PEORIA — Two area lawmakers walked away from Gov. Bruce Rauner's fourth State of the State speech with divergent views on its main themes.
For state Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, Rauner's pleas for bipartisanship came as too little, too late.
"It's fine for him to call for unity and coming together, but he's three years too late," Koehler said, listing instances, including last year's thwarted "grand bargain" effort to end the lengthy budget standoff, in which Rauner worked against bipartisan progress.
But state Rep. Mike Unes, R-East Peoria, noted that there still ultimately was an across-the-aisle effort that succeeded in securing a state budget — one with $1 billion less in spending than Rauner had proposed in his plan.
"We got into this mess because of years and years and years of gross overspending," Unes said. "Last year we cut spending in the budget ... so there is proof that we can really accomplish a lot when we work together."
Doing so, in this instance, involved legislators in both parties bucking the governor.
He also said that the budget agreement helped pave the way for an education funding bill that required bipartisan negotiation.
Such work, Unes said, can help rebuild trust in government — another theme Rauner sounded.
Koehler did praise Rauner for working with Democrats on criminal justice reform and singled out that effort and the GOP governor's director of corrections as positives in his term.
"Beyond that (as far as accomplishments), it's a little thin," he said.
But at the same time, Koehler said he found it frustrating that there were few examples of economic development possibilities in the speech — "I guess our future economic development is based on whether Amazon makes the decision to come to Illinois or not?" he said — and that the address missed out on highlighting potential in the Future Energy Jobs Act that Rauner bragged about.
"He could've spent 10 minutes talking about the explosion of solar energy in this state and how many thousands of jobs that's going to create," Koehler said.
Companies already have identified locations near the Peoria County Jail, in East Peoria and south of Pekin for proposed solar farms that are now working their way through the approval process.
Chris Kaergard can be reached at email@example.com or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.