Governor J.B. Pritzker’s 2021 State of the State Address predictably centered around how Illinois has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The price we’ve paid to save lives has been enormous, and we do not honor sacrifice when we do not recognize it,” he said. “We’ve had to go an entire year separated from people we love. In order to preserve our lives, for a time we’ve had to forgo our way of life.”
Pritzker said at one point he wished the past year had been about more “normal” problems in government, but that he believes the state’s economic recovery is tied to the recovery from the virus.
“We need to pass a balanced budget that finds the right equilibrium between tightening our belts and preventing more hardships for Illinoisans already carrying a heavy load,” he said. “If there is anything the last year should have taught us, it is that we need a reliably well-funded government.”
Pritzker said his budget proposal spends $1.8 billion less than the previous year, including $400 million of cuts to appropriations, a hiring freeze, the closure of unaffordable corporate loopholes, and more.
The governor said his goal was to fully support the agencies most directly related to the COVID-19 response, like the Departments of Public Health and Employment Security. He asked the General Assembly to pass a standalone bill that would direct $60 million to the Department of Employment Security this year and an additional $73 million for the unemployment system next year.
Pritzker delivered the address from the Illinois State Fairgrounds, which was used as a makeshift hospital during the 1918 Flu Pandemic and is currently serving as one of Illinois’ largest vaccination sites.
That was an intentional parallel to how Illinois residents have had to adapt and change the way we live, all while keeping hope for the future.
“We’ve all had to change to fit the world we’ve had to live in for the last 12 months. We had to give up some of the best things about living our lives in order to save our lives. But we didn’t forget how to hug old friends, toast at weddings, dance at concerts, cheer at baseball games, and share popcorn at a movie theater. We didn’t forget how to be human.”
“One More Leg Left to Run”
Pritzker also said he believes we are finally nearing the end of the pandemic.
“Right now you need someone to honestly tell you that it’s going to end,” he said. “Well it is going to end. The marathon has been long, and I believe there is one more leg left to run.”
You can watch the entire 2021 State of the State address here.
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