To unleash our full potential, Illinois needs to end corruption in state government.
For decades, career politicians and political insiders have abused their positions of power to line their own pockets and rig the political system in their favor. The result has been a state government that works for career politicians and their cronies to the detriment of the people.
Illinois has suffered the embarrassment of watching four of our last nine governors go to prison. National headlines about my predecessors — like Rod Blagojevich, who was caught on FBI wiretap trying to sell President Obama’s senate seat to unethical insiders — made our state a national punchline.
Beyond embarrassment, the people of Illinois have also been forced to deal with the harmful consequences of corruption: state government dominated by the Chicago political machine and pay-to-play politics, out-of-control spending on sweetheart deals for special interests, and decades of destructively high taxes that stunt economic growth and ask hardworking families to continually pay more for a broken system.
For too long, public service in Illinois has been treated by career politicians as a way to make money. I couldn’t stand by and watch my home — the state I love — continue down the wrong path. I didn’t run away from the problem; I ran for office.
When I ran for governor four years ago, I campaigned on a bold, independent agenda to clean up state government and wrest power away from the entrenched political insiders. The people of Illinois affirmed my commitment to change the culture in state government.
In my first term, our team delivered meaningful, measurable reforms that have ended some of the corrupt state government practices holding Illinois back. We strengthened ethical requirements on all executive branch employees to change the culture within state government.
By requiring enhanced annual economic interest disclosures, we promoted transparency and accountability for employees of the executive branch. We closed the revolving door between public service and lobbying by banning anyone from lobbying the administration for one year after leaving the executive branch and stopped lobbyists and government contractors from unethically influencing state regulators by closing loopholes in bans on gifts and lobbyist-funded travel.
And we ended the illegal patronage hiring in state government made infamous under my predecessors Blagojevich and Pat Quinn.
Unfortunately, the Illinois General Assembly has failed to hold itself to these same high standards. Career politicians in the legislative branch are happy to put desperately needed ethics reforms on the back burner as long as it helps them stay in office and regardless of calls from the people of Illinois to clean up their act. That’s why six times in the last six years the House has shot down legislation to put term limits on elected officials.
Disturbingly, those who control the General Assembly have made no effort to stop elected officials from engaging in harmful conflicts of interest. House Speaker Mike Madigan himself makes millions enriching himself by running a property tax appeals firm in Chicago while simultaneously hiking taxes on hardworking Illinois families and businesses while in Springfield. And allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation call into question how his organization conducts business.
This kind of unethical behavior has to stop. Corrupt insiders and their cronies should no longer run our government. The people of Illinois deserve better.
In my first term, we’ve made real progress in making state government more accountable to the people it serves. But there’s more work to do. I’m committed to working with reform-minded lawmakers from both parties to continue to root out the corruption holding us back and make government work for the people of Illinois again.
Gov. Bruce Rauner, now running for re-election, first was sworn into office on Jan. 12, 2015.
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