SPRINGFIELD—Gov. Bruce Rauner plans to talk of “bringing Illinois back” by focusing on economic development — while also chiding “partisan sniping” Wednesday in his State of the State address.
The governor’s final speech of what he hopes to be a first of two terms will center on reforming the state, which the Republican governor believes can be done with bipartisan effort, according to a source familiar with the speech.
Rauner will ask legislators to “roll up their sleeves” and work together to focus on economic development, while cutting the regulatory red tape and improving the job climate in Illinois. He’ll also talk of the need to cut state spending and roll back taxes. With less spending, the state’s capital can grow and produce more jobs, he’s expected to say.
He’ll also likely focus on an issue he’s blasted for some time, corruption in the state’s property tax assessment system. That issue has come to the forefront of his re-election campaign, as he seeks to target Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker and continue his efforts against Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.
The governor will also call for legislation prohibiting legislators from serving as property tax lawyers, and call for putting term limits on the ballot.
“Throughout our history, Illinois has been a magnet. If you wanted to till the soil, lay a brick, build a building, make a deal, super compute, you name it … you could find work in Illinois, afford a home, and rely on the public schools to educate your children,” Rauner will say, according to prepared remarks. “Today, we have an opportunity to turn yesterday intotomorrow, and given its assets, make Illinois the powerhouse job creator it should be.”
A lot has happened since Rauner addressed the Illinois General Assembly last year. A nearly two-year budget impasse ended, alongside the passage of an income tax hike — with several Republicans breaking ranks to approve the budget and tax bills. Then came an abrupt series of staff purges and hires within the governor’s administration, negative headlines and more exits and ultimately, a Republican primary challenger in state Rep. Jeanne Ives.
As the governor prepared for his fourth address, Democrats weren’t shy about lodging their own critical predictions. In a Democratic Governors Association conference call, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza ticked off all the bills Rauner vetoed and predicted he will “deflect blame for the state’s troubles.”
“He’ll pretend he’s not been in charge of the state. What you won’t hear is Bruce Rauner tomorrow taking responsibility for the failures he’s brought on the state,” Mendoza said. “But here’s a secret. Bruce Rauner has been governor for three years, and voters will hold him accountable for his record.”
Mendoza blamed Rauner for the state incurring $1 billion in interest payments during the budget impasse, which she called “money that could have gone to schools or to infrastructure. Or to pay for new pipes at the Quincy Veterans’ Home where 13 people have died from Legionnaire’s disease on the Governor’s watch,” she said.