Year in Review: An Analysis of Rauner's Top 5 Statements From the 2015 State of the State Address

On Jan. 12, 2015, Gov. Bruce Rauner delivered an inaugural address that was a call to action for shared sacrifice to right the state's finances and, in turn, its economy.

"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's prosperity," Rauner told the crowd at Springfield's Prairie Capital Convention Center.

Three weeks later, Rauner delivered his 2015 State of the Address, and added specifics to the theme he had introduced in his inaugural speech. The plans he laid out were ambitious and, considering the super-majority Democratic makeup of the General Assembly he was addressing, audacious.

But ambition and audacity don't always equate to accomplishment. With Rauner's 2016 State of the State Address a week away, it's a good time to review Rauner's Top 5 statements from his 2015 speech. Analyzing last year's speech, I offered between-the-lines explanations of the quotes. With nearly a year's worth of hindsight to our advantage, let's take a look at what those quotes mean today.

5. "Our top priority must be making Illinois competitive again, to grow more jobs here. To become more competitive we must look to the structural impediments to our economic growth. Our workers compensation, unemployment insurance and liability costs all rank among the worst in America."

  • Illinois businesses still complain of inordinately high workers' compensation costs, but Rauner's call to reform the system by applying a higher standard of proof to employees who claim on-the-job injury hit a brick wall with Democrats. This has been the piece of evidence Madigan has cited most often when claiming that Rauner's reforms would harm the middle class. Where Rauner and other business advocates see this as a reform that would correct a system that now favors workers, Madigan believes it would result in more injured workers seeking medical care in emergency rooms and, ultimately, on public assistance. Democrats have said for years that a 2011 workers' compensation overhaul still is bringing costs down, though at a slower pace than expected.

  • A new unemployment insurance law allows employers to deny unemployment claims by workers fired for lying on job applications, destroying company property, endangering the safety of co-workers and using drugs or alcohol and on the job. The bill passed with bipartisan support and was lauded by both business and labor groups.
  • Rauner's reference to "liability costs" is aimed at what he believes is an overly plaintiff-friendly civil court system in Illinois that results in too many frivolous lawsuits. (Scroll to page 7 of Rauner's Illinois Turnaround agenda for more.) This was a call on Democrats to cross one of their main allies, trial lawyers, and no legislation advanced on this topic.
  • Head over to Reboot Illinois for the rest of Dietrich's analysis.

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