SPRINGFIELD — Central Illinois experts were more surprised by what wasn't in Gov. Bruce Rauner's 2018 State of the State address than by what was.
"There’s an awful lot that the governor didn’t talk about in terms of the situation the state is in and what the last three years have been about,” said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “There seems to be a lot of amnesia in terms of what has happened ... and not a lot of specifics in terms of the way you make the math work.”
Though some issues likely will be resolved in the Republican's budget address Feb. 14, Redfield and John Jackson, a visiting professor at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said they were disappointed he didn't reveal Wednesday what he wants in crucial areas.
“For this governor, education primarily seems to mean K-12, which he’s been fairly generous toward ... while higher education and social services bore the brunt of the budget impasse," said Jackson. "This is ominous for those (colleges and universities) who are already hurting."
"I was surprised we didn’t hear anything about a capital plan,” said Redfield of infrastructure's place in the address. "But that's part of this bigger budget issue. If you throw in funding a capital plan, that’s another set of funding you have to come up with.”
Instead, Rauner stressed many of the same priorities from his 2014 campaign and time in office, including job creation and legislative term limits.
He also spoke against the income tax hike passed last year over his veto and touted achievements in responding to sexual misconduct, addressing a disease outbreak at the Quincy veterans home and improving public safety.
"We're pretty short on what the specifics might be in terms of how we’ll balance the budget, pay off unpaid bills, get rid of the pension liability and give more money for schools but also cut property taxes ... and roll back the income tax increase. That’s a pretty tall order in terms of making those numbers add up," said Redfield.
Jackson said the early section of the speech reminded him of the kind of pitch a state might make to a prospective employer, but it then took a turn into criticizing the General Assembly that Jackson said could be counterproductive.
Bloomington's Republican state legislators, however, said they were pleased with the vision Rauner laid out in the address.
"Today, Gov. Rauner reached out to both sides of the political divide in an effort to move Illinois in the right direction. By working in a bipartisan manner, we need to pass a truly balanced budget, as well as provide meaningful property tax relief, both of which will help grow our economy and create jobs,” said state Sen. Bill Brady in a statement. “As we saw with the historic passage of school funding reform last year, by working together we can accomplish great things for the residents of Illinois.”
State Sen. Jason Barickman, who worked on school funding reform, agreed.
“We’ve obviously been through some very turbulent times. I think it was appropriate that the governor pointed to the successes that have existed during that turbulence ... and reflect on how you might repeat that in the future," Barickman told The Pantagraph.
Barickman said he felt the governor "did a good job of demonstrating his desire to work in a bipartisan manner."
"I think it was important for him to put forward a goal of reaching a bipartisan, balanced budget. That should be job number one this spring," said Barickman. "I also thought it was an opportunity for us to put forward some of our reform ideas that will receive hostility in a Democrat-controlled chamber but still need to generate public support."
State Rep. Dan Brady said he was pleased but hoped to hear more emphasis on higher education. He and state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, are working to overhaul state universities.
"The tone of the speech was good. It was, 'We can do this, we can bring Illinois back,’" said Dan Brady. "Where we’re negative is job growth, property tax reform and business growth. We’ve had some bright spots, but we still have a long way to go.”
Bill Brady and Dan Brady are not related.