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2007 Inaugural Address

Governor Rod R. Blagojevich

I stand before you as your Governor, once again, humbled by your trust and committed to meet the challenges ahead.  

There are no words that can properly express my gratitude for the great honor you have given me.

I will do my best and work as hard as I can to keep my faith with you.

As I look to the future, I find myself thinking of our past. 

I think back to the veterans who served our nation abroad, and sacrificed their lives to protect our homes and way of life and to those today still on the frontline, and to the families some who are here with us today who have lost loved ones. 

To our gold star families who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our nation, I would ask if they would stand up now so that we can all express our gratitude to them.

Our prayers are with you.

Today I also think back to the workers who built our nationís industrial might, I think back to so many from whom we inherited so much. 

And for me personally, on days like this, I canít help but always think back to my mother and father.  Loving parents who started with so little but gave me and my brother so much.

Four years ago, standing before you, I looked back and what I saw was a government that was failing our people.

A bloated bureaucracy, costing taxpayers millions, for no purpose, no results. 

A pension system built on a foundation of false promises. 

And an education system, under-funded and our children under-challenged. 

Debt and deficit and the promise of higher taxes

It was hard to understand how a state with such a proud past and such promise had been so betrayed.  But thatís how it was and we were determined to change things. 

So we took on a $5 billion budget deficit with new energy and new ideas. 

And we got things done. 

We balanced the budget without raising income taxes or sales taxes. 

We closed corporate loopholes to help increase funding for schools, while also raising standards. 

We cut the state workforce for the first time in modern Illinois history. 

We consolidated 20 agencies and eliminated 20 commissions. We put a record $13 billion into our state pension fund. 

We raised the minimum wage, not once, but twice. 

And we did something in Illinois that no state had ever done: we made Illinois the first state in the nation to make health care for every child not a privilege, but a right. 

We have turned things around. 

After three long decades of business as usual in Illinois, we have built a strong foundation for our future. 

We have made our state government smaller, more efficient, and fairer.

And we changed a system of government that was more interested in serving itself  instead of the people it was supposed to serve.

Sometimes changing state government meant innovation, like Open Road Tolling and a new commitment to stem cell research. 

Sometimes it meant shaking up a system in Springfield that was failing people by cutting a bloated state workforce, saving taxpayers $900 million a year. 

By reforming workers comp and helping business. 

By strengthening environmental laws, and protecting our environment. 

Sometimes fixing government has meant digging in and saying no.  Every budget  was a chance to have working families pay more  by raising the income tax or sales tax, and every time I said no. 

Since 1980 the share of Illinois income tax paid by corporations has declined by nearly one third this has reduced corporate tax payments by billions of dollars.

Itís working and middle class families who make up the difference in what has been an unprecedented shift that makes Illinois one of the most regressive tax states in the nation.

When I closed corporate loopholes to fund our schools and to help pay for health care and to balance our budget, the system rebelled, the special interests howled.  They said they would block it, we passed it; they said it would cost jobs, weíve added jobs; they said the money would be wasted, we cut state government while improving schools and health care; they said itís not fair, I said:  tell that to the working family thatís paying more because your lobbyist got you a tax break 20 years ago that youíre still living off of.  

We forced our government to answer to the people, to focus on their needs, and we made real progress.

It didnít come easy. 

For every good idea there was a special interest in the way, or a naysayer who said it canít be done.

We had to fight for progress. 

Sometimes there was a struggle.  Sometimes there was conflict.  And to get our investments in health care and education, we had the longest overtime session in Illinois history. 

But the battles were worth it, because weíve made a real difference for people.

150,000 new jobs in the last 3 years, the best record in the Midwest and the lowest unemployment rate in state history. 

500,000 more men, women and children with health care, the best record in the country. 

Six and a half million fewer wasted hours every year in traffic because of Open Road Tolling. 

250,000 seniors with Medicare prescription drug protection. 

647,000 workers earning a higher minimum wage. 

600,000 high school students with higher standards in math, science and reading.

You can look at these numbers and say, a job well done, w I am biased but I think youíd be right.

You can look and say, weíve done enough, And I know youíd be wrong.

There are some today who say this is a time to slow down. 

Have a less ambitious agenda the second time around. 

Why not just go along and get along. And donít make any waves. 

Well, the voters expect something else.

You elected me four years ago to change things and force our state government to focus on the needs of people. 

Weíve done that. 

And I donít believe you re-elected me to reverse course.

I will continue to chart a course that will ease the burdens on working and middle class families, not increase them.

This is not the time to stand still.  This is the time to move forward. 

We will not go back, we cannot slow down. 

For the one thousand four hundred sixty one (1461) days remaining in our second term, you will see an activist government, not a bloated one an activist government offering bold solutions that make a difference for people.

That focus will be built on two central challenges.  

So you will see a continued effort to cut waste and deliver the services our constituents demand and deserve, and since I still find our tax system regressive and unfair, we will do more while not raising taxes on the working people of this state.

And you will see our commitment to people in our continued push for health care reform. 

I want to continue to make our state a national leader in providing affordable health care for everyone.

A short time after the election I received a letter from Katelyn Reynolds.

She is 13 years old. She is in the eighth grade at the Eastland school in Shannon Illinois.

Katelyn, that is a good question.  Well, I think the answer to your question is really what my administration is all about.

For the people who work hard and play by the rules, for the families without lobbyists, inside deals, stock options and hedge funds. 

For the vast majority of people in Illinois, they live in every part of our state, in every neighborhood, on every block.

They quietly go about their business.

They work and pay their taxes.

They raise their kids and look after their elderly parents.

They meet their responsibilities.

They work in our factories, and on our farms.

They are small business owners.

They are shopkeepers and nurses and coal miners.

They teach in our schools,

They are firefighters.

Police officers.

Truck drivers and computer analysts.

They clean our offices and work in our restaurants.

They are the soldiers who keep us free.

They are good and decent people.

They ask for little from government but too often government asks too much of them.

They are forgotten and taken for granted.

They are the backbone of our state.

They are the families that Katelyn Reynolds asked me about in her letter.

And when it comes to health care, they are worried.

They need our help.

They are our cause.

And they are the people we will deliver for.

When people ask me what accomplishment Iím most proud of.  The answer is easy, giving every child in Illinois access to health care.

And one of the best parts about All Kids is that it helps a lot of those same working and middle class families that I just talked about.  These are the families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but earn too little to buy health insurance in the private market.

We have covered 313,000 more children through All Kids, many of them children of working and middle class families.

But now we must do more.

We can expand access to health care so that not just kids get coverage, but every family member has access to affordable, quality health care.

Today in Illinois, 20 percent of adults, 1.4 million people are still uninsured.

And those who have insurance, the other 80%, are forced to pay higher premiums to cover the costs.

A family cannot build a better life if they are burdened by the constant rise in health care costs; a sick child unattended to, canít learn in school and falls behind.  A parent without affordable health care canít stay healthy and work to support their family.  A senior without affordable prescription drugs canít live in dignity. 

Talk to any CEO and they will tell you the cost of health care hurts their business, makes them uncompetitive, costs them jobs and holds them back.

Talk to the CEO of a family and theyíll tell you it just plain hurts.

In the coming months I will detail the next phase of our health care reform agenda. 

We will work to improve the quality of care, we will expand our effort to cover the uninsured, we will protect consumers, and finally, we will provide real premium relief for families across Illinois, who work and pay taxes and who desperately need health care they can afford.

And why should we do this? 

Because itís the right thing to do. 

Because families need our help.

And because Washington wonít. 

And besides, weíve already done it before.

With nine million children uninsured across America and the federal government unwilling to act, we created All Kids and gave every child in Illinois access to health care.

With 46 million Americans without health care and with higher premiums squeezing middle class families there is no greater challenge facing our state and, here at home, our nation, than to address this crisis. 

Let us seize the moment, live the golden rule, and give to every family in Illinois, the same kind of health care that those of us who make the rules have. 

Let it be Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, that leads this nation out of our national health care crisis. 

This past November, the people made their decision. 

Theyíve spoken. 

 I read the election as a mandate for action.  

And I intend to act. 

So I will continue to reform a tax system that favors corporate loopholes over the needs of the middle class and working poor, because fixing that system strengthens our economy.

I will make good on our commitment to our schools in a way that brings equity and improvement all across our state.

I will work with small business owners and entrepreneurs to help them innovate, grow and create jobs, and keep my promise to downstate to make ethanol expansion and jobs a reality. 

I will continue to make state government more efficient and more effective in delivering for people, not protecting itself.

And as I have made clear, we will not rest in our fight to reform health care, I will give everything I have to the hard job of providing health care security to every family.

Seguros medicos para todos.

Esta es nuestra pelea.

This is our fight.

And you know we are lucky to have this opportunity to lead, to make a difference, to achieve great things. 

We should embrace the challenges ahead and not fear them.

What I propose to do wonít be easy.

It will be hard.

But nothing worth having ever comes easy.

There will be those who oppose us.

There will be struggle and hardship, and a lot of hard work.

But let us accept this challenge, not as a grim duty, but as an exciting adventure where we have a chance to be in the arena fighting for people.

Let us, as Theodore Roosevelt said, dare greatly and strive valiantlyÖ

Let us spend ourselves for a worthy causeÖ

And if we succeed, know the triumph of high achievement. 

If we have the will, I know we can do great things for the people of Illinois.

I really believe that.

And why shouldnít I?

After all, this is America, and this is a place, where anything is possible.

Thank you and God bless America and God bless Illinois.

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Updated January, 2007