THE BLOG

What Bruce Rauner Said During the State of the State Address and What It Really Means

02/06/2015 03:33 pm ET | Updated Apr 08, 2015

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner gave his first State of the State Address Feb. 4, outlining his plans for his term in office. It was equal parts call to action to lawmakers with whom he'll be working for the next four years and call to arms for those who have opposed him and his anti-union, pro-business rhetoric for nearly two years.

Speaking in the Illinois House chamber to a joint session of a Legislature in which Democrats hold a veto-proof supermajority, Rauner reminded lawmakers pointedly that in electing their first Republican governor in 12 years, "voters made it clear they want bipartisan government."

"They want a government where people come together to solve problems and get things done," Rauner said. "They don't want partisan bickering, political infighting or personal conflict to get in the way of serving the needs of the families of Illinois."

Between the lines, Rauner was saying something more direct to his colleagues across the aisle: "The ideas I'm about to present may be anathema to you and your union and trial lawyer supporters, but Illinois is in horrific shape economically and nothing you've tried in the last 12 years has helped."

Here are two quotes from Rauner's speech, plus some explanation on what they might really mean:

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."

  • This is a direct shot at trial lawyers who bring the workers compensation and workplace injury cases that have kept Illinois' rates so high for employers. Trial lawyers are very influential with Democratic lawmakers. (The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association donated142,600 to Pat Quinn in the 2014 election cycle.)
  • It's also a shout-out to those who for years have complained that Illinois courts are so plaintiff-friendly that they've made the state hostile to business.

4. "Our Economic Growth and Jobs Package increases the minimum wage to $10 an hour over the next 7 years. Raising the minimum wage in conjunction with improving the overall jobs climate, will make Illinois more competitive and create a booming economy while increasing incomes for hard-working Illinoisans."

  • Rauner has said he won't raise the minimum wage unless lawmakers also send him bills that will make Illinois more business-friendly. Presumably, some of those bills could come from the items listed above. But Senate President John Cullerton, in a speech Jan. 14 after Rauner conducted the swearing-in ceremony in the Senate, was emphatic about the need to raise the minimum wage. He reminded Rauner that two-thirds of voters on Election Day had said they wanted to see a10 minimum wage -- with no strings attached. With a voter mandate on their side, this could be an issue on which Democrats assert their super-majority status by passing a minimum wage hike and daring Rauner to veto it.

Check out Reboot Illinois to see three more quotes from Rauner during the State and of the State Address and a between-the-lines reading of each.

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