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Pritzker’s optimism on full display in budget address

Thursday, Feb 20, 2020

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

29 Comments
  1. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 10:20 am:

    A true happy warrior.


  2. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 10:24 am:

    === 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===

    This is why the phonies, the shills, the truly ignorant don’t understand why the Eastern Bloc, the Hateful Eight… now, even Ms. Bourne… are flat.. out… wrong.

    This I know. I know this especially after Raunerism, the phonies that aided and abetted Rauner, so cowardly and now ignore their own complicity…

    I know Gov. Pritzker is a good man, good heart, I know that, it’s refreshing to see. We’ve missed that in Illinois.

    It’s blistering obvious the lines now, the Ms. Bournes… the Eastern Bloc…. the Skillicorns… you do not want one Illinois… unless it’s YOUR Illinois… and that is why you all, and Raunerism, and the former GOP fail yet again.

    Optimism is also not governing. There’s so much work to do with DCFS, Higher Ed, K-12, Prisons… this Administration has not made each day bright with some things, but it is critically important to want to be a positive lever to change than force such hostility and anger like we saw for for years that solved so few things.

    === 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===

    This… a budget puts on paper the weight and measure of dollars and sense to that optimism and a belief we’re ONE Illinois. That’s the goal of ANY budget for all governors looking to govern. In that prism, it’s great to see, hear, and read.

    === That “one Illinois” bit provoked a standing ovation.===

    Exactly as it should. Phonies should be shamed and feel ashamed. I hope they saw their colleagues mocking them… knowing it’s they that they are rising against.


  3. - efudd - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 10:25 am:

    Republicans, in essence, can’t be optimistic.
    Being optimistic means maybe the good ole days they long for, and pine to return, weren’t all that good.
    Maybe what lies ahead, although different, isn’t the end of all that’s good, pure, and American.
    Anathema to what their platform, locally, state, and federal is based on.


  4. - Pyrman - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 10:25 am:

    His optimism and self confidence are what first struck me about JB when I met him on the campaign trail.


  5. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 10:26 am:

    == I do not know of another American politician today who projects such optimism==

    Reagan did, and Clinton to some extent. No one today bothers. The assumption must be that people are driven to vote more through fear than through optimism.


  6. - Cubs in '16 - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 10:31 am:

    His optimism is sincere, contagious, and sorely needed after the Rauner disaster. Bruce’s perpetual cynicism and ‘burn it down’ mentality did more to damage morale than I can describe in words. JB may not realize all of his visions but this state will benefit from his optimism and leadership nonetheless.


  7. - Lucky Pierre - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 10:46 am:

    Republicans, in essence, can’t be optimistic.

    Completely ridiculous generalization.

    Any small business person is by definition optimistic.

    Willing to risk their own money to grow their business in an environment full of landmines of excessive taxation, regulation and litigation is the by definition optimistic.


  8. - SSL - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 10:49 am:

    Saying something is great doesn’t make it great. Illinois has very large problems in critical areas. Fiscally, it is always ranked at or near the bottom in comparison to all other states. Population wise it has the worst performance of any state in the Union. It is a laughingstock in terms of corruption. If JB moves the needle in a meaningful way in these areas he can talk about a turnaround. Otherwise he should stop with the Jedi mind tricks.


  9. - Nick - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 10:55 am:

    At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if he’s actually ‘correct’ in being optimistic or not.

    As the state’s chief executive, it’s his job to be.

    It’s something Rauner never got. You don’t draw people to this state, you don’t assuage fears, you don’t make businesses more secure, by screaming that everything sucks.


  10. - RIJ - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 10:57 am:

    It’s wonderful to have a Governor who loves Illinois, who addresses her problems without the apparent need to destroy who she is.


  11. - Pundent - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 10:58 am:

    Pritzker believes that our best days are ahead of us whereas far too many Republicans (not all) believe they are behind us. Make America Great - Again. The entire message is rooted in pessimism. Don’t you wish that things were like they used to be? You know before “they” were here? And “they” can be whomever you want to blame.


  12. - dbk - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 11:15 am:

    Although I haven’t met the governor and probably never will, I find his optimism contagious.

    I also understand the basic concept of what he’s attempting to accomplish through budgetary means, and agree with the philosophy underlying it: jobs, education, early education, caring for our youngest and most vulnerable residents.

    On a more personal note, I was humbly thrilled that JB agrees with me that “We are one.”

    - dbk - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 12:25 pm:

    Suggested theme: “We are one” (state, that is).


  13. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 11:17 am:

    Lucky Pierre how did you segue from Republicans to small business owners? Small business owners can be Democrats, Independents, Greens etc., as well.
    I don’t doubt that small business owners are optimistic. Or their customers for that matter.


  14. - njt - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 11:34 am:

    ===Willing to risk their own money to grow their business in an environment full of landmines of excessive taxation, regulation and litigation is the by definition optimistic.===

    And here we sit, waiting for the magic beans of cuts that the “optimists” never seem to have.

    To the post, it’s really refreshing rhetoric. Pleasant change of tone.


  15. - DougChicago - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 11:39 am:

    I am a Republican and didn’t vote for Governor Pritzker. But I do find his optimism refreshing. He is clearly a man comfortable in his own skin in a way our other billionaire governor wasn’t. And he’s quite frankly smarter than the eternal goofball Quinn, convicted criminals Blagojevich and Ryan, and overrated can-kicker Edgar.

    But I fear his optimism can and will become nothing more than a veneer to cover undisciplined programmatic and public spending growth.

    I would recommend that he channel some of his optimism to the enduring spirit of the people of Illinois. More tax money is simply not a solution to our problems. It drives businesses and people away over time. When you save money, great. But devote it 100% to paying down old bills and lingering structural debts. Once that is done effectively and for a significant amount of time we can think about new and expanded programs.


  16. - Lucky Pierre - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 11:43 am:

    A governor who address her problems. LOL

    The unfunded pension liability and record outmigration are Illinois biggest problems.

    JB dismisses those concerned about these issues with:

    “I’m here to tell the carnival barkers, the doomsayers, the paid professional critics: the state of our state is growing stronger each day,”

    Categorically not true-

    Illinois’ population decreased in 2019 by an estimated 51,250 people, or 0.4%, marking the sixth consecutive year the state has lost residents, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

    Illinois unfunded pension liability increased by 4 billion dollars despite a cod year for the stock market and record contributions.

    Denying the biggest problems with a sunny disposition does not make them go away


  17. - PeoriaDem - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 11:46 am:

    I wasn’t a supporter of JB during the primary in 2018 but I have to say, I have become a big fan of his as a Governor. The most optimistic AND progressive Governor of my lifetime.


  18. - Pundent - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 11:55 am:

    =But devote it 100% to paying down old bills and lingering structural debts.=

    Unfortunately some new and expanded programs are necessary and part of the essential functioning of government. You can’t simply stop the world from spinning or think that you can turn back the clock to the way things used to be. It doesn’t work that way. There will always be new threats and problems to manage and investments to be made.

    It’s easy to talk about “out of control” spending or “waste” in the abstract without having any idea of what the essential functions of government are. I don’t agree with everything that Pritzker does, but to his credit he’s willing to acknowledge the obligations and realities of what it takes to have a functioning government.


  19. - don the legend - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 12:06 pm:

    ===He is clearly a man comfortable in his own skin in a way our other billionaire governor wasn’t. ===

    Stop giving Rauner credit for being a billionaire. He wasn’t even close.


  20. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 12:19 pm:

    Thankfully because of Democratic super-majorities, Republicans willing to be bipartisan and us, the voters, Pritzker is able to back up his optimism with action. Last year’s legislative successes were great, and lots of people deserve credit, from both parties.

    Notice the silence of those who trash Illinois because of its finances when it comes to Republican-led explosion of federal deficits, spending and steadily-growing debt. This silence speaks volumes.


  21. - Pundent - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 12:34 pm:

    =Any small business person is by definition optimistic.=

    And not all small business persons are Republicans. In fact, if they reflect the overall demographics of the state I would say many are not.

    An optimist looks forward, a pessimist does not. An optimist wants to grow things. A pessimist wants to tear down things that are threatening so we can go back to the way things used to be.


  22. - RNUG - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 1:12 pm:

    == Saying something is great doesn’t make it great. ==

    Perception is 80% of the battle. Getting people to think optimistically is what is needed.


  23. - RNUG - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 1:16 pm:

    == Although I haven’t met the governor and probably never will, I find his optimism contagious. ==

    I met him at a speech in a fairly small setting, and that optimism comes across in person. As a member of the opposite party, I’ll never agree with all his positions … but he does have a positive vision of a better Illinois and working government that I can agree with.


  24. - JuMP - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 1:16 pm:

    Optimism refreshing after consistently hearing cynicism from the Rep of my District who also is co-sponsor of eliminating Chicago. All Democratic candidates trying to unseat R’s need to embrace optimism and “ONE ILLINOIS”. Now let the negative spin begin with the R’s[#do nothings!]


  25. - RNUG - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 1:22 pm:

    == Illinois unfunded pension liability increased by 4 billion dollars despite a cod year for the stock market and record contributions. ==

    Study the Edgar ramp and the Blago / Quinn modifications. The continued pension debt growth (for a number more years) is a design feature.

    Short of making actuarially based or larger payments, which the ramp does not do at this time nothing will stop the growth of the state pension debt


  26. - Thomas Paine - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 2:03 pm:

    === The unfunded pension liability and record outmigration are Illinois biggest problems. ===

    Just because the Chicago Tribune editorial board thinks something is true, does not make it so.

    Between 2006 and 2016, the last year that we have data for, 140,000 undocumented immigrants left Illinois. I believe only New York saw a larger drop in undocumented immigrants.

    If Lucky Pierre, The Illinois Policy Institute, and the Tribune editorial board want to lament the outmigration of an estimated 250,000 undocumented immigrants since the second Bush recession, I can’t wait for the reaction from the Eastern Bloc, Tea Party and Trumpians.

    PS. The teen birth rate in Illinois is half what it is in Alabama. Not every population decline is a bad thing.


  27. - RIJ - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 2:56 pm:

    Lucky Pierre, I said addresses her problems - not solves them immediately. Both issues are a multi-administration problem. But at least Pritzker is addressing them within the Illinois Constitution and U.S. law. Rauner and his Republicans acted like teenage boys egging each other on to be destructive vandals, and to see who could get away with saying the rudest, meanest things about their state that would still be published.


  28. - OpentoDiscusssion - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 3:17 pm:

    Pleased that he is so optimistic.

    Now I know that we don’t need a graduated income tax for the state to obtain even more taxes.


  29. - Jibba - Thursday, Feb 20, 20 @ 5:03 pm:

    “Illinois’ population decreased in 2019 by an estimated 51,250 people”

    Of course people leave when a governor spends years bad mouthing the state and feeding the death spiral nonsense. People stay or move in when government works and people feel that we are on the right path following a plan. And now there is a plan, even if you don’t like it. Pay the debt and take in enough funds to make government work. I don’t see another plan, do you?


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