New Illinois governor wants to change the way state conducts business

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SPRINGFIELD, IL (KPLR) – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner delivered his "turn around" agenda to lawmakers Wednesday during the traditional State of the State speech at the state capitol in Springfield. He is the first Republican to hold the state's top office in a dozen years.  His proposals reflected his pro-growth campaign message.

Illinois owes billions of dollars to vendors and state employee pension funds.  Rauner wants to stop the drain of workers to other states by making Illinois more competitive.  One of his first proposals is to rebuild the state's workers' compensation law that compensates workers injured on the job.

He is likely to have support from powerful Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan on that change.  Rauner called for a hike in the state's minimum wage over seven years.  But Democrats have already moved a bill through committee to raise the wage higher and sooner than the governor's plan.

He told lawmakers it was the state's last, best chance to restore "good government" to the state.

Democrats control the state legislature and could block most of Gov. Rauner's proposals.  Many say they are waiting to see the governor's budget proposal in two weeks before taking a position on his agenda. They battled the previous governor, Democrat Pat Quinn on numerous proposals.

State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld of Okawville said he was hopeful the state legislature would adopt the plan.  "I really believe Madigan may also believe this is our last best chance..you can now share the blame with both parties because there will be a lot of pain," he said.

Rauner believes the state can get more value for taxpayer dollars if requirements for project labor agreements and prevailing wage contracts are eliminated.

But lawmakers who favor labor unions don't want to harm what they see as a route to middle class life through union membership.

Rauner would require unions that contract with the state to open up their apprenticeship programs to reflect the demographics of Illinois communities.

The new governor wants local property tax rates to shrink.  He described the taxes as "one of our most pressing challenges."  He suggested eliminating more than 200 unfunded mandates imposed on local government by state lawmakers and giving taxpayers the ability to consolidate local governments to control costs.

Gov. Rauner also called for an end to campaign donations and expenditures by government unions that negotiate for Illinois state workers. Other ideas included merging the state Comptroller's office with the Treasurer's office to save $12 million annually; prohibit trial lawyer donations to elected judges and pay bonuses to state workers who save taxpayers money.