Gov. Bruce Rauner has started 2016 with a series of high-profile press events that seem geared to emphasize accomplishment rather than his ongoing standoff with Democrats over the state budget.
The latest came Feb. 4 when he announced he is seeking a public-private partnership to widen the Stevenson Expressway and add toll lanes alongside the existing highway.
Earlier in the week, Rauner had signed an executive order creating the Illinois Business and Economic Development Corporation, a private non-profit body that will lead the state's economic development strategy in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Commerce. Rauner had wanted to privatize those functions ever since he took office, but had opposed a version in the General Assembly because it contained a three-year sunset clause.
Preceding that announcement was a press conference at an Illinois Department of Central Management Services warehouse in which he promoted a bill to reform state government's purchasing system. He offered to trade passage of the bill, which he said will save the state $500 million a year, for funding of student financial aid under the Monetary Award Program.
Other press events this month involved an executive order creating the Department of Innovation and Technology to overhaul the state's archaic information technology systems and announcing a pension reform agreement between Rauner and Senate President John Cullerton.
Our topic on this week's "Only in Illinois" we discuss why Rauner started the new year with what appears to be a new focus. One theory: With his annual Budget Address scheduled for Feb. 17, Rauner needs to turn the public focus toward what he's getting done, not what has gone undone for eight months.
A week before Rauner's address, the General Assembly will host a sitting president for a speech for only the fourth time in its history. Guessing what Obama will say when he speaks to many of his former colleagues in the building where he started his political career has become a popular activity, and we chime in at the close of this week's video.