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Rauner’s ‘State of State’ to focus on reforms he hopes get bipartisan support

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner will revisit issues he’s pushed for months, including term limits and property tax reform,  during his State of the State address on Wednesday — but he’ll also focus on reforms he hopes will gain bipartisan support, such as a plan to reduce the prison population.

With the state operating without a budget and his administration at war with unions, Rauner will highlight pension and education reform, as well as ways to make government more efficient, according to prepared speech remarks provided by a senior administration official.

Rauner will talk about the need to eliminate “wasteful bureaucracy, putting more money into our classrooms, and holding our schools truly accountable for results.”

And he’ll announce publicly that he has agreed to Senate President John Cullerton’s pension legislation, a week after a proposed agreement was met with some confusion.

Cullerton on Monday said the two were close to an agreement.

“As a first step toward bipartisan compromise, President Cullerton and I have agreed to support his pension proposal that will save $1 billion per year,” Rauner plans to say in his speech.

Cullerton’s pension plan allows state workers to receive slightly lower annual cost-of-living raises if they elect to have those pay increases count toward their retirement benefits, or they can get larger wage increases that won’t increase the size of their future pension payouts. Rauner had said last week — incorrectly, Cullerton insisted — that the legislation also would prevent state employees from making raises part of collective bargaining.

In his second State of the State address, Rauner will also announce a push for a revised version of legislation targeting the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, putting a focus on sales, marketing and customer service to increase the state’s competitiveness for job creation and investment, according to his prepared remarks.

He’ll also announce a plan to save taxpayers $500 million a year by changing the way the state buys its goods and services, targeting the lengthy time it takes to put through requests for proposals.

Rauner will discuss big reforms to the state’s criminal justice system, following 14 recommendations announced by The Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform earlier this month. Those include reducing the length of prison stays and focusing on rehabilitating offenders and helping them get back to their lives after release.

The plan is designed to reduce the state prison population by 25 percent.

“These and other reforms will lead to fewer victims of crimes, a pathway back for ex-offenders, and safer communities for all,” Rauner is preparing to say in his speech.

It’s a big contrast to Rauner’s first State of the State address last year, in which he talked about divisive issues, such as controlling local collective-bargaining and having government workers decide whether they want to join a union.

Noticeably absent from Rauner’s address last year was any mention of the state’s pension crisis. The governor took office with a $100 billion pension shortfall and a pension reform law in legal limbo.

The governor will deliver his remarks at noon before the Illinois General Assembly in House chambers at the State Capitol in Springfield.