That’s what Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, in his recent column, challenged Illinois politicians to tell.
The truth? Rather than weighing in on Illinois’ fiscal matters, Governor Walker would do better to re-direct his attention back to his own state, where he triggered two years of political brawling that has left Wisconsin battered and bruised – and any sense of stability diminished.
The truth? Wisconsin still has a long way to go to match Illinois when it comes to the economy. Here are some sobering facts:
Since Governor Walker took office, Wisconsin has been dead last in the nation in job growth.
Wisconsin lost more jobs in 2011 than any other state in the nation, losing 21,000 while Illinois added 32,000.
Wisconsin is ranked 43rd in the nation for business-friendly tax environments under Governor Walker – well behind Illinois.
In 2011, Illinois led the Midwest with a nearly 30 percent growth in exports, while Wisconsin’s was 11.41 percent.
Governor Walker did get one thing right, however: Economic growth does depend on certainty. And with Governor Walker’s divisive politics, businesses can be certain that chaos will reign.
Certainty comes when workers’ rights – over a century in the making – are respected. Certainty comes when the middle class is earning enough to spend and save. Certainty comes through partnerships and shared sacrifice.
The truth? There is a fiscal crisis in Illinois including unfunded pension obligations. While our teachers didn’t create the mess, we want to help fix it.
For decades, Illinois politicians failed to make the pension payments they were obligated to make. Yet, teachers never missed a payment, contributing from each and every paycheck. Illinois teachers don’t receive Social Security. Their modest pensions are their life savings.
The truth? Unlike Wisconsin, our political leaders recognize that they have a responsibility in making this pension deficit whole again. That’s why labor leaders and political leaders continue to meet to work out solutions to this problem.
We want to move Illinois forward and create an environment where our graduates can find good-paying jobs; where we attract the best and brightest teachers; and where businesses know political and labor leaders treat each other with respect, resolving our challenges in ways that do not throw the state into utter chaos.
Illinois faces some tough challenges. But we will take those challenges on as adults – not bullies – working together, not pitting one group against another.
Our state’s children – and all its citizens – deserve nothing less.
Dan Montgomery, IFT President