Gov. Bruce Rauner, in his first State of the State address, placed much of the blame for high property taxes in Illinois on public employee and construction trades unions.

The Republican said the average homeowner in Illinois pays more than three times as much in property taxes as a homeowner in Indiana and that the average property tax bill here has increased nearly 33 percent in the past decade, while real family incomes have gone down.

He called for giving local voters “the ability to control the collective bargaining issues in their local governments” and giving government employees the ability to decide for themselves whether they want to join a union.

He also called for reform of project labor agreements and prevailing wage requirements “that block true competitive bidding” and “can increase the cost of taxpayer-funded construction projects by 20 percent or more.”

Rauner also called for a form of local-option right-to-work legislation, letting voters decide whether to become what he called “employee empowerment zones” — where workers could choose whether or not to join a union.

State Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston objected to many of the governor’s proposals, saying, “I don’t believe, as he seems to, that the path to prosperity runs through cutting wages and eroding the middle class.”

Biss said the Rauner approach would “sentence us to long-term economic stagnation.”

But Biss, who led the effort in Springfield to give Evanston voters the power to eliminate township government here, presumably won’t object to the governor’s call to consolidate the state’s largest-in-the-nation collection of local government units.

And he offered praise for Rauner’s focus “on reforming our tax and criminal justice systems.”

Rauner, among other things, wants to broaden the base of the sales tax to cover many services that now are not taxed, and he called for expanding the number of prison guards and diverting more offenders into community-based programming to reduce priosn overcrowding.

Related document

Text of Rauner’s State of the State address

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Droppin’ the Gs

    “Raisin’ the minimum wage in conjunction with improving the overall jobs climate, will make Illinois more competitive and create a boomin’ economy while increasin’ incomes for hardworkin’ Illinoisans. As we look to make Illinois more competitive, property tax relief is one of our most pressin’ challenges.” … Gov. Bruce Rauner in today’s State of the State address.

    Rich Miller, who writes for Capitol Fax.com, made this observation about Rauner's SOTS: 

    "So, he dropped his g’s roughly half the time.

    "It’s such an obviously contrived affectation, and the fact that he can’t consistently pull it off makes it even more irritating.

    "Lots of Democratic legislators had never heard Rauner give a speech before yesterday, and many were mocking him after the SOTS for his silly mannerism. He may have been in Downstate yesterday, but most people in his audience were from the suburbs and the city.

    "Not to mention that using bad grammar to sound more folksy to the hicks offends some of us hicks whose parents were conscientious about such matters.

    "In attempting to build a communications bridge, he may actually be constructing a barrier."

  2. Rauner on right track

    It appears that Rauner may be on the right track. Right to work states appear to be doing better than the states that cater to the unions. On the other hand, we don't know what he didn't say.

    The weirdest thing is, where did Biss come up with with his statements about cutting wages, eroding the middle class, and economic stagnation. This has been what has been going on for the last 6 years. Almost anything that changes what has been going on in Illinois has to be an improvement.

    Biss helping with the elimination of Evanston township was good but it wasn't his idea. It was talked about long before he showed up. What he also led was a movement to change education funding. It would have cost Evanston schools 20 times what the township cost,

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