Wednesday's State of the State speech by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner will set the stage for the 2018 legislative season.
Can Rauner move Illinois' legislature further forward from progress made last year? Or will we face another year where our state is national punchline?
It is an election year, so anything is possible.
Here are some points we hope Rauner addresses in Wednesday's speech. Some of these concerns were addressed in partial fashion last year. But there's little need to celebrate a long-overdue budget, and while the budget issue was temporarily and partially solved, there are a number of issues that still need to be addressed.
Workers comp. The state's system is despised by businesses, especially small companies. Businesses are struggling with rising workers' compensation insurance premiums and related expenses. But it's vital to establish safeguards against negligent employers and also have checks on who gets workers' compensation and for how long.
Pension reform. There are proposals and plans either in existence or being prepared. Rauner should pick one and lead the charge on it.
Property tax. Rauner has said he'll push legislation to ban lawmakers from doing property tax appeals legal work.
Refining streamlining layers of government. This was a campaign cry for Rauner, and this month he's presented specifics, complaining about the number of occupational licenses required in Illinois, and their attendant paperwork, fees and filing charges. Eliminating some red tape should be an easy bipartisan goal.
Road issues. This is pay-me-now or pay-me-later deal. Illinois roads are in disrepair. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state a score of C-minus for infrastructure. Illinois' gas tax is one thing that's remained constant. There's been no increase since 1990. Gasoline taxes are among the most equitable of all. We are presently seeing the result of having ignored and under-funded this need for too long.
Ways to attract businesses. As a public face of the state, Rauner's in perfect position to play ambassador and entice businesses, and as a politician, he's in perfect position to push the legislature for consideration, and to take public credit for the successes.
Marijuana. The time to start having the talk seriously on a state legislative level has arrived. Citizens' positions need to be established. The discussion on what legalization could do from the standpoints of revenue of public health needs to be aired here.
School funding. Illinois' neediest schools are still waiting for word from the state. If public education is as important as we believe it is, and if lawmakers in Springfield believe what they say, funding issues must be addressed in a more solid fashion.
Rauner was elected with the state facing dozens of challenges. No one ever suggested leading Illinois out of its present mess would be an easy job, either.