Local officials talk state of state address, Senate Package

Cassie Buchman, News Editor

Local officials weighed in on remarks made by Gov. Bruce Rauner during his annual State of the State Address and a Senate Package that could provide higher education funding Wednesday.

State rep. for the 110th district Reggie Phillips (R) said the governor moved toward a bipartisan direction in his speech and he knows the governor will have to work with Democrats and Republicans to move Illinois in this direction.

“We’re all working toward a better team, spirit, individualism,” he said. “I think in 2017-2018 (I’m) excited to see the Senate working together.”

Phillips said this is indicative of what he calls a “new spirit” in Springfield, and that over the next thirty days, “positive things” are coming.

Attempts to reach State Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) after Rauner’s speech were unsuccessful, but in a statement, the senator said Illinois needs “real change.”

“Not change that simply asks taxpayers to pay more, without significant reform to our economic policies and cutting our spending,” Righter said. “Rather, change that balances our budgets and truly encourages economic growth and job creation.”

In the statement, he said Rauner outlined his vision for this change.

“I hope this new General Assembly can set a new tone that the days of problem solving are now here,” Righter said.

To add to claims of bipartisanship, a Senate package being called a “grand bargain”  has been put forth by Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont.

This package would include tax increases, gambling expansion, pension reforms and would allocate an additional $1.1 billion to higher education, according to the Herald and Review.

This includes $11.2 million that would go to Eastern.

Glassman said the $11.2 million would allow the university to rehire several staff positions, make needed improvements to campus, restore faculty development travel and implement suggestions from the vitalization project.

For the Senate package to become law, all 14 Senate Bills would need to be approved by the Senate, House and Rauner.

“This will not be an easy task to accomplish, but I am hopeful it will be achieved,” Glassman said.

If it were to go to the House,Phillips said he would not vote for the package as it is currently written.

“Not in its present form, I could not support it,” he said. “…In its present form, it’s going to have to be reworked.”

Phillips said while the bill does have pension reforms, he needs to see that there will be a guarantee in a billion dollar savings before he votes on it.

He said while he was willing to sign up on an income tax hike, it “can’t be as much as they’re asking” in the grand bargain.

“We have to couple it with some cuts, and that’s what they’re working on there, where can they find the cuts?” he said.

He said he did not want to put families living in his district through these higher taxes.

“I have to think about the entire district, I can’t just think about one part of my constituency,” he said.

In Rauner’s speech, he mentioned that helping world-class research universities such as the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University is critical to the state’s success.

However, he did not mention any of the other state’s nine public university systems, which have had to rely on emergency and stopgap funding measures as a result of the budget impasse.

Phillips said he noticed and was offended by the fact that the governor did not talk about Eastern.

“He should have included other universities (in his speech),” Phillips said. “When he started mentioning these, he should have mentioned all nine of them.”

Glassman said it does not concern him that only the two public research universities were mentioned in the Governor’s address, however, he would have appreciated an acknowledgement of all public universities.

He said he expected a mention of the importance of higher education to the state, but expects that funding will be more likely covered in February’s Budget Address.

“I believe that both the Governor and the General Assembly are committed to funding higher education. It is the level of funding that is of question,” Glassman said.

 

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]