Illinois: State of the state speech contains many proposals, none for tax changes

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In Governor Bruce Rauner’s January 27, 2016, address, he acknowledged his government’s goal “to improve the quality of life for ALL the people of Illinois,” which means more economic opportunity, higher pay and a lower cost of living.
Lamenting the fact that jobs and people are leaving the state, the Governor conceded that despite the fact that Illinois is a “wonderful place,” it has:
  • Fewer jobs today than it did 15 years ago;
  • The average working family is making less now than they were eight years ago;
  • Is “virtually tied for the highest property taxes in America;” and
  • Has “far more layers of government and mountains of debt at every level.”

To solve all this, Governor Rauner wants to “fix our workers comp system, labor regulations, liability costs, and property taxes that make [Illinois] uncompetitive, and push job creators out.” He sees property taxes as one of the major impediments to success in Illinois, and last year, tasked his Lieutenant Governor with studying issues related to consolidating local government and school districts, examining unfunded mandates, and identifying opportunities to streamline government, with the ultimate goal of reducing taxes. The result: a 400-plus page “groundbreaking report and roadmap for reform,” contained an endorsement of 27 recommendations.

Here are a few of those recommendations:

  • Enact a 4-year moratorium on creating new local governments;
  • Empower Illinois citizens to consolidate or dissolve local governments via referendum; 
  • Encourage state agencies to support regional sharing of public equipment, facilities, training, resources, and administrative functions; 
  • Make collective bargaining permissive, instead of mandatory; and 
  • Pass a constitutional amendment requiring the state to reimburse local governments’ school districts for increased expenses relating to future state mandates. 

Governor Rauner is also targeting unions in Illinois. Calling out the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees as costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, he wants to install common-sense into the state’s union contracts.

Pensions are another problem area. The Governor pointed out his agreement with a pension proposal that would save $1 billion per year from four of the state pension plans.

Citing additional challenges, the Governor hopes to consolidate, modernize and streamline information technology, modernize economic development efforts, reform the way the state buys goods and services to save more than $500 million per year, and reduce the state’s prison population by 25 percent by 2025.

Finally, Governor Rauner wants to make significant changes in the educational system, which he believes is the “key to rising family incomes, more high paying jobs, and a better life for everyone in Illinois.” He laid out 10 goals to this end:

  1. Increasing state support for education, and focusing additional resources more on low income and rural school districts without taking money away from any other districts;
  2. Funding early childhood education while setting rigorous benchmarks for program performance;
  3. Giving school districts more flexibility when it comes to bargaining, contracting, and bidding, while enabling districts to pay higher teacher salaries;
  4. Empowering universities and community colleges to reduce their administrative costs, work rules, pension liabilities and unfunded mandates;
  5. Supporting partnerships between high schools, community colleges, and local employers so that young people who are not going to university can receive the training to step into good paying careers beginning in their teenage years;
  6. Developing a comprehensive, consistent, objective student growth measure for tracking students’ progress;
  7. Supporting programs that create more quality school choice options for low income children stuck in failing schools;
  8. Creating new quality schools of choice for disconnected youth, to get them back in school;
  9. Consolidating most councils and task forces to decrease bureaucracy and increase high-quality outcomes; and 
  10. Creating a Cabinet on Children and Youth to better align health and human services with cradle to career education initiatives.
In the end, Governor Rauner envisions blending “the economic growth of states like Texas, with the heart and compassion of states like Massachusetts.”

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