Gov. Bruce Rauner’s 2016 State of the State Address: Analysis And Reaction

January 27, 2016
Protestors outside the House chamber while Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner delivers his State of the State address

Various groups and organizations protest against budget cuts and rally infavor of passing a state budget outside the House chamber while Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly in the House chambers at the Illinois State Capitol Wednesday.

Seth Perlman/ Associated Press

Reaction from Gov. Bruce Rauner's State of the State Address, including lawmakers, the head of a social service agency, and public policy analysts from University of Illinois.

Chris Mooney, Director, Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of Illinois

Despite the state of Illlinois in the midst of an unprecedent, historic budget stalemate, Gov. Bruce Rauner's State of the State Address, which lasted more than half an hour, Gov. Bruce Rauner didn't utter the word "budget" until the final few minutes. 

"If you would have been in a coma for the past two years, and woke up, and heard this speech, you would have no idea that the state of Illinois was in the biggest crisis since Abraham Lincoln was in the General Assembly," said Chris Mooney, director of the University of Illinois's Institute of Government and Public Affairs. "Because he didn't state that. It was a tactical error."

Richard Dye, Faculty Member, Institute of Government and Public Affairs 

Rauner did speak extensively about the bipartisan deal he had reached with Senate President, Democrat John Cullerton, over pension reform.

Cullerton’s plan would give state employees a choice between freezing their pensionable salary in exchange for a higher cost-of-living increase, or getting a lower cost-of-living increase while allowing their pensionable salary to grow.

Dye says based on the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn a previous attempt at pension reform he doesn’t think this legislation will pass muster either.

He adds that that Illinois’ unfunded pension liability continues to grow despite the state increasing its payments each year because of the “pension ramp” agreed to by former governor Jim Edgar and the General Assembly in the mid 1990s. He says the most effective thing the state has done to control future pension costs is passing the 2011 law that created a less generous pension plan for new state employees.

102nd District State Rep. Adam Brown (R-Champaign)

Brown says he wants the governor and House Speaker to call a special session to end Illinois’ budget stalemate.

He calls it "an embarrassment" that the areas that rely on state funding, like social services and higher education have been waiting for that money since July.

“This is outrageous that the state of Illinois would go on this long without passing a balanced budget," he said. "And I think it goes back to the root of the problem, that key word being balanced.  I’ve been here for five years now, and there has been a balanced budget in my five-year tenure.”

Brown did say he was optimistic about some of Governor Rauner’s proposals in Wednesday's address, including term limits for lawmakers, and worker’s compensation reform.

52nd District Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign)

Bennett says he was disappointed that Governor Bruce Rauner didn't talk more about the state's lack of a budget.  

"It's musical chairs and the music has stopped and what's left- and it's social services and higher education," he said. "And that's what we're hearing today from the loud voices in the capitol. A lot of voices turning to speak for those who've been cut in this budget fight."

Dale Morrissey, Chief Executive Officer, Developmental Services Center, Champaign

Morrissey was in Springfield Wednesday to attend a state association board meeting, but heard the governor's address with other social service providers. 

He said was happy to hear Gov. Rauner briefly mention human services in the address, including calls to move individuals in vulnerable communities from institutions into community care. But Morrissey said he wants more specifics, and the overwhelming concern was the 7-month budget stalemate.

He said some organziations got contracts to last through the current fiscal year despite the lack of a budget. 

"If the budget's not settled within this fiscal year, do they still have a legitmate contract?" he said. "So some people have been providing services on a good-faith document. But is that document, once the fiscal year passes, still a legal document?"

Morrissey says Illinois is "unchartered waters" having gone nearly a full year without a budget.

David Merriman, Economist, Institute of Government and Public Affairs

Merriman questions some of the assertions about state workers’ pay by Governor Bruce Rauner in today’s State of the State address. Rauner said Wednesday that “our state employees are paid almost 30 percent more than Illinois taxpayers are in their own jobs for the same work.”

Merriman says that figure doesn’t match most of the research he’s seen on the subject.

"On compensation, the general belief among most economists - you might say the best evidence is that - government workers make similar wages in the public sector that they would too in the private sector," he said. "Which is kind of what you'd expect in a competitive labor market."

Merriman says he would like to see where the governor got the numbers he mentioned in Wednesday's speech.

Rauner also said that state workers in Illinois receive higher pay than in any other state, when figures are adjusted for differing costs of living. 

Merriman says the research he has seen shows that Illinois state workers' wages are higher than state workers in neighboring Missouri, Indiana and Kentucky; comparable to those in Iowa; and slightly less than those in Michigan.

Story source: WILL