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ILLINOIS NEWS
The State of Illinois News page provides access to the Illinois Government News Network and all state press releases.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 17, 1999

Fiscal Year 2000 Budget State of the State Address to the 91st General Assembly Governor George H. Ryan February 17, 1999

Speaker Madigan.
President Philip.
Justices of the Supreme Court.
My fellow constitutional officers.
My colleagues in the House and Senate.
And the people of the State of Illinois.
Eighteen years ago, I stood in this place to take my oath of office as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.
Since then, the people of this State have honored me with election to statewide offices five times, and I stand before you now with the highest honor our people can bestow -- as the 39th Governor of Illinois.

I can honestly tell you that today, 16 years after I left this Chamber as Speaker, it's good to be back.

I will always cherish my time in this House.

Today, I am here to present this General Assembly with my proposed State Budget for Fiscal Year 2000, and to report to the citizens of Illinois on the State of our State as we prepare to enter the 21st Century.

I am happy to report to you that Illinois is a healthy and robust State.

I commend the General Assembly and Governor Edgar for this achievement. During years of growing prosperity, you balanced our budget, eliminated our one billion dollar Medicaid debt, paid our bills on time and reduced the size of state government.

That's a pretty good record of accomplishment.

You built a healthy economic climate in Illinois -- stimulating business growth and driving our jobless rate to the lowest level in 25 years.

You made significant improvements in funding schools, and you enacted reforms to provide greater accountability over how our school funds are spent.

You can be justifiably proud of these accomplishments.

Our job -- yours and mine -- is to build on this record.

Our state is strong thanks to millions of men and women who work hard every day to produce the goods and services and ideas we all need and use.

Illinois is a place that has never forgotten what made America great:

Pride.

Hard work and self-respect and respect for others.

The People of Illinois are an astonishing resource.

We come from the people who pushed back frontiers and brought the railroads west.

And wherever their wagons stopped, Illinois' early pioneers always set up two things: School houses and churches.

They built a good state, a good place to call home, and a special place to raise families.

Today, we remain a people that draws strength and purpose from the land, sinking deep roots and nurturing the dreams of our children.

Twenty-seven years ago when I first ran for the Illinois House, I was a pharmacist in Kankakee.

My family and I ran a small business that had been started by my father.

I ran for public office because I thought the government was too big, spent too much money and was too intrusive in our daily lives.

Like all of you, I have an abiding trust in the capability of individuals to shoulder their own responsibilities, and to develop their fullest potential.

I still believe in a "limited government" that spends taxpayer dollars carefully and wisely.

But, I also realize that state government can be fiscally prudent, yet still be compassionate and sensitive to the needs of all in our society.

State government can be efficient and yet still be fair.

And, while I believe that government cannot be the solution to every problem, there are some problems that only government can solve.

There is more to elective office than just preparing for the next campaign.

It is about governing -- and in order to govern most effectively to produce the best outcome, we must build coalitions.

We must continually broaden our own perspective.

We must listen to and respect the opinions of others.

We must reach out to embrace new ideas, and we must be willing to craft fair compromises to find solutions.

I realize that each generation finds its own way; and just because something makes one uncomfortable -- or because they don't understand it -- doesn't make it wrong.

I'm proud of my reputation, earned in this chamber many years ago in building political consensus from both sides of the aisle.

I can tell you here today that I intend to govern -- with all of you as my partners, regardless of your party.

To Mike, to Pate, Lee, to Emil and to all my friends here, as we begin this new administration, I offer you my hand.

My door is open.

I invite all of you to join me in building a new Illinois...together. As I have said: I intend to govern.... with you as my partners.

I began this Administration talking about the people I met all over this great state who inspired me and gave me the courage and reason to carry on.

I listened to them...and I learned from them.

What they said, and my experience with them, made me rethink a lot of things.

And I believe I will be a better Governor because of it.

In my Inaugural remarks, I pledged to put partisanship aside, and I renew that pledge today to you and the People of Illinois.

The lesson of the last few years should be obvious to everyone.

People want problems solved, and they do not want protracted partisan political fights.

Partisanship is not my message.

My message is that we must meet people's needs, and to do that we must learn and listen and be ready to compromise to find the middle ground -- to find a solution.

But all that we may do or try to do falls as seeds on fallow ground unless we in government set the tone for understanding, compassion, and a respect for one another and a respect for the institutions we have established to serve us all.

This is a great State, and while recognizing differences, we must act together. There is nothing that happens in one part of the State that ultimately does not impact, for good or bad, on another part of the State.

The needs of each area of our State may be different.

But while recognizing those differences, and accommodating those needs, let us always remember that we are one State, and no area of our State should be disadvantaged for the benefit of the other.

In the past year, I presented a detailed policy agenda -- my vision for taking Illinois into the 21st Century.

Today, I am laying before you a fiscal blueprint to implement that agenda.

I believe we must prudently manage the budget balance.

I agree with Comptroller Dan Hynes and Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka in their call for the creation of a "Rainy Day Fund" for Illinois to help us guard against unexpected downturns in the economy.

Implementation details need to be worked out with you, but I believe the Comptroller and the Treasurer have made good suggestions about where we can begin those discussions.

This budget is just a beginning, because I know, as you do, that we cannot do all that we want, as quickly as we want.

I also know that some of your priorities may be different than mine, but I am willing to listen.

I propose we begin with what I believe to be the #1 priority for all of us: the education of our children, and the development of a trained, competitive workforce for Illinois in the 21st Century.

We build a new Illinois by building families.

And we build families by loving, caring and educating our children.

At the end of the day, all our hopes for the future, can be summed up in one simple truth:

Children are our most precious natural resource.

I made a promise to the kids and parents of Illinois,that at least 51 percent of all new monies would go to education and job training.

Today, I make good on that promise.

Today, I propose that we increase funds for education and job training by $536 million -- representing 52.5 percent of new general fund appropriations.

And today I announce the most far-reaching and ambitious educational package ever set before this Assembly.

It calls for new schools.

New teachers.

New technology.

And new ideas.

It is a 10-part plan to ensure that -- for the children of Illinois -- their future is as bright as their dreams.

First -- new teachers.

Ultimately, 10,000 new teachers.

Because if kids are our most precious resource -- teachers are surely our most important asset.

I also promised that we reduce class size, so that teachers could teach and our children could learn.

To do that over the next four years, Illinois should hire 10,000 new teachers.

Today, I match rhetoric with resources and propose $60 million to hire new teachers.

Second -- bricks and mortar.

Because building a new Illinois means building new classrooms, my budget asks that we accelerate school construction next year with a boost of capital funds for school construction grants -- nearly $400 million.

Third -- reading.

Back to basics.

We're talking about literacy.

The first step on any path to opportunity.

My budget asks that we increase reading grants by $10 million and early childhood and summer bridge programs by $16 million.

No child will be left behind.

Our goal should be nothing less than an Illinois where by the end of the third grade every child can read at that level.

Fourth, safe schools.

You know, growing up in Kankakee, they talked about the Four R's: Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmetic -- and RESPECT.

Respect for teachers.

Respect for learning.

Respect for fellow students.

I ask that you quickly pass Attorney General Jim Ryan's "Safe 2 Learn" school safety plan.

We need schools that are free from crime.

Free from chaos.

Free from drugs.

Fifth -- equality, opportunity and local rule.

These new teachers and these new classrooms must reach every child in this state.

That's fair play.

We in Illinois carry the legacy of Abraham Lincoln.

This state was built not only with iron and stone -- it was also built on ideas.

We must continue the fight to equalize the disparity between the haves and the have-nots.

And we must continue to return power to communities, freeing districts to address their own needs, to help their own kids.

That means allocating $41 million to increase the foundation level above the level required by law.

Increasing categorical grants by some $107 million.

And to help local school districts with cash flow, I recommend restoring the final General State Aid payment in June for both FY1999 and FY2000.

Sixth -- fairness and opportunity also mean extending a hand to all our kids -- including those in private and parochial schools.

These are our children, too. They are not strangers to us.

Their parents live down the street, around the corner.

They are neighbors.

These parents pay taxes, just like the rest of us, to support our public schools, yet they shoulder the added cost of private schools, as well.

Whether a parent chooses to home school a child, or send the child to a charter school, or to a parochial school, they are entitled to our help and we should provide it.

Our children should not be caught in a war between competing educational interests.

We must come to the table and resolve the issues concerning public and private schools.

We cannot pretend that the private system does not exist.

I want the State Board of Education to make this a prime agenda item.

I don't want discussions or decisions that pretend that parochial or charter schools do not exist or should not exist.

I don't want rules and regulations that make it difficult for them to exist.

I want the State Board to cooperate with the thousands of parents who home school their children.

I want to see progress at coming together.

I ask this General Assembly to enact a responsible tuition tax credit program and I will sign it into law.

It is right. It is fair.

Seventh -- new technology.

Reading is a basic tool for literacy, opportunity and lifelong learning.

Our children need all the tools.

Illinois produces some of the world's most advanced technology.

Let's put it in the hands of our children.

With this budget, I propose $8 million more to help jump-start improvements in school technology.

I ask that we devote another $17 million to press forward and now build the Illinois Century Network.

It will link education and training resources for universities, colleges, schools and libraries throughout the state.

Illinois belongs in the forefront.

Because in the nationwide effort to harness technology for education -- the children of Illinois must be second to none.

Eighth -- higher education.

Illinois boasts an exceptional state system and is home to some of the finest colleges and universities in the world.

I'm told that if it were a separate country, Illinois would stand at number 2, behind only the United States itself, for the number of Nobel Prizes won.

I promised to support this state's system of higher education.

And with this budget, we do.

For higher education, I propose an over all general funds increase of $137 million.

We're backing that commitment with some $161 million for capital improvements at our colleges and universities.

Here too, we are building a new Illinois.

Ninth -- scholarship assistance.

Parents know the cost of college has gone through the roof.

We want to encourage our top high school students to continue their education in Illinois.

That's why my budget meets our commitment to fully fund our merit scholarship program.

America's G.I. Bill was an idea of simple genius, an idea that worked.

And it helped fuel an economic boom that we still benefit from today.

And so I also recommend full funding for the Illinois Veterans Scholarship Program.

I also will ask this General Assembly to approve my "Career Scholarship Program."

It provides $1,000 grants to any Illinois high school graduate who wants to pursue continuing education, vocational training or on-the-job training in Illinois.

Tenth -- job training.

I saved this for last because it's close to my heart.

Twenty years ago, as a state legislator, I helped create the Illinois Industrial Training Program.

It's a homegrown success story, a program that works.

It works for business.

It works for people, enabling them to upgrade skills.

The other half of our commitment to education has to be a commitment to workforce development and training.

And that's why we've asked to expand the Industrial Training Program by an increase of $7 million -- nearly 50 percent.

Our objective is simple.

The need is clear,

We must devise a single continuous program for workforce development in Illinois.

This 10-part plan can do it.

It starts with elementary and secondary schools.

Vocational education.

Community colleges.

Higher education.

Adult education and literacy.

On-going retraining in the workplace.

Illinois needs a program for lifelong learning.

A system our citizens can access at any time throughout their careers.

The full realization of Illinois' promise is linked to the opportunities fostered by a growing economy.

I pledged to propose a "Jobs Through Economic Competitiveness Act," a major high-tech initiative designed to jump-start the new economic engine for Illinois. I will keep that promise, too, and submit a comprehensive package for your consideration.

We will propose an EDGE tax credit, similar to incentives already in place in our neighboring states, to help us compete for the attraction of firms that offer good jobs for Illinois workers and provide an equalization of opportunities in all regions of the State. This will be especially helpful in Southern Illinois, where local communities must compete with Kentucky and Missouri for companies providing good jobs.

And to make sure that we don't forget about the needs of Southern Illinois, I will establish an office for the Governor in the region south of I-70.

We will encourage the redevelopment of brownfields.

We will expand tourism promotion by $5.1 million and provide greater coordination among state agencies and local communities in all regions of the State. We will move forward with the Lincoln Presidential Library project in Springfield, and we will continue to provide additional resources to our museums.

Many of you know that my political education actually started with business education.

It was back at the pharmacy, sharing morning coffee and everyday gripes with neighboring business owners.

I ran a small business with my family for 43 years.

I understand their needs.

Small businesses are the backbone of Illinois. They need our help.

And one of the best ways we can help it to get out of the way .

That means regulatory relief, now.

Enhancing entrepreneurial education, now.

And increased access to capital, now.

It also means focusing on the particular needs of our women business owners.

That's why I appointed a new Director of DCCA, Pam McDonough.

Former chair of the Illinois Women's Business Ownership Council, Pam is a tireless advocate for women in business.

We're told that in the future more than 80 percent of those entering the workforce will come from the ranks of women and minorities.

And in looking forward we must humbly recognize that the full promise of equality and civil rights still have not been achieved.

We must move beyond the protection of rights to the creation of opportunity. Because we will be satisfied with nothing less than the removal of final barriers to self-reliance -- and equality of opportunity for everyone in Illinois.

We will also create jobs by promoting more Illinois exports and devising a comprehensive state export strategy with a focus on small business, and a focus on our agricultural products.

Our farm economy is changing, and we must help our farmers earn more by promoting our growing exports.

I propose that we add money in this budget to establish additional overseas offices to promote our State and its products.

I personally believe that one of those offices ought to be in Africa where new, emerging markets would provide economic opportunities for our Illinois businesses.

In building a new Illinois economy, initiatives likes these are the nuts and bolts.

Illinois welcomes the emerging global economy.

Because Illinois plans to win.

Illinois has always served as a crossroads.

And for two centuries our location has helped make Illinois rich, as goods and ideas have moved faster and faster.

First by water.

Then by rail.

Today by air.

For each, in its time, Illinois was a dominant hub.

But the new medium is neither water, nor steel nor air.

It's information.

They say that within five years, electronic commerce will be a market of 1.3 trillion dollars.

We want a piece of that. We're building jobs for the new century.

We want to make Illinois a leader, with a comprehensive, industry-led effort to provide custom-made financing tools for high tech firms.

They did it in Pennsylvania -- Governor Tom Ridge and his "Technology 21" initiative.

And we can do it here.

Illinois must invest in this technology-based "inovation economy."

And with this budget, we will.

That means an additional $5 million for our Technology Challenge Grant program and the Technology Development Bridge program by at least $10 million.

I urge you to invest $250,000 to help develop a technology park in western DuPage County, adjacent to the Fermi labs, and in the heart of the growing I-88 "Research & Development Corridor".

I ask you to double State support for the Illinois Coalition.

Its a non-profit organization of leaders in business, academia, and labor.

And its mission is simple: Encourage high-tech economic development in Illinois.

And I recommend $1 million to create the "Illinois Technology Enterprise Corporation", or ITEC.

Overseen by the Illinois Coalition, ITEC will provide regional, privately-managed centers to promote technology transfer from our major research universities.

It will help firms develop high quality research proposals for federal grants.

Help match venture capitalists with high tech firms.

And build local technology infrastructures throughout the State.

This is a marathon -- not a sprint.

In the next Century, technology will be the engine of Illinois economic growth.

My economic plan for this state recognizes the importance of science and technology.

It positions our State to be competitive in the global economy.

And with these initiatives, Illinois can shake the Rust Belt image of the 20th Century, and run with confidence towards a new century, a new economy, and a new identity as the Silicon Prairie.

Building a new Illinois also means just that -- building.

Even in an information age, we still stand at a crossroads.

We need roads and bridges, waterworks and schools.

As everyone here already knows, today we have an urgent need to maintain, and improve, our State's infrastructure.

With this budget, I propose a capital improvement program that is ambitious, yes -- $2.5 billion -- but also responsible, necessary and affordable. I'm asking for nearly $1.6 billion to rebuild Illinois highways and bridges -- many of which date to before World War I.

Almost $400 million for school construction.

Nearly $523 million for our general capital development budget -- including over $161 million to add over 3,500 beds to our prison system.

But the needs are greater than that.

We need additional resources to relieve the traffic nightmares faced each day by commuters in northeastern Illinois.

We have already moved to begin fixing The Hillside Strangler.

The first public hearing is less than a week away.

There are many other chokepoints that need fixing.

We need additional resources to finish building an improved Route 67 from Alton to the Quad Cities.

We need to "open up" Western Illinois by building Route 336 to Quincy.

We need to build a new bridge in East St. Louis over the Mississippi River.

We need to address the needs of the Fox River Valley.

To help the City of Chicago rebuild Wacker Drive.

And to see that the Stevenson Expressway improvements are done in two years -- not four.

To launch transit improvements that have been deferred for far too long.

We will need capital resources to build a south-suburban airport in Peotone, (not the Brooklyn Bridge, by the way.)

We need to move beyond the $1.1 billion school construction program you've already approved, and find additional resources to help our local school districts with their pressing capital needs.

And we need to find ways to help our local communities to improve water and sewer systems essential to maintaining economic growth.

The fact is that our State's infrastructure is aging.

It's not only a challenge -- but an opportunity.

Interest rates are at the lowest levels in a generation.

We must act now to devise new programs for bonded improvements.

I am confident we can still find appropriate revenue streams to back a significant enhancement to our State's capital budget.

Building a new Illinois means not just roads and schools -- we also need to build a "Fund for Illinois' Future."

I am appointing a Task Force to evaluate and prioritize our infrastructure needs.

They're to report back to me . . . and to you in the General Assembly . . . with recommendations.

I ask them to advise us, collectively, on how we can build this new Fund.

And I would hope we could reach an agreement on the Fund during this session.

We're also moving to build a new Illinois by aggressively seeking more dollars from our federal partners.

Illinois ranks almost dead last in a per capita return on federal projects.

That's going to change.

Building a new Illinois also means looking back.

Some of the most precious and wonderful things about this state were here long before we came.

Illinois is a special place, perched atop ancient beds of coal and oil, nestled between the two oceans that frame this unique nation.

Blessed by rich dark soil, clean air, abundant water and rain.

Lura Lynn and I visited a lot of schools over the years.

I read Green Eggs & Ham so many times, I fixed them for our grandchildren one morning.

Lura Lynn and I also talked to a lot of kids.

You know what they talked about?

School, and sports, of course; but they also talked about saving the whale, trips to clean the river banks, planting seedlings, school outings where they saw a snake, chased squirrels and talked about the bugs that they found.

I've got to tell you, they really have a thing about bugs: Big ones, small ones, round ones, long ones, furry ones -- they know them all.

Kids are very much into the environment.

What these kids said reminded me that we are stewards of the gifts of God's nature.

We have not always fulfilled our steward's role.

We can look back with some shame regarding the manner in which we have abused and misused our natural resources and the environment.

We have learned a hard lesson.

But in learning that lesson, we now have a new understanding of things around us.

Our forests, our waterways, our wildlife are all gifts to us.

They should not be misused.

A prime commitment of this administration will be to honor our role as stewards of nature's gifts to us.

To reinforce that promise, I will, by Executive Order, establish the Environmental & Natural Resources SubCabinet.

I want agencies to work together to coordinate their activities, and not work at cross-purposes.

I don't want conflicting rules and regulations.

I don't want turf fights.

I want my grandchildren, and yours, to enjoy all the blessings nature has given to all of us.

That is my commitment.

That is my promise.

As a further measure of my commitment to our stewardship, I ask you to approve my request for a $160 million bonding program to create an open lands trust, which will allow us to significantly increase our State's ability to acquire unique natural resource areas for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.

That is a monument we can all be proud to share in.

And we will do more.

We will expand the open space lands and development program to fund small neighborhood parks, large urban parks and natural areas.

We will develop greenways and trails, bicycle paths, boat access areas; and we will continue turning abandoned mine land into recreational lands.

And we will do more.

With this budget, we continue to fund the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program -- a $500 million federal/state initiative to provide landowners along the Illinois River with incentives to replace crops with natural habitat.

This program will eventually include 232,000 acres along the Illinois and its major tributaries, as well as the Peoria Lakes.

Lt.Gov. Corinne Wood will chair the Illinois River Coordinating Council.

We are committed to the goal of restoring the Illinois River as one of this nation's greatest natural resources.

And we will do more.

With this budget, we are including $11.6 million in additional funding for our successful "Conservation 2000" program -- to preserve and enhance wildlife habitats while expanding outdoor recreational opportunities.

And you should know, too, that as long as I am Governor, there will be no admission fees to our state parks and open lands.

They will remain free.

The rules and regulations protecting our environment must be clear and not arbitrary.

I want to make it easier for citizens and businesses to achieve our environmental goals.

I want to foster new and improved air and water pollution control technologies by simplifying requirements for pilot and demonstration projects.

I will support a partnership with the livestock industry in funding a program for the development of innovative sewage and livestock waste treatment methods.

We must address the future of large scale livestock operations with legislation that brings all sides to some common ground.

And we also need to look at growth policies.

Last year, the Illinois House Smart Growth Task Force produced a thought-provoking report on the growing problem of sprawl and the resultant loss of thousands of acres of some of our State's most productive farmland.

Two years ago, the American Farmland Trust identified northeastern Illinois as one of the nation's 3 highest-risk regions for loss of prime farmland.

The Task Force correctly found that this issue raises serious implications.

For housing.

Jobs.

Air quality.

And for our quality of life.

Just what those kids were talking about!

This session, I want to work with all of you in the General Assembly.

As well as the Realtors;

The Homebuilders;

The Environmentalists.

And yes -- the kids, and everyone with an interest in addressing this challenge. . . to find a way to develop reasonable "Smart Growth" policies for Illinois.

Families are the fundamental building blocks of a strong society.

By helping strengthen our families, we are ensuring that our children are being prepared for brighter futures.

As our welfare rolls continue to shrink, we must provide those families with the tools to successfully complete their transition from welfare to work.

Last year, I supported your efforts to provide Illinois families with more than $320 million in tax relief by doubling the $1,000 personal exemption in the state income tax.

That was the right thing to do.

But good ideas to help families can come from anywhere -- even Washington, D.C.

I believe President Clinton is right in calling for a $1,000 federal tax credit to help families struggling to provide long-term care for elderly or disabled relatives.

I believe the President is also right in calling for a $500 child-care tax credit for stay-at-home parents.

And, I believe the Republican Congress is right to call for an end to the marriage penalty in our federal tax code.

I hope that the Congress approves all of these good ideas this year.

I am committed to developing a comprehensive child care policy that recognizes the needs of working families and fosters partnerships among parents, communities, faith-based organizations, employers and government.

With this budget, we invest in quality and we expand the availability of care.

I am recommending a 23.5 percent increase in our child care resources -- to a total of nearly $500 million.

I am committed to reducing family violence.

One way we can help is by increasing funding for domestic violence shelters, and by increasing violence prevention grants to the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, the only such agency in the nation.

With this budget, we do.

I am recommending a 62 percent increase for domestic violence prevention programs -- to a total of some $21.4 million.

I am committed to forcing child support deadbeats to pay their obligations. Today, as Governor, I want to look those deadbeats in the eye and tell them straight-out:

Your free ride is over.

We are going to see to it that you pay your obligations to support your children. You are not entitled to profit from your professional or occupational license while you flaunt your obligations to your children.

You are not entitled to profit from property or business investments while you deny your children that to which they are entitled.

To be sure that these deadbeats really get the message, I am recommending that you approve legislation to transfer the responsibility for the enforcement of child support collections from the Department of Public Aid to the Office of the Attorney General -- our State's chief law enforcement agency -- and give him the tools to do the job.

I am committed to quality, affordable health care.

The waters of managed care reform are troubled, but they can be calmed.

I believe the "Patients Bill of Rights" I proposed last year is a good place for us to begin.

I know that Representative Flowers, and others, have strong beliefs on this issue -- and I also believe there is a consensus that we must reform this system.

I'm willing to do whatever I can to help craft a solution.

It's a problem we must address this session.

Let us address it together.

To reinforce our commitment to women, I recommend we double the resources available to the Office of Women's Health to battle the special health risks faced by women, and that you approve a new "Women's Health Illinois" initiative.

Because some 65 women's health-related programs and opportunities are scattered throughout state government, Women's Health Illinois will be a partnership between the Governor's Office and the Office of Women's Health at the Department of Public Health.

Women's health issues are important to me and they're important to Lt. Governor Wood.

I've asked her to Chair an Interagency Cabinet Council to oversee the effective implementation of the new Women's Health Illinois initiative.

It's important that we continue to encourage more organ donors in Illinois -- and I'm confident that Secretary of State Jesse White will do that. As I've said many times:

This issue has nothing to do with politics.

It's about saving lives and we need to make sure that the public service advertising campaign continues to be funded.

Additional resources are also needed in a variety of prevention programs; particularly prevention programs to try to reduce the risk factors faced by our young people.

This comprehensive prevention initiative will be called "Futures for Kids", and I've asked the best qualified person I know to lead the effort -- my wife, Lura Lynn.

Substance abuse prevention programs have been our priority in public life and I am recommending nearly $11 million for community-based substance abuse programs to expand services to youths.

I believe we have a special obligation to those children who are abused, developmentally disabled, neglected and in need of loving, caring homes.

With this budget, I am recommending a 43 percent increase -- some $46 million -- to support adoptions and guardianships in Illinois.

Our goal must be to reduce the time children spend in foster care and to make sure that children come first in adoptions. I am recommending a 78 percent increase for Child Advocacy Centers through the Department of Children and Family Services.

One year ago, Governor Jim Edgar and the General Assembly initiated the KidCare program, to provide medical coverage for more than 200,000 children in this State whose parents cannot afford health insurance.

You provided the money to pay for it.

We all had high hopes.

Unfortunately, the implementation performance has not lived up to the program's promise.

But I'm going to fix that.

I've instructed Public Aid Director Ann Patla to untangle the bureaucratic red tape and get this program on track.

She will report to me -- and I will report to you -- on our progress in increasing the number of children served by this important program.

Building a new Illinois means building a safe Illinois. Safe for families. Safe for schools.

Safe for kids.

Public safety is not just another line item in a state budget -- it is the first duty of any government.

We know common sense has to play an important part in this discussion. We need to calm the rhetoric.

The fact of the matter is, nearly every other household in America has a gun.

The guns are already out there.

And the overwhelming majority are legitimately owned for legitimate purposes.

But in contrast to legitimate gun ownership is the chilling fact that something like 80 percent of all firearms used in crime are stolen or otherwise unlawfully possessed.

So let me be very clear about our response:

The right to bear arms is not a license to harm others.

We have an obligation to protect Illinois streets, neighborhoods and schools from gun violence.

We must send a clear message to Illinois' Most Wanted.

The message is this: You use a gun, and you will do time.

And that message comes today.

Because I am announcing a comprehensive new offensive for combating firearms violence.

It's an attack on three fronts:

New penalties.

New police.

New prisons.

To punish, to catch and to hold our most violent offenders.

All three are essential.

Your role is essential.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

The first front of this campaign -- new laws -- starts with "15-20&Life".

No more loopholes.

The math is simple.

If a criminal carries a gun during the commission of specified felonies -- an extra 15 years is added to his sentence.

If he fires the gun during these crimes -- 20 years is added.

And if a criminal shoots and injures someone -- we lock him up for life.

And it won't matter anymore whether you get a tough judge.

The added years are automatic.

Straight to jail.

Do not pass "Go." "Do not collect $200."

No more loopholes.

The time is too late.

The stakes are too high.

Our kids are too precious.

I call on the General Assembly to pass "15-20&Life" now.

No one law stands alone.

We must, and we will, also undertake a comprehensive rewrite of Illinois' 40-year old Criminal Code, to ensure that we maintain proportionality of sentencing.

We need safe homes as well as safe streets.

I'm deeply troubled that -- although Illinois ranks No. 2 in the nation in gun homicides among young people -- we are not among the 15 states that protects their kids by requiring safe storage of handguns.

When handguns are left within the reach of minors, parents should be required to secure them with trigger locks or other devices.

Before the year is out, this Assembly should approve a statewide Child Access Prevention Law.

Second, new police.

When violence strikes -- every Illinoisan should have a place to turn for help. It's time to send in the cavalry.

With this budget, we do.

With this budget, we can invest in one hundred new cadets for the Illinois State Police.

And I've asked State Police Director Sam Nolen to deploy these new troops to free up veteran investigators to combat firearms violence.

To do this job, our front-line troops need back up.

A huge number of firearms violence comes at the hands of repeat offenders.

To hold them in check, with this budget, and the budget I will submit next year, I'm announcing today that we will double the number of parole officers available on our streets.

Third, new prison beds.

Everyone here knows of cases where a dangerous criminal -- properly arrested and sentenced to the maximum -- walked out of jail early, sometimes years early, because state prisons are bursting at the seams. That's not right.

It won't do any good to provide new penalties and new police if we don't have the prison cells to keep violent criminals where they belong.

And so, as the third front in this comprehensive effort, I am calling on this Assembly to authorize an additional $79 million for the Department of Corrections.

This will help add over 3,500 new beds to house some of Illinois' most violent offenders.

Our proposed capital budget for FY2000 includes money for a new juvenile facility.

A new women's facility.

And new cellblocks at three existing facilities for adult men.

I've also asked our Department of Corrections to work with this Assembly to implement the prison management reforms that are long overdue.

Illinois must stop gang attempts to control our institutions. Corruption and drugs won't be tolerated.

And we're going to take back control.

Today I ask your support for all these anti-crime initiatives.

The people of Illinois want it done right.

They want it done responsibly.

And they want it done now.

Finally, building a new Illinois also means building a new Illinois government.

How we manage government will affect every initiative proposed today -- and every citizen in this state.

We need to look for ways to leverage technological innovations to create a smarter, smaller government that is more efficient . . . more affordable . . . more accessible . . . and more responsive to the needs of all Illinoisans.

Most states have established a central governmental technology office.

But the effort in Illinois has remained largely unfocused and decentralized.

There's no comprehensive oversight to ensure that the agency network systems are even compatible.

There is no office with the authority to direct a coordinated state government technology strategy.

That confusion ends today.

I am announcing, by Executive Order, the creation of the Illinois Technology Office.

This Office will conduct a state government technology inventory.

Develop a government-wide strategic information management plan.

Establish centralized technology purchasing policies to ensure linkage and compatibility throughout the government.

Ensure that agencies use technology effectively to improve governmental performance and services.

And assume leadership of the State's efforts to address "Year 2000" compliance challenges.

We face other management challenges as well.

In the next several weeks, I'll be announcing our efforts to initiate a comprehensive approach to government-wide strategic planning, plus a full-scale performance review to evaluate our program and regulatory effectiveness.

We also will review the mandates and organizational structure of the Department of Public Health and the Department of Public Aid.

And I believe the public will be well-served by a restructuring of those departments.

Recently, the Department of Human Services was created.

I intend to review that agency to determine if it is meeting its organizational expectations.

There are several other agencies and commissions which, if combined, restructured or redirected may better fulfill their mandate.

As we embark on this new Administration -- as we Build a New Illinois -- I know that, to triumph in these challenges, we must work together.

The People of Illinois don't look at the laws you pass, or the budget you approve, through the prism of partisan politics.

Sometimes we forget that here in Springfield . . . when we feel there's a need for political posturing . . . or partisan rhetoric . . . in order to prepare for the next election.

The People are tired of political bickering.

In the aftermath of what's happened in Washington -- today more than ever.

They look to us for leadership -- and results.

They expect us to work together to solve the problems facing this State.

That's what they elected us to do.

The magic of America, and the magic of our times, means believing that Illinois' best days -- that our best days -- are still to come.

Let us remember the compass charted by those two downstate boys who shaped their country and changed the world -- Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.

So let us tap into the greatness of the Illinois spirit.

Let us honor the pioneers who gave us this state by giving back to generations yet to come.

Let us today -- together -- begin building a new Illinois.

Thank you for your warm greeting on this February day.

God bless you in your dreams and in the hard work ahead.

And God bless the State of Illinois.


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