Kadner: In Illinois, the past is history
By Phil Kadner email@example.com February 7, 2013 9:08PM
The 2013 Illinois Senate begins with a color guard parade down the center isle during swearing ceremonies on the Senate floor at the Illinois State Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, in Springfield Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Updated: March 10, 2013 6:21AM
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s once again time for my State of the State address.
In Illinois, I’m proud to say, we do not waste time dwelling on mistakes of the past.
When billions of tax dollars that were supposed to pay for state pensions were redirected, we didn’t look for scapegoats or point fingers at people.
We looked to the future and said, “We obviously can’t afford these pension systems.”
There are some cynics who say all we’ve done is talk, but let me remind them that it takes years of talking before anything gets done in this state.
We like to talk about reform and will continue to talk about reform because it’s better than talking about all those billions of dollars that are unaccounted for.
And we like to talk about public education reform in Illinois.
Gov. Edgar talked about it. Gov. Ryan. Gov. Blagojevich.
We’ve reformed the Illinois State Board of Education every time someone on that panel mentioned that the problem with our schools is the lack of state funding.
No one there talks about that any more. I call that success.
We’ve reformed the school testing program so that more children show improvement each year and that makes people feel good.
In Illinois, we like to feel good about things that are really bad.
And we’ve done that while actually cutting the state education budget.
We’ve saved hundreds of millions of dollars that would have been wasted on schoolchildren.
And now we’re moving toward the day when we can shift the funding for teacher pensions onto the backs of local school districts.
That’s the way we do things in Illinois.
We don’t sit around and worry about people selling their homes or businesses moving to Indiana because property taxes keep increasing to support the schools.
You won’t see that sort of negativity in Springfield, where your legislators represent you with courage, grit and the support of lobbyists.
This is Illinois. And we don’t look back.
That’s why I’m calling for new restrictions on assault weapons and limits on magazine sizes.
Backward thinking people would say that unemployment, neighborhoods in decay and a lack of appreciation for human life play a greater role in the death toll of Chicago than assault weapons.
But we’re incapable of solving those problems and unwilling to even address them.
So in Illinois, we don’t waste time discussing these issues. We look to the future and focus on the things we can do, even if they don’t accomplish much.
And while we’re talking about accomplishments, I would like to point out that while the nation engages in a discussion about the need to identify and treat mental illness, we saved countless dollars here by closing the state-supported Tinley Park Mental Health Center.
People are now being treated in community settings, or more likely roaming the streets until the police pick them up and bring them to Cook County Jail.
I would like to thank Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart at this time for operating the largest mental health clinic in Illinois.
That’s right. More people suffering from mental illness are sitting in the county jail than any hospital or community treatment facility in Illinois.
We can be proud of that because they have three meals a day, a bed and Cook County, not the state, is paying for their care.
That’s how we get things done in Illinois.
Yet, there are critics who contend this state has never replaced its manufacturing base, that it continues to bleed jobs and unemployment remains high.
That’s why today I am proposing a $10 minimum wage.
We may not be able to provide people with jobs that would allow them to send their children to college, keep their homes out of foreclosure or allow them to retire with dignity but we can make sure they get paid $10 an hour when they find employment at a fast-food franchise or bagging groceries.
This is how we do things in Illinois.
Despite those who paint a bleak picture of our future, I would note that we now have legalized video gambling in bars and VFW halls.
I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do for our veterans.
Mike Madigan is still the speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, serving longer than many monarchs, and providing stability through crisis after crisis.
It’s worth noting that despite being called the most corrupt state in the country, allegations that we’re last in funding for public education and nearly last in mental health care, I am proud that we continue to find new and innovative ways of diverting the public’s attention from these issues.
It’s not easy. It requires hard work. It demands cooperation.
Democrats and Republicans are doing their best, while draining the state of all of its financial resources, to forge ahead with new initiatives and programs.
In the coming days, we will move toward pension reform.
We will do this knowing that the ordinary working people of this state fail to realize that the $7 billion generated each year from the state income tax hike has gone into a giant black hole.
We will do this knowing that no matter what we do now, for years to come this state will be unable to pay its bills on time. Public services will continue to suffer.
But we will, we must, focus on pension reform because there is nothing else to do.
This is the State of the State.
And as Abe Lincoln once said, you can fool all of the people some of the time.