Four years ago, in the face of a $5 billion deficit and with an Illinois economy that had lost almost 250,000 jobs in the previous three years before I came into office, I balanced the budget through a series of touch budget cuts and by reducing the size of state government. I kept the promise I made to not raise the income tax or sales tax because I felt it was wrong to take more money out of the pockets of the working people of Illinois.
Businesses, particularly manufacturers, expressed concern that Illinois’ young people were graduating from high school without the necessary skills to enter the workforce, Illinois raised the graduation standards for the first time in 21 years and I invested $3.8 billion in new school funding. We have also invested in our existing workforce, because I believe that there is no greater business asset in Illinois than our workforce. So, I have invested almost $50 million in job training programs to upgrade workers skills and train our workforce for new careers in high-demand areas.
In addition, the Workers’ Compensation System has been overhauled for the first time in more than 25 years, which will lower costs for businesses.
We have also helped small businesses in Illinois. Through the Illinois Entrepreneurship Network and our 17 new Entrepreneurship Centers, we have invested nearly $16 million that has helped small companies generate almost $1.2 billion in contracts and sales and secured almost $230 million in financing.
If I am re-elected and I will continue to find ways to do more with less, to improve health care, increase education funding and support our police and other vital services. I’ve done it – and if re-elected will continue to do it – without increasing the income tax or sales tax.
And these investments are paying off. While I inherited an economy that was hemorrhaging jobs, we have managed to turn things around. Since January 2004, Illinois has gained 118, 600 new jobs, which are more new jobs than any Midwest state. Site Section Magazine recently ranked Illinois third in attracting new corporate facilities, and Business Facilities Magazine named Illinois the top state for biotechnology growth, an industry that will provide the kind of high paying jobs we will need in the future. Illinois exports increased nearly 19 percent in 2005—the greatest increase in more than ten years. And the tourism industry, which supports almost 3000,000 jobs in our state, generated $24.5 billion in 2004, a nearly 7 percent increase.
Companies are demonstrating their commitment to Illinois by expanding and locating in the state. Since coming into office, Illinois has seen a number of companies commit to adding thousands of new jobs across the state, including the Chrylser Group in Belvidere, Pella in Macomb, Astellas Pharma and Takeda in Deerfie3ld, Triumph Foods in East Moline, Pabst Brewing Company in Woodridge, Mital Steel in Chicago, Office Max in Naperville, ZincOx Resources in Sauget, Justrite Manufacturing in Mattoon, Target in DeKalb and Loews in Rockford.
Professional and Business Services added 10,000 new jobs in April—its largest gain since October 1999 – and the Leisure and Hospitality industry added 6,000 more jobs. The Chicagoland area and Peoria reported their lowest unemployment rate for April in six years, with the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet rate falling by 1.5 points from the same month one year earlier. This is the largest decrease since March 1995.
While Illinois’ economy is continuing to rebound, I am working to make sure every Illinois citizen has economic security.
The ninth annual Cyberstates report that shows that the Illinois tech industry employs almost 205,000 people and leads the Midwest states in most important categories, including high-tech employment (7th nationally), establishments (15,000), payroll ($14.4 billion) and venture capital ($235 million – a 5 percent increase from 2004). Illinois remains strong in high-tech manufacturing, ranking 3rd nationwide in measuring and control instruments employment and 4th in both electronic components employment and communications equipment employment. Illinois tech exports also jumped by 12 percent in 2005.
I recently announced more than $3.1 million in Opportunity Returns funding to help meet projected shortages in the manufacturing and transportation, logistics and warehousing sectors in Northeast Illinois through the Critical Skills Shortage Initiative (CSSI), a nationally-recognized job training program, which is being replicated in Indiana and has been recognized by the US Department of Labor. CSSI has been lauded as a model for helping people on a regional basis learn the skills they need to get ahead across Illinois. I have also actively supported our community colleges across Illinois, which provide critical job training and development skills.
I also recently more than $163,000 in workforce training grants to upgrade the skills of almost 330 high-tech workers at several Illinois companies. This funding comes as a part of Opportunity Returns, my pro-active, comprehensive economic development strategy designed to spur economic growth and create jobs throughout Illinois.
Social Security, Retirement:
I believe that current retirees should continue to receive health insurance under the system that was in place when they retired. Current retirees cannot change their income streams to adjust for increased costs in the same way that those that are currently in the workplace. We are doing all we can to ensure that health care costs remain affordable while at the same times providing all employees the health care coverage they need.
I have made helping seniors and retirees a priority of my administration. We have been able to help Illinois seniors without prescription drug coverage get more affordable drugs from Canada, England, and Ireland through the I-Save Rx program. We have also created Illinois Cares Rx which covers the gaps in drug coverage for low income seniors created by the new Medicare drug program and we recently announced that the state would guarantee that all low income seniors could get their drugs immediately while problems with the new federal Medicare drug program are being fixed.
I have supported health insurance pooling plans to reduce the cost of employee health insurance. I also directed the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to negotiate a state payment rate for its more than 59,000 employees that’s more in line with what the private sector pays.
Despite the record $5 billion deficit I faced when I became Governor, I have been able to provide health care coverage for over 400,000 more working families and children though the expansion of FamilyCare and KidCare. Also, under my All Kids legislation all children in Illinois will have access to affordable accessible health insurance.
I believe that access to affordable quality health care is one of the greatest issues facing citizens in Illinois. Since I became Governor, we have been able to provide health care coverage for over 400,000 more working families and children through the expansion of FamilyCare and KidCare. Also, under my All Kids legislation all children in Illinois will have access to affordable accessible health insurance. I have also made improving women’s health a priority and have created and funded programs to help women receive breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and cervical cancer screenings and treatment. We have been able to help Illinois residents without prescription drug coverage get more affordable drugs from Canada, England, and Ireland through the I-Save Rx program. We have also created Illinois Cares Rx which covers the gaps in drug coverage for low income seniors created by the new Medicare drug program and we recently announced that the state would guarantee that all low income seniors could get their drugs immediately while problems with the new federal Medicare drug program are being fixed.