Pritzker Delivers First State of the State Address

By Benjamin Cox on January 30, 2020 at 8:45am

Governor J.B. Pritzker delivered his first State of the State address in front of the full Illinois General Assembly yesterday in Springfield. Pritzker highlighted several progressive accomplishments from his first year in office. “We passed a bipartisan, truly balanced budget on time, with renewed investments in job creation, cradle to career education, and physical and mental healthcare. Even the credit rating agencies and financial analysts described a “distinct improvement” in our fiscal stability, and investors took notice and lowered our state’s borrowing rate. A balanced budget is an important accomplishment, but it’s more than just about fiscal discipline. It’s a moral document that reflects our values as a state.”

Pritzker touted the Rebuild Illinois capital infrastructure bill: “For the first time in a decade, we passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill. Rebuild Illinois will create and support 500,000 jobs in the state as we fix our aging and crumbling roads and bridges, bring broadband to parts of the state that are internet deserts, as well as modernize our hospitals, our community centers, our state police facilities, our universities and colleges – all of the things that keep us going and growing. Over the last several months I’ve had the pleasure of attending many local events celebrating the jobs and projects that Rebuild Illinois is bringing to our communities. Most times those events are attended by legislators and mayors and local officials of both political parties, and it’s clear that when we stand together in front of the public and talk about what we are doing together to literally rebuild bridges and roads and childcare centers and schools – we restore a little bit of the public’s trust that has been lost in government institutions at all levels in the past few decades. Rebuild Illinois is about more than just roads, bridges and universities; it’s about jobs: middle class careers with wages and benefits, the kind of jobs that help you raise a family. And together, we did more to make these jobs more inclusive and diverse, by investing in the Illinois Works program to recruit new construction apprentices and set strong goals for our public works projects to include diverse employees.”

Pritzker also highlighted the landmark adult-use cannabis legislation passed last May: “Last year we made enormous strides toward equality and opportunity when Democrats and Republicans came together to legalize adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric legislation in the nation which will result in 63,000 new jobs, and new opportunities for entrepreneurs, especially those from communities that have been left behind. It gives us a chance to collect tax revenue from the residents of Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa and Indiana, and most importantly, we’re giving a second chance to hundreds of thousands of people who had a low level cannabis conviction or arrest on their record.”

One new piece of Pritzker’s latest agenda is ending the revolving door of legislator-to-lobbyist practices in the state: “And now we have to work together to confront a scourge that has been plaguing our political system for far too long. We must root out the purveyors of greed and corruption — in both parties — whose presence infects the bloodstream of government. It’s no longer enough to sit idle while under-the-table deals, extortion, or bribery persist. Protecting that culture or tolerating it is no longer acceptable. We must take urgent action to restore the public’s trust in our government. That’s why we need to pass real, lasting ethics reform this legislative session.Honest members of the General Assembly from both sides of the aisle have some good ideas, and so do I. It’s time to end the practice of legislators serving as paid lobbyists. In fact it’s time to end the for-profit influence peddling among all elected officials at every level of government in Illinois. Disclosure of conflicts of interest and punishment for breaching them must be included in any ethics package for us to truly clean up government. Most states have a revolving door provision for legislators, and it’s time for Illinois to join them. Elected officials shouldn’t be allowed to retire and immediately start lobbying their former colleagues. It’s wrong, and it’s got to stop. There are many more ethics reforms that must be addressed this spring, and I expect the legislature’s bipartisan ethics commission to issue its report in the next 8 weeks. Restoring the public’s trust is of paramount importance. Let’s not let the well-connected and well-protected work the system while the interests of ordinary citizens are forgotten. There is too much that needs to be accomplished to lift up all the people of Illinois.”

Pritzker says that people in the state need to continue to strive to do the right thing by doing the next right action. Pritzker’s speech lasted a little under 35 minutes. Formal maneuvers on filed legislation will begin today in the General Assembly after several bills were filed Tuesday at the beginning of the new legislative session.