The governor’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Four years ago, I ran for governor on a bold plan to change state government, and unlock Illinois’ potential.
I was a political newcomer. A private citizen who was called to serve, to fix the biggest problems in our state.
Serving as your governor is an honor. It’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done. To lead Illinois at this critical time, when our challenges as a state are so large, and our politics are so tragically small.
But the cause of fixing the great state of Illinois is worth the stress. Because short of being a good husband, father, and grandfather, building a stronger future for the 12.8 million people of our state is the most important thing I’ll do with my life.
To get Illinois back on track, we have to be honest about the changes we need to make. I have been criticized over my time in office for speaking too negatively about Illinois. I don’t need to list here today all the challenges we face. But I do believe it’s my responsibility as governor to tell the truth about the situation we find ourselves in.
It’s impossible to fix a problem by pretending it doesn’t exist.
The people of Illinois know our system is broken. It was true four years ago. It’s still true today.
I passionately believe that we can reform state government under the principle of public service, making government work for the people rather than for the insiders. Taking power from the politicians and giving it back to the people is the key to driving the change we need.
When I arrived in Springfield, I leaned on my decades of experience in the private sector. I was successful in business because I brought “out of the box” thinking to existing problems. I rose to the top of my field because I challenged the status quo and thought of new ways to do old things. I brought that mindset to Springfield, and sought to turn Illinois around by changing everything at once. I believed a dramatic, aggressive approach could shock state government into shape and bring Illinois back to life.
While it was true – and remains true – that Illinois needs massive reform to get back on track, I underestimated how difficult change can be in government.
You all know this truth: spending more money we don’t have and taking more money from taxpayers in hopes it will cover the bill, will lead us to disaster.
But you should know this as well: I have learned from my years on the job.
I have learned that the two most important things for success in public service are courage and understanding.
Courage to do what’s right regardless of the political consequences and understanding that there are different points of view, different priorities and approaches, even when we share the same goal of wanting to improve Illinois.
And by embracing courage and understanding, we can chart a new path for Illinois. That’s what I pledge to do over the next four years.
Admittedly, I may have overdone it on the courage part at times. I’ve done things that cost me politically, because I was more focused on doing what was right.
I know the budget impasse was painful. It kept me up at night worrying about the disruption that many families experienced. All of us elected officials let you down in that struggle.
But the budget impasse was a fight for reform. The people of Illinois have suffered for decades under a political system that cares less about the people it represents, than about keeping special interests happy to win the next election. A system that does what’s politically easy instead of what’s right.
It takes courage to stand up to the special interests and the status quo. But I’ve learned that it’s equally important to build mutual understanding – to find common ground with those elected officials who want to change things for the better.
It’s no secret that real divides exist between our political parties. That’s why I’ve learned to listen. It takes wisdom to listen to those who disagree with you, wisdom that can be gained only through years of tough political fights.
I have learned that building consensus around ideas … hammering out policy details … clearly communicating to the people of Illinois why they matter … these things take time in government. Sometimes more time than we’d like.
And I have learned that there are countless areas where we can work together – with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. When we put aside our partisan differences and focus on the good of the people, we can get great things done.
That’s how we’ve made progress for the people of Illinois. We have made important progress in many areas, including:
Education reform, achieving record levels of K-12 and early childhood investment, greater equity in school funding, and more school choice.
Healthcare reform that improved access to quality care for Illinoisans, saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, and makes us a national leader in behavioral health.
Groundbreaking criminal justice reform, reducing recidivism and increasing public safety by addressing the root causes of criminal behavior.
A future energy plan that puts Illinois on the forefront of efficiency and independence.
A major expansion of the U of I, to make Illinois a world leader in economic growth through technology, research, and innovation.
And by cutting through red tape and supporting entrepreneurs, we’ve created over 210,000 net new jobs since I took office.
After years of tough political fights, Republicans and Democrats came to the negotiating table and worked together to pass a budget. It isn’t perfect; that’s the nature of compromise. But it’s bipartisan momentum we will build on in a second term.
These are OUR successes – bipartisan and with meaningful, measurable, lasting impact for the people of Illinois. Achieving these things required courage … and they required understanding.
I stand before you today a man of no less courage, but perhaps greater understanding.
In divided government, you can’t fix things all at once. You have to be willing to accept incremental improvements. You can’t sacrifice progress for the sake of winning an argument.
But the disruption, the arguments, the negotiations of the past four years have laid the groundwork for real and necessary change. We can continue to move, albeit more slowly than I’d proposed, towards the change that Illinois needs. We can build on the bipartisan successes to move our state forward.
I’m a better governor now than when I took office because of what I’ve learned. And that experience makes me uniquely qualified to lead Illinois.
Today, I ask voters to allow me to continue the work we started, to unlock Illinois’ unlimited potential.
The pillars of this work remain the same: reducing taxes, growing jobs, and ending corruption in state government.
My goals for a second term are the complete opposite of my opponent’s. Pritzker’s plans for more reckless spending and another round of devastating tax hikes would spell disaster for our state. We cannot tax our way to a better future.
The reforms we need aren’t partisan or unreasonable. Our neighboring states have flattened and reduced taxes for their residents. Bluer states than Illinois have put in place the same common sense reforms I’ve proposed: Rhode Island Democrats achieved bipartisan pension reform, Massachusetts Democrats reformed their worker’s compensation and government healthcare systems, California Democrats passed term limits and have tackled gerrymandering.
We’ve proposed these things before, but Speaker Madigan has pulled the rug out from under reform. Even when his fellow Democrats desired the same changes, he has stood in the way.
But Speaker Madigan and his political machine are weaker now than at any time in recent memory. The scandals and controversies, the fiscal reality of our state, and the appetite for reform on both sides of the aisle make this moment an opportunity for change.
I’ve tried to empower and strengthen the many voices for reform. And with a few more reformers in the General Assembly, we will break through. Reformers who pledge to vote for new leadership in the General Assembly, and hold themselves accountable to the people.
Together, through courage and understanding, we can fix our biggest problems.
Unfortunately, my opponent disagrees.
I’m committed to freezing property taxes and removing mandates from Springfield to restore decision making to the local level, to reduce property taxes over time.
Mr. Pritzker opposes a property tax freeze. And mandate relief.
I’m committed to lowering income taxes over time – as I outlined in my budget proposal this year – by enacting genuine pension reform that puts us on a sustainable path.
We can come to a compromise on the consideration model that allows hardworking state employees to choose a compensation structure that works best for them.
It’s something policy-minded Republicans and Democrats agree on – and we can do it.
Mr. Pritzker believes it’s a non-starter, and he’s proposed nearly $11 billion in new spending with another big tax hike to pay for it all.
I’m committed to creating more good-paying jobs through smart regulatory reforms like fixing the broken workers’ compensation system, which is twice as expensive in Illinois as in neighboring states, and by reducing the massive regulatory burden on our job creators.
Pritzker doesn’t think excessive regulations are an issue.
I’m committed to putting term limits on all state elected officials and agreeing to independently drawn legislative maps to end the corruption and conflicts of interest that have held Illinois back for decades.
The University of Illinois at Chicago released a study this spring that ranked Chicago as the most corrupt city in America, and Illinois the third most corrupt state.
Ask yourself why Mr. Pritzker has voiced zero concern for the corruption in our state. He might be the only person in Illinois who doesn’t think corruption is a problem.
In any other state, these reforms wouldn’t be like pulling teeth. They wouldn’t create conflict; they would be bipartisan no-brainers.
They are all things that the people of Illinois want and deserve: a government that’s more efficient, effective, and accountable to the people.
This November, Illinois voters have the chance to send a message. They can tell the political class that we refuse to go back to a system controlled by a few insiders and that we want common sense reform.
I’ve grown in office … I’ve changed. We’ve made progress. I know we can work together to get even more done.
The people of Illinois have a clear choice in November. Will we continue the hard work of reform, aimed at making this state a place where our children and grandchildren can thrive? Or will we return to the status quo: a government controlled by insiders, hellbent on hiking taxes, with little regard for the consequences felt by ordinary citizens?
I’m here to tell you the truth: Pritzker doesn’t have what it takes.
Exchanging campaign cash for political favors, and using his inherited wealth to get what he wants out of state government are not prerequisites for being governor. They’re disqualifications.
A man caught on FBI wiretap trying to buy political office from a criminally corrupt politician is not worthy of the highest office in our state.
A man who inherits billions of dollars, but hides it in offshore bank accounts in the Bahamas to avoid paying taxes, won’t work to give YOU the tax relief YOU deserve. His actions are unpatriotic. He’s not paying his fair share.
A man who ripped toilets out of his Chicago mansion to dodge his property taxes won’t work to reduce your taxes. His deceitful action just puts more burden on other property taxpayers.
What sort of person would do that?
His behavior shows him to be a person utterly lacking in the integrity and character we need in public office.
If elected, he WOULD get big things done: BIG spending, BIG tax hikes, and BIG support for self-dealing.
Imagine what another tax hike would do to your family budget. Imagine what a new tax on every mile you drive would do.
I’ve talked to dozens of families and job creators who have told me that if Pritzker gets into office, and raises taxes as he’s promised, they will leave Illinois.
My opponent doesn’t have the courage or understanding to lead. He’ll only be another insider working for the special interests and against the people.
My opponent thinks he can hide from the media, avoid their questions, and buy this election. I don’t often agree with the media, but I respect them enough to address their questions. Because that’s what you do when you serve the people.
My opponent thinks he can hide from the truth. But we won’t let him.
My opponent thinks he can rail against Washington, and make this election about what’s happening over there. But this election is about Illinois, what’s happening here, and the future of our state.
I’m not perfect, but I’ve grown … and I’m still committed to doing what’s right for Illinois.
Serious challenges require serious leaders, willing to listen and willing to do what it takes.
State government of the insiders, by the insiders, and for the insiders is destined to fail the people.
But I believe in the potential of Illinois, I believe in the people of Illinois, who make us the greatest state in the greatest nation on earth.
This election isn’t about me. It’s not about Republican vs. Democrat. It’s about the people vs. the corrupt political machine. It’s about the taxpayers and job creators vs. the insiders.
It’s about you, and finally delivering the tax relief, the jobs, and the healthy economy you deserve.
It’s about delivering the future our children and grandchildren deserve.
I humbly ask for another four years to finish the job we started, to save our state. I hope you’ll join me in our fight.
Illinois is OUR home. It’s OUR fight. And it’s OUR future on the line.
God bless you, God bless the great state of Illinois, and God bless the United States of America.