Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner delivered the yearly State of the State address on Wednesday amidst the continuing budget crisis. The governor spoke about many of the pressing issues that Illinois faces in the coming year and outlined some of his plans to address such challenges while ignoring much of what we feel is truly important, like passing a budget. Governor Rauner’s ideas and the choices that he makes moving forward will have a significant impact on low-income workers and the services that organizations are able to provide to those that they serve. You can find the complete transcript of the speech here.
“Factory workers in Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Tennessee, and South Carolina, when you adjust for the cost of living, now make more than workers in Illinois. That’s unacceptable! Factory workers in Texas are now making more than Illinois folks, even without adjusting for the cost of living. That’s outrageous! We should be kicking Texas’ tail! But the numbers don’t lie. We are losing the race for good paying jobs.”
Illinois has lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs prior to and during the recent recession, and has managed to recover a far smaller proportion of those jobs than its neighbors have. Manufacturing continues to be a strong middle class job, but studies have shown that wages are on the decline. Illinois needs to work to rebuild its manufacturing sector, provide the necessary sector training for workers to succeed in the field, and ensure that workers are getting paid the wages they deserve.
Illinois Manufacturing Jobs, 2003-2013 (Thousands)
“The key to rising family incomes, more high paying jobs, and a better life for everyone in Illinois, is to have a high quality, fully-integrated education system from cradle to career, from early education, to K-12 public schools, to outstanding community colleges and universities, all the way to coordinated job training and technical training later in life.”
Governor Rauner is correct in pointing out the importance of education in improving the lives of all Illinoisans. Unfortunately, Illinois continues to underfund the very community colleges and universities that are so essential in providing individuals the opportunity to improve their job prospects. Study after study has shown the importance of early education on outcomes later in life, yet the state continues to underfund its schools.
“Our job in this Capitol is to improve the lives of all the people of Illinois, through more economic opportunity, better educational opportunity, and more value for their hard-earned tax dollars. To achieve a grand compromise, we must cast partisanship and ideology aside. We must break from the politics of the past and do what is right for the long term future of our state. I’m ready – and it’s my genuine hope that you are too. Let’s continue this journey together. Illinois can’t wait any longer.”
The governor ended his speech by calling for cooperation in Springfield in order to provide economic and educational opportunities for all Illinoisans. Although we agree with Governor Rauner’s sentiments, his ideas are meaningless without a budget. Schools will continue to struggle, organizations will be forced to cut services and shut down completely, and Illinoisans around the state will continue to suffer at the hands of inaction. If Governor Rauner wants to join us in improving the lives of Illinoisans, raising wages, and increasing jobs opportunities in the state, he will have to take the first step and follow his own advice, casting his ideology aside, and passing the budget that is desperately needed by so many individuals and organizations throughout the state.