Gov. Bruce Rauner is expected to lay out his priorities for the year during the annual State of the State address in Springfield on Wednesday, and there’s no shortage of challenges facing his administration, from the historic stalemate over the state’s budget to the possibility of the state’s largest union going on strike for the first time ever.
WBEZ will air the governor’s address live at noon, followed by analysis of his speech. Here are four things to watch for in Rauner’s speech.
The Senate’s budget compromise
Rauner has been reserved in his public comments on a massive budget compromise being considered in the Senate, although groups that support Rauner, including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, oppose parts of the proposal. That plan grew out of talks between Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), and it sparked some optimism among state lawmakers looking to end the more than yearlong budget impasse.
The Senate plan includes elements of Rauner’s business-friendly, union-weakening Turnaround Agenda, which includes a two-year property tax freeze across the state. The Senate also adopted a change in its rules, adding a 10-year term limit for legislative leaders. In addition, this budget proposal would also raise the state income tax, borrow money to pay down the state’s debt, create a casino in Chicago and others across the state, and raise the minimum wage.
The Senate’s compromise marks the first time Democrats have incorporated Rauner’s agenda into a budget plan, but neither Rauner nor House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) have been directly involved in those negotiations.
Rauner is also expected to deliver a budget address next month.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the state's largest public employee union, has been locked in a contract fight with the Rauner administration. Last year, the state Labor Relations Board sided with Rauner and declared the two sides were at an impasse. AFSCME disagrees, and has argued Rauner prematurely walked away from negotiations. AFSCME members are scheduled to take a strike authorization next week, although it doesn’t guarantee a strike will occur if one is approved.
In last year’s State of the State Address, Rauner spent a considerable amount of time criticizing AFSCME, saying, “It’s time we restore balance between taxpayers and state government.
What Rauner has “honestly accomplished”
No address would be complete without at least a little self-promotion. Rauner was recently asked during a Facebook Live Q&A what he’s “honestly accomplished.” The first term governor admitted he’s frustrated with the impasse, but touted other issues, including modernizing the state’s computers and reducing recidivism in the state’s prisons. Last week, Rauner signed a bill that passed with bipartisan support that requires schools test their water for lead.
What’s next for Rauner
Rauner has bragged about increasing state spending for K-12 education since he became governor, and last year announced 10 long-term goals related to education. More recently, he’s been touting the choice of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education under President Donald Trump. He also created a long-term initiative he’s calling “Cutting the Red Tape” to address what he refers to as Illinois’ burdensome regulations on industries and private companies.
But as for negotiating a larger deal with Democrats, that remains fluid. When asked during his Facebook Live chat on Jan. 12 whether he intends to stay the course on his political agenda, Rauner said, “The answer is emphatically yes.”
Tony Arnold covers state politics for WBEZ. You can follow him at @tonyjarnold.