January 29, 2015
In This Issue:

  • Rauner Gets Reforms Rollin
  • General Assembly Begins Work 
  • Appointees to Lead State Government
  • Food Bank Looks for Food, Help
  • Board of Education Sets Priorities


  • Rauner Gets Reforms Rollin
    Governor Rauner’s campaign promise to shake up Springfield turned into action shortly after his inauguration with a torrent of executive orders.  We can expect to hear more of his agenda next Wednesday in his first State of the State address.  Here are some of the governor’s first steps:
    Executive Order 15-09 placed new requirements and prohibitions upon Executive Branch employees.  The order creates a one-year barrier between leaving an executive-branch position and accepting any compensation for lobbying.  It further expands the required annual Statements of Economic Interest by state employees to disclose non-state work, volunteer work, legal status, and property holdings.  Hear more about this executive order as reported by Springfield public radio station WUIS here.

    Executive Order 15-10 increases transparency for the hiring of individuals who are exempt from civil service protection.  In response to hiring scandals in the Quinn Administration, this order directs that all policy position hires be published on the existing Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal.  They will be sorted by name of employee, name of employing agency, division within the employing agency, and the job title for which the person was hired.

    Moving beyond traditional “affirmative action” guidelines, Governor Rauner in Executive Order 15-12 called for hard numbers about the results.   He directed the Department of Central Management Services (CMS) to gather data about procurement, apprenticeship programs, and trade union training programs.  He specifically requested data on participation of veteran-owned businesses and those owned and controlled by racial minorities, women, and persons with disabilities.  The Department is instructed to recommend solutions and methods to remedy any disparity in procurement awards.  Click here to read further details reported in the Chicago Sun-Times.

    Executive Order 15-11 rescinds seven decrees by Governor Quinn as he departed office.  Several of the former executive’s orders would have sharply increased the operating costs of state agencies in a time of budgetary crisis.  The legislature would be a more appropriate forum to debate these policies and necessary funding.

    The Executive Order freezing all non-essential spending by state agencies does not include $1 billion in Illinois Tollways construction projects.  Governor Rauner exempted the ongoing, rebuilding and widening projects of the Tollways since they are “self-financed” through toll increases paid for by toll road users.  These projects including work on Interstate 90 are expected to reduce traffic bottlenecks and increase the ability of toll road users to get to work and transport products.  The Chicago Tribune describes the tollway projects and Rauner’s decision here.

    The Governor has defined essential spending as contracts, grants or other spending that is determined by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget to be necessary for the health, safety and welfare of the people of Illinois or to prevent serious disruption in critical state services.

    General Assembly Begins Work
    The 177 members of the 99th General Assembly who were inaugurated in Springfield earlier this month are a seasoned group of legislators with only 1 new senator and 14 new representatives.  Despite gains by Republicans nationally, the Democrats control a super majority in both legislative chambers.

    I appreciated a large group of local residents who traveled to Springfield to see the ceremonial beginning of the General Assembly, tour the capitol, and visit the offices of Governor and Comptroller.

    The legislature is taking this week to form committees, adopt rules and begin looking at several hundred pieces of legislation that already have been introduced.  We will hear the Governor’s official State of the State address on February 4 but he has already given indications of the changes he would like to make and the sacrifices that will be required to get our state back to sound financial footing.

    Many groups are already contacting me asking about the direction Governor Rauner will take and the looming financial crisis their local agencies face as the state funding runs out.  It has been clear since May that the legislature approved a budget that over estimated revenue and under estimated expenses.  The Governor has made clear those practices must cease.

    Appointees to Lead State Government
    There has been a flurry of announcements of people to lead various agencies in state government pending Senate approval.  Here is a brief introduction to some appointees.

    The Department of Revenue will be led by Connie Beard, current executive director of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Tax Institute.  She brings more than 30 years of experience in state and local tax issues with 16 of them in various roles at Revenue.  An attorney, Beard understands tax policy and the impact of taxes on businesses.

    Continuing as Director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) will be Lisa Bonnett.  She has worked for the agency for nearly 20 years and served as Director since 2013.  Bonnett has streamlined the permit process and created a program for local governments to upgrade and expand aging water and sewer systems.

    Serving as Director of the Department of Agriculture will be Seneca farmer Phillip Nelson.  The former President of the Illinois Farm Bureau led the state’s largest advocacy organization for agricultural interests and was President of Country Financial, the state’s third largest auto and home insurer.  His experiences include grain inspection, international trade, biotechnology and consumer dialogue.

    Heading the Department of Natural Resources will be Wayne Rosenthal, a former State Representative and retired Brigadier General from the Illinois Air National Guard.  Rosenthal has experience in leading a large organization, managing a multi-million dollar budget, and working with wildlife advocates.  He operates a farm with emphasis on conservation, and has helped to establish a hunting and fishing preserve in his home county.

    Named to lead the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will be Erica Jeffries, a former Captain in the United States Army and black Hawk helicopter pilot.  She is currently the chief inclusion and diversity officer of Exelis, a global aerospace, defense and information solutions company.  She has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency while serving in the White House Fellows Program.

    Felicia Norwood has been appointed to lead the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Service.  Norwood brings more than 20 years of experience in health care policy, care delivery and health business operations.  Most recently she was Regional President for the insurance company Aetna where she managed a budget of more than $6 billion.  Norwood led health care reform initiatives for Governor Edgar and served as human services policy advisor for Governor Thompson.

    Directing the Department of Public Health will be Nirav Dinesh Shah who holds both medical and law degrees.  He has been focused on the administrative and legal aspects of public health for clients around the world.  As a public health economist for the Minister of Health in Cambodia, Shah worked to address inefficiencies, and make the public health system more cost-effective.

    Finally, Brien Sheahan has been appointed Chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission.  He has more than 20 years’ experience in managing government relations and policy making including being policy advisor to Governor Edgar.  Sheahan has worked as legal counsel for the commission and Deputy Executive Director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

    Food Bank Needs Food, Help
    How much food does it take to feed 71,500 people every week?  How many trucks traverse the 13 county area served by the Northern Illinois Food Bank to distribute food to local pantries and recover unsalable products from grocers and manufacturers?  I found the answers on Martin Luther King Day as I toured the Northern Illinois Food Bank in St. Charles and helped repackage some meat products.

    You can find the answers and ways you can help feed the hungry in our area at the website: www.solvehungertoday.org.  Volunteers are critical to inspect, sort and repackage the donated food items.  Food recovery comprises a large part of the inventory as bakeries, grocery stores, and manufacturers clear their shelves of food items nearing their expiration date or that may not meet their quality standards for sale.

    A large school group was helping to sort and package food items the day I was there.  This is an excellent community service investment of time for all ages. The Bank also needs funding for trucks, fuel, refrigerators and freezer, and yes, food purchases.

    Representative Ed Sullivan and I are joined by a family from Naperville and Food Bank staff as we toured the food depository.

    Board of Education Sets Priorities
    The State Board of Education has compiled its budget request for FY2016 well ahead of the Governor’s Budget Address.  Much of the request for increased funding is to fully fund the general state aid line which has been prorated in recent years.  While the budget document was compiled before the Governor’s hand-picked chairman took office, James Meeks has offered his support for the request.

    The board intends to conduct a standardized test that is aligned with the state’s learning standards for grades 3 thru 8 plus 3 years in high school.  This request will fund the ACT college admission test.  The board also requests $126.4 million in capital funds for infrastructure costs associated with the standardized test.

    Noteworthy in the budget request is the absence of any funding for legislator special initiatives including After School Matters.  There is a $50 million increase in funding for early childhood education.  Another area of focus is funding for alternative education, regional safe schools, homeless education and truant alternative education.

    Watch my Facebook page for news of the Governor’s State of the State address next Wednesday and my comments.  Best wishes,

    Bob
    Read the full text of the Inaugural Address by Governor Rauner on Monday.

    Good afternoon, Illinois. Great day, Illinois! Thank you so very much! Thank you so very much
    I want to begin by thanking my wife, Diana. She’s my partner she’s my best friend – and she’s going to be a tremendous First Lady.
    Thank you.
    Thank you to our six kids who have endured a lot over the last two years and will be having to put up with a lot more over the next four.
    I want to acknowledge Gov. Pat Quinn for his years of service to this state and the people of Illinois….. (acknowledgement of other officials and dignitaries)
    I’d like to express my very deepest gratitude to our veterans and our service men and women here today and around the world. God bless you. Thank you for your service to our country. As governor, I will do everything in my power to support you.
    I also want to say a very special thank you to our police officers, our corrections officers, our firefighters and all those who risk their lives to protect the families of Illinois. Thank you. I look forward to being an ally and advocate for you and working very closely together
    It is an honor to stand before you, before all the people of Illinois, today.
    I am humbled. I am honored. I am privileged. And I am excited.
    I love Illinois, and I want ours to be a great state, I want ours to be a great home for every family here. And I am ready to go to work for you.
    You know, as I’ve traveled our state over the last few years, I’ve met with tens of thousands of people; I’ve met with teachers and farmers. I’ve met with factory workers and coal miners, college students and retirees – the people who are the heart and soul of Illinois.
    In that process, I’ve met with thousands of small business owners.  And in our discussions, I’ve been stunned—I’ve been shocked, actually -- by how many of them are frustrated trying to build their businesses here and are thinking about leaving.
    I visited one company called Keats Manufacturing in Wheeling.
    Back in 1958, Bert and Glenn Keats started a metal stamping company in a storefront on Cicero Avenue in Chicago. Their father had never made it past high school, but both of them made it through college and they were eager to start out on their own.
    They had one employee and a couple machines. They worked long hours, a second job and sacrificed much, but they made it and their company took off.
    Today, Keats Manufacturing employs 110 Illinois workers and has nearly 75 machines running 24 hours a day, 5 days a week.
    The story of Bert and Glenn Keats was not an uncommon path in our state. And it wasn’t just Chicago, and it wasn’t just manufacturing.
    It was Peoria, it was Rockford, it was Decatur. It was agriculture, it was transportation, it was technology.  Illinois was a place where people like Bert and Glenn Keats from all over the country, and indeed, from all over the world, wanted to come, because Illinois was a land of opportunity, almost without parallel in America.
    Today’s Illinois is very different.
    The grandsons of Bert and Glenn Keats – I met with them – they tell me they couldn’t have started their company in Illinois today. When their grandfathers started the company, all its customers were in Illinois companies, they were all Illinois companies. They went door-to-door to find them.
    But today, none of their customers are Illinois companies – they have all left. And the grandsons told me that they, themselves, are feeling the pressure of high taxes and high regulation.
    Today Illinois is not able to compete with our neighboring states, our citizens are suffering because of it, and in many cases, they are up and leaving
    Last year, last year, we lost more people than any other state in America, and over the last ten years, we have ranked right near the bottom of all 50 states for out-migration to other states.
     People are leaving to find jobs, or because they run companies, and they’re taking their jobs with them.
    Our local businesses look in every direction and see states that are more appealing.   Lifelong Illinoisans look at their future and think maybe they can achieve more outside Illinois. 
    You probably know a neighbor, a co-worker, or maybe even a son or a daughter who has said, “I can do better somewhere else.”
     It breaks your heart, but you know it’s hard to argue with them.
    We need a booming economy that is pro-growth, pro-business, pro-job creation or we won’t have the resources to solve any of our other problems. 
    Our state must become competitive again.
    In the weeks ahead, I’ll be asking the legislature to work with me to pass a comprehensive jobs and economic package that will get Illinois working again.
    Let’s get our sons and daughters to return home! We’ll do it.
    One of the main reasons companies have been leaving Illinois is that they don’t have confidence in the financial condition of our state. We are in the midst of a government financial crisis that has been building for decades.
    Its roots lie in bad decisions, bad practices and bad management by state government. 
    It is not a partisan creation.  It is a truly bipartisan one.
    Our government has spent more than we could afford; borrowed money and called it revenue. Rather than responsibly budgeting the money we had, we implemented programs we couldn’t afford.
     In the face of a declining economy, we raised taxes.
     This hurt our economy even more, put more stress on our social safety net, and pushed more Illinoisans out of our state, leaving fewer taxpayers to support the government.
    As a result, today Illinois is not as competitive as we need to be and cannot be as compassionate as we want to be.
    Some in government will be tempted to once again take the easy road and leave the real problems for another day and the next generation.
    But we cannot do that because to do so, to conduct business as we’ve been doing it, would be morally corrupt.
    Instead, instead, we have an opportunity to accomplish something historic: to fix years of busted budgets and broken government; to forge a path toward long-term prosperity and a brighter future; to make Illinois the kind of state that  others aspire to become, a national leader in job growth and education quality.
    To achieve that will require sacrifice.
    Sacrifice by all of us – politicians and interests groups, business and labor, those who pay for government and those who depend on government’s services and need us and who we need to support.
    Each person here today and all those throughout the state will be called upon to share in the sacrifice so that one day we can again share in Illinois’ prosperity.
    We must all shake up our old ways of thinking
    I promise you, our administration, this administration will make our decisions based upon the next generation; not on the next election.
    I pledge to work on a bipartisan basis to drive results and get things done.
    We must be united by our willingness to sacrifice and do what is right even if it is difficult.
    We must accept the challenge and the sacrifice, knowing that it will lead us to something greater.
    We must forget the days of feeling good about just making; it through another year – by patching over major problems with stitches that are bound to break.
    Those stitches are now busting wide open and we must begin by taking immediate, decisive action.
    That’s why today, my first action as governor – first action today – I will be giving a directive,  every state – by executive order   every state agency will be asked to freeze non-essential spending.
    I will ask every agency to review and report on every contract that’s been signed since November 1.
    And I will follow through on my personal pledge to reduce my own salary to $1 and I will decline all benefits. We’re setting a new tone today.
    Our state’s crisis is not only financial. We have a moral crisis, an ethical crisis as well. We have a state government that too few have faith in; and that lack of faith is justified, it undermines people’s willingness to sacrifice and to what’s necessary to help the government in its mission.
    Illinoisans today see insider deals and cronyism rewarded.
    They see lobbyists writing bills for special interests and the taxpayers being left with the tab.
    They see government union bosses negotiating sweetheart deals across the table from governors they’ve spent tens of millions of dollars to help elect.
    That’s  a corrupt bargain, that’s a corrupt bargain, and the people of Illinois are left to wonder where do they fit in?  Who’s looking out for them and their families?
    Taxpayers’ money belongs to them; not the government.
    We have a moral obligation to minimize how much we take and to ensure what we do take is spent efficiently and effectively.
    Every dollar we spend unnecessarily inside government is a dollar we can’t put into classrooms and our social service providers, or leave in the pockets of entrepreneurs and homeowners and hardworking families of Illinois.
    To the people of Illinois, and the people outside of our state who’ve been reluctant to invest in Illinois because of the insider deals and cronyism, I say this:
    I’m nobody that nobody sent.
    And I’ve come to work for you. I’ve come to work for you and every family in our great state.
    I will send a clear signal to everyone in our state, and to those watching from outside our borders, that business as usual is over. It stops now.
    Tomorrow, I will sign an executive order that will improve ethics and accountability in the executive branch of state government. These actions and others to immediately follow will focus on regaining our state’s good name and reputation.
    We must prove every day that we have learned our lessons and we’ve changed our ways.
    Now, this is a very emotional, personal issue for me. In everything we do – everything we do -- we must ask ourselves, what does this mean for the next generation?
    For in order to thrive, we must prepare the next generation for success. 
    From cradle to career, the people of Illinois deserve world-class educational opportunities.
    From early childhood and K through 12 schools, to vocational and technical training, to community colleges and higher ed, we need to invest adequately in every neighborhood.
     Next to being a mother or a father, teaching is the most important job in the world, and we must support our many good teachers. That means putting more, that means putting more directly into the classrooms, reforming the education bureaucracy, rolling back costly mandates and giving more students access to great schools.
    A high-quality education is essential for higher lifetime earnings, a competitive, world-class workforce and strong economic growth.
    It’s the key to bringing back the American dream for every family in Illinois; for making the American dream a reality for everyone here; a truly better life for the next generation.
    If we work together, Illinois can be great again.
    We have everything needed to thrive – great location, the economic and cultural center of the Midwest, fertile farms, infrastructure, and, most importantly, wonderful, hard-working people – we need the policies and the leadership to make us the best we can possibly be.
    In just three short years – this is an exciting time – in just three short years, our great state will be celebrating its 200th Birthday.
    Yes, 2018 will be the Bicentennial of Illinois. What a perfect time, what a perfect time these next few years will be to return our beloved state to its rightful place as a leader among the states of America.
    A state that, as we prepare for our bicentennial, is ready to seize the future.
    A state where not only manufacturing companies like the Keats’ want to be, but where the next big things happen.
    A state where entrepreneurs want to be.
    A state where technology companies want to start.
    Where the next generation of manufacturing occurs.
    Where family farms that have made us the breadbasket for the world can pass from one generation to the next.
    Where young couples want to start their families.
    And their children are inspired in their schools.
    Illinois is a state that truly embodies all that is great about America.
    Since the days of Lincoln, we’ve stood as a beacon of freedom and justice.
    Now let us embrace all that is wonderful about Illinois, the reasons we love it here: our culture of hard work and responsibility, grounded, solid values, civic commitment and generosity – harness our values so that our next century is one of prosperity.
    We can do that if we work together, just as a family does when it faces tough times.
    Illinois is our home – right now our home is hurting
    But home and family are worth sacrificing for…worth fighting for.
    Together, let’s do the hard work to rebuild our home.
    I’m ready to go to work for you.
    I’m ready to fight for you.
    God bless you.
    God bless our great state of Illinois.

    And God bless America.