who fails to lead.”

Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill): “I heard a disappointing speech that was light on specifics and played more toward politics than problem-solving. Gov. Rauner offered no plan for job creation in parts of the state that have not benefitted from jobs recently even though the general economy is improving. As for his call that we all roll up our sleeves and work together, I see no evidence that he understands what ‘bipartisan’ actually means and what it takes to set that in motion. It takes more than words to achieve bipartisan cooperation. It requires trust building, one-on-one conversations and spending enormous amounts of time building relationships. We’re three years into this governor’s term, and he hasn’t done one of those things with lawmakers in all that time. To set those things in motion in his fourth years is going to be an enormous challenge. I wish him luck, because that’s what it will take to begin solving problems. But this speech did nothing toward that effort.”

Senator John G. Mulroe (D-Chicago): “Actions speak louder than words. It’s time for the governor to step up and be a leader and resolve the issues that face our state instead of blaming everyone but himself for the state’s problems.”

Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago): “It’s easy for the governor to give an empty speech about working together in a bipartisan fashion, but he has shown time and time again that he is unwilling to reach across the aisle. His words ring hollow because for three years when it was time for him to govern, he decided to be a politician instead, and only now has he decided to talk like a bipartisan executive. He once again took credit for accomplishments that weren’t his own. He praised the historic school funding reform that he initially vetoed and is still trying to keep from being implemented. If he truly wants to follow through on those bipartisan promises, he will need to do his job this year and work with members of both parties to put forward a balanced budget.”

Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D- Chicago): “The governor has once again failed to lay out a plan that will allow us to work together and move our state forward. Today’s address continues the governor’s standard practice of making speeches long on rhetoric and short on action.The governor may continue to act as if he is not in charge or has no role in the out-migration of Illinois families and businesses, but the reality is he owns many of the challenges the state of Illinois faces because of his inability to work cooperatively with the General Assembly."

Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago): “Lawmakers have been working together for months – to craft the Grand Bargain and pass a bipartisan budget that included nearly $3 billion in spending reductions. The person missing in all of those bipartisan efforts was the governor. I hope that he takes his message today to heart and returns to the negotiating table.”

Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago): "I appreciate the governor's calls for bipartisanship, but he's spent the past three years pitting Chicago against the rest of the state, dividing instead of uniting. Rauner's actions over the past three years have led to chaos for our human service agencies, uncertainty in our schools and disproportionately hurt low-income families and people of color. It's time for the governor to stop placing blame on others and finally be the leader Illinois needs. It's time for him to stop campaigning and start governing."