SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Bruce Rauner gave his State of the State address to a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday.
His speech stressed the usual talking points of providing tax and regulatory relief for the people of Illinois to maximize the state's economic potential. Rauner also addressed recent issues, including the response to the #MeToo movement in the General Assembly and his handling of the Legionnaires disease outbreak at the Quincy Veterans' Home.
The Herald-News spoke with state Senators Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and Pat McGuire, D-Crest Hill, to get their thoughts on Rauner's State of the State address.
Rezin echoed Rauner's continued call for reducing government spending to provide tax and regulatory relief to Illinois residents.
“Locally, people only spend the same amount of money that they take in,” Rezin said. “They expect the same for the state government.”
She highlighted the fact that Illinois is the 17th largest economy in the world, but she said the state still lags behind in economic growth.
Rezin also looked toward areas of bipartisan cooperation the General Assembly could make progress on in Rauner's fourth year, like criminal justice reform and property tax reform.
She said property tax reform could be one area where the Legislature could reach a compromise on good public policy. Rezin said high property taxes are "crushing" middle class Illinoisans.
Rauner said he will continue to push for lower local property taxes through a voter referendum.
In a livestream of Democratic senators giving their response to Rauner's remarks, McGuire, a member of the Higher Education Committee, was asked about the state of higher education in Illinois.
“It was a one percenter's view of higher education,” McGuire said. “I'm really disappointed that the governor continues to be fixated on highly selective, elite institutions at the expense of Illinois' community colleges and public universities.”
McGuire was referring to Rauner comparing the benefits of research and entrepreneurship from schools on the east and west coasts to Illinois schools.
“What Stanford and (the University of California at) Berkeley and Harvard and MIT are to the coasts, partnerships of the U of I, U of C and Northwestern can even surpass for Illinois,” Rauner said.
McGuire said he didn't hear anything about the other 80 percent of Illinois college students who don't attend elite schools.
He wanted Rauner to address why so many Illinois high school graduates were leaving the state to attend college. He called on Rauner to commit to investing in higher education and reverse that trend by ensuring funding for programs like MAP grants, which financially help low-income students attend college.
“What we're hearing from our public universities is that the reason for the record exodus of Illinois high school graduates to schools out of state is because of the uncertainty,” McGuire said.
When asked what else he thought was missing from Rauner's address, McGuire had a quick answer.
“Truth,” he said.