Whitney provides IL Green Party response to State of the State address

Green Party candidate for Governor Rich Whitney issued the following statement today in response to Governor Quinn’s State of the State Address:

I must confess that I wrote most of this statement before listening to Governor Quinn’s State of the State address today. That’s because we don’t need the incumbent Governor to tell us what the State of the State is. We all know what it is. We’re living in it. In a word, it’s dismal.

Just yesterday, the Illinois Manufacturers Directory announced that the state’s manufacturing industry suffered one of its worst declines in nearly a century between November 2008 and November 2009, with 51,925 industrial jobs lost and 709 manufacturing companies shut down in Illinois during that period. The biggest surprise there is that we still had that many manufacturing jobs to lose. Official unemployment is now at 11 percent and we all know that the real unemployment rate is far higher.

Our State government is almost completely dysfunctional. Our college and university system is in dire straits and struggling students and parents are going to end up paying more, or taking on even more debt, to receive a lower quality of education. State workers are facing layoffs, furloughs or other cutbacks, or higher workloads. Social service agencies, hospitals and health care clinics are in critical condition, and the agencies and facilities needed to serve the elderly, veterans, children, the physically and mentally challenged, are being gutted or forced to close. Our school districts, county and local governments are all struggling from the loss of State money and their own shrinking tax base, forcing a choice between loss of jobs and services or higher property or sales taxes. And this is happening in a State that provides the lowest percentage of its school funding from State sources in the United States, has the most unequal schools in the United States and the most underfunded pension system in the United States.

Yet our incumbent legislators won’t fix the problem, even though it is well known that the State cannot continue to function without some type of major tax reform. We know what the main cause of the budget crisis is: We have one of the most regressive tax systems in the United States, placing most of the burden on those least able to pay. We know what the answers are: We need a major tax reform that will reduce our reliance on property and sales taxes, shift the burden to the income tax, lower the burden on low and middle-income wage earners, guarantee adequate State funding for our schools and raise enough revenue to provide the services the people need.

Yet instead of recognizing what most of the people realize needs to be done, and fixing the problem, most of them lack the political will to do what is right and instead do what is expedient; what their paymasters want. The only things that they agree are politically “safe” to do – even though they are wrong – are the very things that ensure that the crisis will be even harder to solve in the future: More borrowing, more delayed payments, more fund sweeps and one-time gimmicks, more reliance on alcohol, tobacco and gambling taxes, and more deterioration of education and services.

The recently enacted campaign finance reform, while better than nothing, doesn’t go nearly far enough to put an end to legalized corruption or illegal patronage, and will mainly keep in place a system that ensures that the big corporate and bank donors, and the big party bosses, will continue to control these legislators and executive officers – at least, as long as these legislators and officers continue to come from the two corporate-sponsored parties.

And that’s the other aspect of the real “State of the State” that we, the people, must come to grips with: It is a product of the stranglehold on government by the Democratic and Republican parties, the parties that brought us the last two elected governors – one a felon; the other removed from office in disgrace, and who, even now, can’t keep his foot out of his mouth. But those are just two symptoms of a much deeper disease. The State of the State that I’ve just described is the product of seven years of nearly total control of the State of Illinois, both legislative and executive branches, by the Democratic Party. It’s not about personalities. I believe that Pat Quinn and Dan Hynes are both personally good people. They probably mean well. They may be the very best that the Democratic Party has to offer – but that only further illustrates the problem. Because good intentions or not, they are still prisoners of the same corrupt institution, and we cannot expect any real change from them. Not change you can believe in.

Quinn spoke today about a “Green way of thinking,” and a future Green economy, and I applaud him for that. That’s probably no accident. Yet in the same breath he lauded the capital bill that he signed, that focused far more on the old, greenhouse gas-promoting technologies of highway expansion and air travel than it did on sustainable transportation: $14.3 billion for roads and bridges, including $4 billion for new roadways, vs. less than $7 billion for all rail, and only $400 million for high-speed rail – even though every billion dollars spent on rail creates over 7,000 more jobs than a billion dollars spent on roads. And it includes $110 million for a Peotone Airport that is not needed and that is intended to benefit developers at the expense of rural property owners and the environment. I would suggest to you that if you want to build a genuine Green economy, you need to get genuine Greens in government.

Yet what is the Republican Party offering? Every single one of their candidates for Governor and most, if not all, of their legislative candidates, believes that the main way to solve the State’s budget crisis is to cut spending and hold the line on taxes – which, of course, always sounds good on the surface, until you realize that if we literally did that, it would be a catastrophe for education, a catastrophe for social services, a catastrophe for local governments, and would cause the loss of over 128,000 jobs during an economic depression. So when they talk about doing this, it’s either a delusion, a recipe for disaster, or both.

The central problem in Illinoisan and American politics today is that we have a government run by the same giant corporate and banking interests that have brought us to ruin. These interests use the Democratic and Republican parties to get the exact same results by slightly different means. And as long as we have that, as long as we have government by the highest bidders, government of, by and for the wealthy and powerful, the problems we face will not be solved.

What the current State of the State should tell us is that there is an overwhelming need for new political leadership, leadership that comes from the people and the progressive movements that already have most of the policy answers to the problems facing us today. We need leadership that comes from the movements for peace, social justice, civil rights, the environment, labor, women’s rights, real health care reform, education reform, and grassroots democracy, including economic democracy. We need leadership that comes from a real people’s political party, a party based on these movements and their core principles; a party that does not accept corporate money and its corrupting influence. That’s where I come from, that’s what my campaign is about, that’s what the Green Party is about.

I am fighting for the sound policy solutions that most Illinoisans already support, but which can’t get past the roadblocks erected by the Democratic and Republican parties and the corporate interests that bankroll and lobby them.

That’s why I am the only candidate in this race who stands for a comprehensive tax reform – not just raising the income tax, with no conditions – but a whole package to guarantee funding for education, provide real property tax relief, lower the burden on lower and middle-income working people, erase the structural deficit, pay health-care providers and schools on time, and meet – rather than cheat – our pension obligations.

That’s why I am the only candidate in this race who proposes to fund public improvements, and promote economic health, without any further tax increases, through the establishment of a state bank, a progressive idea that North Dakota adopted years ago, and that has helped keep that state debt-free even in these troubled economic times. Instead of going into more and more debt, to further enrich private banks, we should be using our tax revenue to further invest in our own State and its people, for the enrichment of our own economy.

I am the only candidate in the race who recognizes the obligation of government to treat the twin threats of global climate change, and the end of the era of cheap oil, as the 911 emergency that it is, with a 21st-Century capital bill to build renewable energy generation and energy-efficient housing, buildings and appliances here in Illinois, build sustainable transportation with an emphasis on efficient mass transit, promote local agriculture for local consumption, promote smart urban planning and renewal and otherwise transition to a new, healthier, more affordable Green economy.

I am the only candidate in the race who will fight for a real living wage law, and who will use the power of eminent domain to reclaim abandoned factories and facilities for the people, and provide communities with the means to re-tool them and reopen them, as worker-owned enterprises.

I am the only candidate in the race who understands the need to make education a top priority, who dares to say we can and must make higher education free to all Illinois residents who qualify academically, as an economic and social imperative — instead of making it increasingly out of reach for all but the rich, and miring the next generation with absurd levels of debt.

I am the only candidate in the race who will put an end to the wasteful war on drugs and focus our criminal justice resources where truly needed, with a new emphasis on rehabilitation and providing real assistance to felons after they are released from prison, to help them succeed.

I am the only candidate in the race who will wage an uncompromising fight for a single-payer, improved Medicare-for-all health care system, here in Illinois — since our federal government has seen fit to reject the needs and express will of the people.

And I am the only candidate in the race who is making an issue of the illegal, immoral and obscenely costly occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan — by promising to resist these illegal wars as Governor, by vetoing any further overseas deployment of our National Guard.

In 2010, voters will have a choice to make and it’s a simple one. You all know the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. You can continue to vote in the same Democratic or Republican candidates yet again, and just hope that somehow things will get better. Or you can vote for the candidates that are serious about establishing government of, by and for the people: myself, Rich Whitney, for Governor, Don Crawford for Lieutenant Governor, LeAlan Jones for U.S. Senate, people like Charlie Howe for State Rep here in the 115th and the dozens of other Green Party candidates running for offices at all levels of government throughout Illinois.

The choice is yours. But if you vote in the same people who put us in this predicament, you cannot expect a different result.

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