* From the beginning of Gov. Pritzker’s budget address…
My friends, not long ago I shared with you news of our state’s progress over the last year and my genuine confidence that our future is bright and that Illinois is growing stronger each day.
I know I have a reputation for being a bit of an irrepressible optimist – something somewhat unusual among those who have held this job recently – but I believe that the cynics had their years in power and that the people of Illinois suffered because of them.
Being a cynic is easy.
Cynicism, after all, demands only that you believe in the worst and do nothing to stop it from happening.
It’s optimism that’s hard. Because optimism demands hope, and patience, and faith…and most importantly, action.
* From the middle of his address…
I want to give you one stark example of why a change in approach was so desperately needed. Bruce Rauner went to war with labor unions, and one consequence of that was millions of dollars in costs for the state due to litigation and back pay. In contrast, when I came into office I negotiated substantial health care savings and finalized fair contracts with state workers. As a result, the upcoming fiscal year’s budget will spend $175 million less, and we will save $650 million over 4 years.
Lowering the wages of workers, trying to bankrupt the state and seeking to destroy government … didn’t work.
Also, trying to separate Chicago from the rest of Illinois, whether rhetorically or literally, will not solve the economic challenges of downstate Illinois. Quite the opposite. Some of you need to stop pretending that one part of Illinois can exist without all the others. We are … one Illinois.
There are realities about running a state and caring for our people that we have to face with more clear-eyed resolve, with a focus on unity and far less partisanship. Our future genuinely does depend on it.
That “one Illinois” bit provoked a standing ovation.
* A bit later…
There is an old saying that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. And the second best time to plant a tree is today.
* The end…
It’s become something of a political sport in this state over the last several years to present our fiscal issues as insurmountable. I’m here to tell you, they are not.
Our budget challenges are hard, no doubt about it – but it’s a myth to think they were ever easy. Our state has grown and changed so much over the years and the complexities of running our government have evolved with it. Our future will not be built on the shaky rhetorical foundation of those who keep rooting for us to fail.
Every decision we make about how we spend the money our citizens trust to our keeping is, at its root, a deeply moral undertaking.
These lines on a budget spreadsheet – they give peace to sleepless nights worrying about medical bills, they are delivery on a deferred dream, they stand between poverty and prosperity. A road that is properly repaired and maintained is a car accident than never happens. A strong education system is the slingshot to success allowing a child to thrive. Fully funding public safety means a life saved, a crime solved and a justice system that is more equitable and fair.
Every worry that we erase, every dream that we fund, every obstacle we remove is a small bit of happiness that we give back to our citizens. Sometimes we forget that in 2020.
We can add happiness back into people’s lives. The pursuit of happiness is the real rhetorical and moral foundation of our government. The founders were optimists too, it turns out.
With that singular focus at the heart of all that we do, with an eye to our future and with prudence and responsibility as our guiding lights, I submit this budget proposal, and I urge the General Assembly to work with me in the pursuit of happiness for all Illinoisans.
I do not know of another American politician today who projects such optimism.