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Pritzker builds budget speech around Henry Horner’s legacy

Wednesday, Feb 20, 2019

* From Gov. Pritzker’s budget address…

History can be a cruel exercise in pessimism if you narrow your gaze. But if you widen your vision just a little bit, you will see that the recurring reports from the past have been occasionally dotted with unapologetic optimists who focused on tackling old problems with new ideas and new vigor, reducing the burden for each generation along the way.

One of those unapologetic optimists was Governor Henry Horner, who took office in 1933. It puts the current day in honest perspective to think about the challenges Horner faced.

The Great Depression had just begun…Nearly half of Illinois’ work force was unemployed…Hungry workers were marching on Springfield…Teachers had not received a paycheck in nearly a year…Labor disputes were ending in bloodshed…Banks were shuttering… And to add to it all, floods were sweeping across wide swaths of the state.

Nevertheless, with the daunting nature of the state’s condition, Horner approached his job with optimism, with wit and with a dogged work ethic. In a speech soon after he took office, he said:

“We have got to hurdle a few more obstacles before we are on the broad highway of return to normal conditions. However, the road is clearly in sight.”

Today, that is where we find ourselves again. […]

I mentioned at the beginning of this speech that Henry Horner took office in 1933 at the start of the worst decade of economic decline in US history.

Horner was good friends with Carl Sandburg. They shared a love of all things related to President Lincoln. In the later years of his life, Sandburg granted an interview about his friend Governor Horner, in which he said, “Horner was the real goods…he got to high places without selling his soul.”

Indeed, despite all the economic struggles the state faced during the Great Depression, Horner still managed to increase school funding, institute unemployment insurance and pensions for older Illinoisans, create building programs for state institutions and improve public health services.

He understood that prosperity doesn’t trickle down…it trickles up. When we lift up those who have the least, our boats all rise together.

Horner was a fundamentally optimistic man. He approached his job as governor with a hopeful heart, and he never let that hope diminish under the uncommon burdens of being head of state.

He knew what I know…that the state of our state has always been strong because of the values of our people…not the value of our coffers.

Horner once said: “The only way to carry out any great purpose is not on your shoulders, but in your heart. Carry it on your backs and it may wear you down. Carry it in your hearts and it will lift you up. Thus, the heart strengthens the purpose, and the purpose gives poise and inspiration to the will.”

Like you, I carry the burdens of this state in my heart – and despite the heavy load it lifts me up every day. I share my purpose with you so that it may give poise and inspiration to our collective will – because I know the road ahead is hard, but I think it’s about time we all walk it together.

* The Tribune has some background on Gov. Horner

A probate judge in Cook County for many years, Horner was a Democrat like Pritzker. Horner became Illinois’ first Jewish governor when he was elected in 1932. His grandfather had been one of the first four Jews to settle in Chicago, 91 years before.

In his speech Wednesday, Pritzker repeated his call for a graduated income tax that will weigh more heavily on the wealthy. Horner also took on a tax issue, successfully pushing in 1933 for a state sales tax, a 3 percent levy that was roundly denounced by business interests. […]

An opponent of patronage and corruption, Horner sparred with powerful Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly. In 1936, Chicago’s Democratic machine sought to defeat Horner, but with strong Downstate support he won re-election. Two years later, a state ticket he supported in the face of machine opposition “triumphed,” the Tribune reported.

But, according to the Tribune, “the successful effort he then made to overcome the bosses cost him his health.” Horner suffered a stroke in 1938, and died while still in office in 1940. He was 61.

* Bernie

Pritzker said he belongs to the same Chicago synagogue that Horner attended: Chicago Sinai Congregation.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Cubs in '16 - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 3:42 pm:

    ===”…he got to high places without selling his soul.”===

    Love this quote.

  2. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 3:47 pm:

    To the Post,

    The Horner framing is the most interesting aspect of the construction of the speech.

    What this does is allow the administration to be seen as a responsible stewart during this difficult budgetary time like Horner, not mirroring any like… Walker thru Rauner, the governors who, in this era, saw a different Illinois than Horner, with an “easier” charge than to stabilize a state government with challenges to economy.

    Horner also has a service thread too, caring for people, people hurting, and trying to find that balance to service.

    I, myself, can be quite lazy to the “microwave moments” even if they go to Thompson, but Illinois was here long before Big Jim, surviving many obstacles, like wars or a depression. The lazy is to look and say “well, they didn’t have…”, well, no, they didn’t, but what they had and what we can learn is the overall thoughts to get to a better place and see how priorities shaped for a better day. That’s the bones of this speech. It will be the larger vision to compromises and deals, and show “the spending here has value, as Illinois and people have value too”. It will be the bones, marrow deep.

    The only question I have is will each session have this type of a theme, or will Horner be the lone theme this term and offshoots from this will allow a branching out not unlike fingers are the extensions of the skeletal frame.

    It was a good speech.

    Session will show if it was the start of solid governing too.

  3. - DuPage Saint - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 3:52 pm:

    Love history. Bring more of it to show where we were and what we can be. JB impressed me more and more

  4. - Amalia - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 3:58 pm:

    really great part of the speech.

  5. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 4:01 pm:

    I’m one who loves this kind of stuff.
    but now I’m often
    dark, angry and alarmist.
    I’ll admit it.
    I’m at where I’m at.

    It sounds nice.
    I like a lot of what I see
    but JB is going to have to
    prove himself.

    Attitudes must align with behaviors

    I want to trust
    I know I really like him personally
    but you can read for any scripture
    and I’d still look
    at any governor
    with leeriness
    with caution
    and with trepidation


    Laner Muchin,
    60 day extension,
    no steps till April 1

  6. - Informed Mom - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 4:11 pm:

    Honeybear, like you I’m “once bitten, twice shy.”

  7. - JB13 - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 4:16 pm:

    Politicians love to talk about everyone “walking the road together.” Rare are those who actually mean it. Only time will tell if our new governor really means “we all,” or just the sorry lunks who get handed the bill.

  8. - Earnest - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 4:43 pm:

    >I share my purpose with you so that it may give poise and inspiration to our collective will – because I know the road ahead is hard, but I think it’s about time we all walk it together.

    I like the aspirational aspects and historical ties. I like the grounding in real numbers as well.

  9. - Anon - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 4:46 pm:

    Sadly all he has is great rhetoric at this point.

    When the rubber hit the road the first thing he did was kick the can down it, just like all of his predecessors.

    People like JB so that makes it all right, but ultimately flowery language and can kicking for decades on end is why we are where we are and JB is just more of the same.

    I had irrationally hoped he might be serious about actually doing something to improve our situation, but all it took was 6 weeks in office to burst that bubble.

  10. - Bobby Hill - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 4:51 pm:

    “he got to high places without selling his soul.”

    Don’t we have recorded audio evidence that this is not true of our present Governor?

  11. - Nonbeleiver - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 4:57 pm:

    Already comparing Pritzker to Horner?


  12. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 4:58 pm:

    ===Already comparing Pritzker to Horner?===

    Um, no.

    Comparing the times and challenges to a call to action.

    Keep up, please.

  13. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 4:59 pm:

    ===but all it took was 6 weeks in office to burst that bubble.===

    And the award for best actor in a dramatic role goes to…

  14. - Henry Francis - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 5:21 pm:

    It’s all about what appeals to you. If fear and demagoguery is what gets you going, then this speech isn’t going to do it for you. If using history to illustrate that all hope is not lost inspires you, then you probably liked the speech.

    We all should hope that JB proves to be as successful as Gov. Horner. If he is, they just might name a park after him. (Without requiring a multimillion dollar donation)

  15. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 5:27 pm:

    These times can hardly be compared to the Great Depression.

  16. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 5:29 pm:

    A great legacy to aspire to. Aim high.

    I know some of the Usual Suspects won’t believe it, but I hear times were tougher and problems greater during The Great Depression than they are now.

  17. - DuPage Saint - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 5:53 pm:

    Wordslinger: Darn right and throw in a couple of world wars a civil war and labor wars.

  18. - capitol view - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 6:34 pm:

    A good model to follow - even if hated by the establishment Democrats and Republicans of the time. His most frequent dinner partner in Springfield was the local bishop. Brought a lot of honest business and honorable Jews into state service in leadership positions. Illinois took over 30 years after he died to get pretty scuzzy again.

  19. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 9:58 pm:

    The Horner stuff hit really good. Who wrote it?

  20. - Blue Dog Dem - Thursday, Feb 21, 19 @ 6:37 am:

    Did illinois have a property tax in 1933. I ask this because IMO this state is and will forever be hamstrung by its burden on the working poor and middle classes.

  21. - Steve Rogers - Thursday, Feb 21, 19 @ 8:42 am:

    Blue Dog: Yes, Illinois was almost entirely reliant on property taxes to pay for all government services. The GA passed an income tax in 1933, but the Illinois Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.

  22. - wordslinger - Thursday, Feb 21, 19 @ 8:57 am:

    –Did illinois have a property tax in 1933. I ask this because IMO this state is and will forever be hamstrung by its burden on the working poor and middle classes.–

    No, you ask because you don’t bother to look it up yourself. Entitled that way.

    There have been some form of property taxes in Illinois since 1818. Used to be a state-levied tax on real estate and personal property.

  23. - JS Mill - Thursday, Feb 21, 19 @ 8:59 am:

    =Don’t we have recorded audio evidence that this is not true of our present Governor?=

    No, we don’t. Nice try.

    To the post: Actions, not words, matter. Nice to hear optimism and positive framing, that feels good, but solutions come from actions.

  24. - Top of the State - Thursday, Feb 21, 19 @ 1:58 pm:

    Horner also planted a lot of trees along the right of way along our highways. My observation is most of the trees are gone….

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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