By Matthew Besler

“These problems are ours to solve. We can and we must do better.” Governor Rauner delivered his annual State of the State address, re-emphasizing his commitment to growth, opportunity, and empowerment for Illinois families.

Leaders come in many forms and often from unexpected places. Some hold seats in the legislature; some run a small business; some volunteer in their community. But there are certain qualities that are common among all leaders. Leaders never relent. Nor do they abandon their principles when faced with a challenge.

We need Governor Rauner to lead us now more than ever.  We need him (and those in the legislature that care more about people than politics) to steadfastly press for the reforms he campaigned on two years ago. Reforms that can save Illinois.

Otherwise, people will continue to flee our state because state government does not reflect their values or protect their interests. Illinois families pay the highest property taxes in the nation, and are saddled with one of the highest overall tax burdens in the nation, yet services are being cut because we have the worst funded government pensions in the country and the highest paid state workers.

We must succeed. People are suffering, opportunities are dwindling, and families are fleeing.

Illinois has great potential. This state is rich in energy and agricultural resources. We are a transportation hub, with world-class educational institutions, a highly skilled workforce, and a diverse base of industries. Illinois’ economy should be leading the Midwest. We should be setting the standards for efficiency. Instead, state government has spent decades stiffing vendors, raising taxes and tolerating unacceptable service levels.

It is time state government lived by the same values as Illinois’ families and businesses.

While we don’t expect change overnight, we share the Governor’s belief that, with a few significant reforms, Illinois can create a more welcoming business environment, encourage investment, serve those truly in need, and secure some fiscal stability. By achieving these goals, Illinois will be better poised for progress.

That is what we, at the Illinois Opportunity Project, believe. That is where we stand. That is what we’ll fight for.

As Governor Rauner noted in his address, “We cannot be compassionate, because we have not been competitive.” We call on state legislators to support the reforms that the people of Illinois need and that the Governor outlined today. These policies address the real roadblocks to improving Illinois’ economy.

We call on you—the families and businesses of Illinois—to hold your legislators to the promises they made during their campaigns: to act independently, to improve the economy for you and your families, and to bring jobs to Illinois.

We call on you to take every action and make every change that will make our state a place of growth that magnetizes people from all walks of life, instead of one that drives them out.

We call on you to never relent and to never abandon the principles of prosperity—regardless of pressure or expediency.

We call on you to lead—now more than ever before.

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