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Pritzker celebrates capital plan, budget, ‘fair tax,’ cannabis and sports betting legislation

The governor is celebrating the conclusion of what he calls the most sweeping and consequential Illinois legislative agenda in a generation, one in which major deals were reached on a capital bill, state budget, sports betting, cannabis use and more.

pritzker jbThe following are the governor’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Today, the people of Illinois can be proud that we are putting state government back on the side of working families.

“They can be proud that we are restoring fiscal responsibility after many years of crisis and deficits.

“We started this session with an ambitious agenda. And there were skeptics. They said it couldn’t be done. Springfield doesn’t move that quickly. Our challenges are too large and our government too dysfunctional, they said.

“But what the skeptics failed to realize is that no obstacle can dwarf the transformative power of a state government and legislature that stands up for working families.

“And with that guiding principle, together, we just accomplished one of the most ambitious and consequential legislative sessions in this state’s history.

The people of Illinois can be proud of the leaders standing behind me who fought to make life better for Illinoisans in every corner of this state; by beating back attempts to take away women’s reproductive rights; by making college more affordable; by making it easier for parents to afford childcare and preschool; by respecting workers rights; by advocating for criminal justice reform; by lifting up the minimum wage to a living wage and giving 1.4 million Illinoisans a raise; by making it easier for seniors to get in-home care and nursing home care; by creating jobs as we rebuild our roads, bridges and communities; by launching an expansion of high speed internet to every corner of our state; by reducing taxes on small business owners; by passing the most equity-centric adult-use cannabis legislation in the nation; by making Illinois a more welcoming state for immigrants, and by protecting middle class families with a fair tax.

“That’s just some of what we accomplished, working together and listening to the people of our state.

“I want to express to our legislators my heartfelt gratitude for your commitment, your wise counsel, your willingness to listen, compromise, negotiate, change your minds or change mine, and get this work done.

“Five months ago, when I was sworn in as the 43rd governor of Illinois, I made the people of this state a promise: to stabilize our finances without putting the burden on working families; to bring a new spirit of collaboration to state government; to think big and get big things done for every resident of our state. And together with the General Assembly, we kept this promise.

“This session we passed legislation that will give Illinoisans the power to say yes to a fair tax system that will improve the trajectory of our state finances forever. With us every day of the fight were Senator Don Harmon, Senator Toi Hutchinson, Senator a Kimberly Lightford, Senator Andy Manar, Representative Rob Martwick, Representative Art Turner, Representative Mike Zalewski and advocates like the Responsible Budget Coalition and many others who worked night and day to get the job done.

“This session we legalized adult-use cannabis, creating the most equity-centric system in this nation. We will right historic wrongs and reinvest in the communities that have suffered the most because of the War on Drugs. The team that made this a reality is enormous, and bipartisan: Senator Heather Steans and Representative Kelly Cassidy, as well as Senator Toi Hutchinson, Leader Jehan Gordon-Booth, Senator Omar Aquino, Representative Celina Villanueva, and the Black and Latino Caucuses. To Republicans like Senator Jason Barickman and Representative David Welter, thank you for being willing to help make this legislation better by contributing your ideas – together we’re showing the people of Illinois the benefits of bipartisanship.

“This session we passed a transformative $45 billion plan to rebuild our roads and bridges, to invest in hospitals and pre-schools, to expand high speed broadband internet service to every corner of our state, to create opportunities for communities that have been neglected for far too long. We could not have achieved this milestone of the Rebuild Illinois capital bill without the leadership of Senators Martin Sandoval, Andy Manar, Toi Hutchinson, Don DeWitte, Jill Tracy and Dan McConchie, and Representatives Jay Hoffman, Louie Arroyo, Jehan Gordon-Booth, Spain, Margot McDermed and Tim Butler, and countless advocates.

“This session we gave 1.4 million people a raise by putting all our minimum wage workers on a path to a $15 an hour living wage. That hard-earned raise was ten years in the making, creating new opportunity and real hope for families across Illinois. Over the years, so many lawmakers played a critical role in making this happen, and today I want to single out the efforts of Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, along with Representatives Jay Hoffman, Will Guzzardi and Marcus Evans. I also want thank organizations like the Illinois AFL-CIO, Chicago Federation of Labor, SEIU, UFCW and the Illinois Restaurant Association.

“This session we passed an omnibus healthcare bill that will eliminate a multi-year Medicaid backlog, and build transparency and accountability into the healthcare system. Health care is a right, not a privilege. Simply put, the bipartisan agreement to eliminate the Medicaid backlog is part of making good on my promise to make government more efficient and improve government services. This was one of the most aggressive cross-agency efforts in Illinois history. The bipartisan Medicaid working group did tremendous work, in particular Representatives Greg Harris and Tom Demmer and Senators Heather Steans and Dave Syverson did outstanding work to craft this resoundingly bipartisan reform.

“This session we helped to grow manufacturing, apprenticeships, and the film industry, extending business tax credits that bolster our status as a 21st century economic powerhouse. And this bill got done in part because groups that don’t always share my views were willing to work with me on our shared priorities. The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and organized labor came together on this measure, and it passed under the legislative leadership of Senators Elgie Sims and Ann Gillespie, House Leader Art Turner, and Representative Mark Walker.

“This session we legalized sports betting and expanded gaming, leading the Midwest in a new industry and setting us up to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for our state. The credit for this belongs to those who spent years in the trenches fighting to make it a reality, especially Leaders Terry Link and Tony Munoz and Representatives Bob Rita and Mike Zalewski.

“This session we made Illinois the most progressive state in the nation for reproductive healthcare. We showed the nation that we trust women to make the most personal and fundamental decisions of their lives. Thank you to Representative Kelly Cassidy, Senator Melinda Bush and Personal PAC, Planned Parenthood, ACLU and countless advocates and groups around the state.

“And now for the lightning round: This session we gave 300,000 small businesses a tax cut by phasing out the corporate franchise tax, created a minority business loan fund, launched a comprehensive overhaul of DCFS and added 300 new frontline caseworkers, raised the tobacco age to 21, expanded access to federal student aid, advanced equal pay for equal work, helped to clean up coal ash, lowered liabilities in our pension funds by expanding our state employee pension buyout program, and instituted an insurance company assessment that will bring more than 500 million federal dollars to help pay for Medicaid.

“And most fundamentally, for the first time in many years, we met our most basic responsibility: a real balanced budget. Just a few years ago, simply passing a budget was considered nearly impossible. But this year, by passing a balanced budget, we’ve demonstrated that a progressive, forward thinking vision is in perfect harmony with fiscal responsibility.

“As I said in my budget address, a close study of history can be a cruel exercise in pessimism. The same could be said for a narrow look at the headlines of the present.

“And as with the changemakers of generations past, it can be hard to gauge the power of relentless optimism until it’s reflected in the history books.

“But as I stand here today, alongside these changemakers, I can say with utmost certainty: we have transformed the lives of working families all across this state. We have sent a message that Illinois’ third century will not be defined by its fiscal woes but by its unapologetic promise to stand on the side of its working families.

“Make no mistake. We still have a lot of work ahead. Our budget and pension challenges unfolded over many years, and they won’t go away overnight. We have more big things to do: to bring more efficiencies to state government, to grow our economy at a faster rate, to create jobs, to invest in our future.

“And again, history can serve as our teacher. Illinois was the first state to ratify the Constitutional amendment ending slavery, the first state to ratify the amendment assuring a woman’s right to vote, and the most recent to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Illinoisans invented the skyscraper, crafted the first cell phone, founded the McDonald’s franchise, and performed the first successful open-heart surgery.

“The people of Illinois have the courage to do what’s right, to do the hard things that make a difference in peoples lives. That courage, the courage to innovate and invent and change, defines the spirit of Illinois. And that courage will lead us as we continue to build a more prosperous future for everyone in our state.”

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