Gov. JB Pritzker held the annual State of the State address on Wednesday to discuss the health of Illinois.
Pritzker began the address by thanking various officials and members of Illinois government, including his wife, MK.
“With quiet strength and with little fanfare, you’ve worked hard over the last year to make this state more inclusive and welcoming to all, from DuQuoin to Springfield to Chicago, caring about and advocating for some of our state’s most vulnerable people,” JB said. “I want to say thank you for making some important aspects of Illinois shine once again.”
MK is the leader of the Pritzker Family Foundation which focuses on child development, early childhood development and women’s health.
Following his thanks, Pritzker discussed what he has done in his first year as governor and the unfortunate situation he stepped into a year ago.
“We inherited a mess that was years in the making, and it had bipartisan roots,” Pritzker said. “On day one it was clear to me that we had a government infrastructure that had withered from neglect and a lack of public trust. At times, it seemed like even the most basic things – like getting a government-issued iPad to work – were hard to do.”
A big theme in Pritzker’s address was the idea of stability. He spoke of how unstable the government was before he came into office and how he has tried to instill a stable centerpiece in his time as governor. He touched upon the growth Illinois’ economy has seen in the past months.
“Today the Illinois economy supports 6.2 million jobs,” Pritzker said. “This is the most jobs on record for our state, and we now have the lowest unemployment rate in history. Last year, for the first time in nearly 20 years, every major region in our state was growing simultaneously – and even more remarkably, communities in southern Illinois, like Carbondale have led that growth. Over the past year, Illinois has reduced its unemployment rate more than all of the top twenty most populated states in the nation — and more than our Midwestern peers.”
One major item was on the agenda last year when citizens went out and voted at the polls, the state budget. The 793-day-long budget impasse left higher education, businesses and citizens across the state reeling under former Gov. Bruce Rauner, so when Pritzker stepped into office, it was one of the first things he wanted to get done.
“We passed a bipartisan, truly balanced budget on time, with renewed investments in job creation, cradle to career education, and physical and mental healthcare,” Pritzker said. “Even the credit rating agencies and financial analysts described a ‘distinct improvement’ in our fiscal stability, and investors took notice and lowered our state’s borrowing rate. A balanced budget is an important accomplishment, but it’s more than just about fiscal discipline. It’s a moral document that reflects our values as a state.”
He spoke of the infrastructure bill that will reportedly support 500,000 jobs in the state and repair roads and bridges that continue to crumble away and the legalization of marijuana in the state of Illinois. Pritzker said that the legalization of cannabis will create 63,00 new jobs and offer opportunities for those from communities that didn’t previously have them.
Pritzker also highlighted the changes made in the medical and public health fields. Affordable healthcare was also one of Pritzker’s focuses when coming into office and he has accomplished some key tasks that he was interested in. The state has reduced the amount of deaths related to opioid use, lowered the dependance on opioids by shifting the medical programs to use cannabis to cover chronic pain conditions and capped out-of-pocket insulin costs at $100 for a 30-day supply.
However, will all the positives that Pritzker brought up, he still said there is work to be done within the government.
“We must root out the purveyors of greed and corruption — in both parties — whose presence infects the bloodstream of government,” Pritzker said. “It’s no longer enough to sit idle while under-the-table deals, extortion or bribery persist. Protecting that culture or tolerating it is no longer acceptable. We must take urgent action to restore the public’s trust in our government. That’s why we need to pass real, lasting ethics reform this legislative session.”
Pritzker spoke against lobbying and for-profit peddling among elected officials at every level of Illinois government.
“Most states have a revolving door provision for legislators, and it’s time for Illinois to join them,” he said. “Elected officials shouldn’t be allowed to retire and immediately start lobbying their former colleagues. It’s wrong, and it’s got to stop.”
Diversity and discrimination were also big subjects Pritzker discussed on Tuesday. He said that he has worked tirelessly to right the wrongs perpetrated against communities and minority groups across Illinois. He spoke of the criminal justice system that he and members of government hope to take a look at this spring.
Also on the spring agenda was the topic of clean energy. Pritzker hopes to reduce carbon pollution, promote renewable energy and electrification of the transportation sector.
Pritzker closed out the address with a story about Kim FIlian, a citizen who put up a Pride flag in her backyard and ended up handing out Pride flags to her neighbors and eventually, all over her hometown of Barrinton, Ill.
“I’ve thought a lot about that story this past year. It reminds me of the fundamental goodness and decency of the people who live here in Illinois and about how hard they will fight for each other,” Pritzker said. “Those are good ideals to live by. Those are good ideals to govern by. Let’s all try to remember them in the year ahead.”