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Sorry, Guv, but you have by no means been the salvation of the black community

Gov. Bruce Rauner greets people at a Black History Month celebration at the James R. Thompson Center last year. | Maria Cardona/ Sun-Times

When temporary workers faced serious hurdles in the workplace, state Rep. Carol Ammons stepped up to pass the Responsible Jobs Creation Act.

When students from Chicago and low-income areas around the state desperately needed a new school funding formula, state Rep. Will Davis led the charge.

OPINION

And when minority-owned businesses have needed a lift, state Sen. James Clayborne and I have worked together to provide them new opportunities.

Black lawmakers best represent their communities because we know the challenges our constituents face. Yet Gov. Bruce Rauner had the gall to go on a Chicago radio station recently and claim he’s the been best Illinois governor ever for the black community.

When we protested that claim, he doubled down by accusing us of having been ineffective in Springfield.

Governor, you just don’t get it, and never will.

When Bruce Rauner took office four years ago, he made clear he was choosing the elite over us. He hasn’t visited any communities in my district just west of Chicago, and you won’t find him in many other predominantly black neighborhoods and communities.

The governor’s “turnaround agenda?” Its anti-union and anti-worker approach will tear families apart, and it will gut the benefits and security needed by the people I represent.

Rauner’s supposed achievements in office — from the passage of a new education formula to a balanced budget this year to reforms in higher education — were, in fact, all initiatives of the Legislature, though now he wants to take the credit.

And just last week, Rauner was ecstatic about the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark case of Janus v. AFSCME. That decision will only further undermine the strong union jobs that make it possible for so many workers to provide for their families.

Most galling has been Rauner’s claim that members of the Legislature’s Black Caucus are ineffective at the Capitol. The record shows otherwise:

  • House Bill 690, pushed by Rep. Ammon, will lead to significantly improved working conditions for temporary employees, many of whom are black.
  • Senate Bill 262 and House Bill 2976, sponsored by Sen. Clayborne and me, streamline the process for minority-owned businesses to do business with the state and state universities.
  • Senate Bill 1947, enacted thanks to leadership from Will Davis, established a new school funding formula that provides millions of dollars more for schools in black neighborhoods
  • House Bill 514, pushed by Rep. La Shawn Ford, allows for the sealing of criminal records for people who have been acquitted of criminal charges. This bill will help black men and women find a better path in life.
  • House Bill 3157, from Rep. Sonya Harper, would facilitate the creation of more healthy food options in the “food deserts” of some in black neighborhoods.
  • House Bill 5020, which I sponsored, creates a four-year MAP grant program to help low-income students attend college.
  • Senate Bill 2332, from Rep. Camille Lilly, would reduce smoking in the black community by raising the age to purchase tobacco.
  • House Bill 5877, promoted by Rep. Litesa Wallace, would ensure that any bills the Legislature votes on fully considers the impact on racial and ethnic minorities.

The list of legislative achievements is much longer, and I should also note that the Legislative Black Caucus Foundation provided $1,000 higher education scholarships last year to 65 students. That is $65,000 in college aid for black students to help them achieve their dreams.

We face many challenges in Illinois, and in the black community. But, Governor, taking credit for accomplishments that aren’t yours and spreading misplaced blame is the very definition of ineffective.

Illinois deserves much better.

Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, D-Hillside, is the representative for the 7th state House district of Illinois.

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