On Wednesday, governor Pat Quinn gave his annual State of the State address. Critics say that what it lacked in specifics, it made up for in platitudes. Columnist Tom Kacich of the Champaign News-Gazette walks us through what to expect during the next legislative term.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn used his first traditional "State of the State" address Wednesday to highlight his record...push again for more tax revenue...and salute veterans.
The one hour 12 minute speech included references to Abe Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Paul Simon - two Roosevelts and a tribute to Secretary of State Jesse White.
Quinn struck his usual populist tone, noting he uses his VIP card at a discount hotel chain, and lobbying for a constitutional amendment to let voters put ethics reforms on the ballot.
"Democracy is a process that goes on year after year", said Quinn, "and it's very important that we bring the people in to our democracy and let them set the rules for our conduct and our behaviors.
Quinn didn't talk directly about the state's deep budget problems until more than 45 minutes into his speech. The governor said he's cut the budget ... but argued that Illinois needs to raise taxes.
"Now I do believe we need more revenue", said Quinn. "I think after cutting all the costs, after using strategic borrowing, after getting as much money as we can get from the federal government, we're still short."
But that was all Quinn said about state finances.
The campaign of Comptroller Dan Hynes, Quinn's opponent in next month's primary election, released a statement calling the speech a - quote - "rambling and unfocused performance" that lacked "concrete plans."
Republican candidates for governor were uniformly critical. One of them, State Senator Bill Brady of Bloomington said Quinn is sending an anti-business message.
"He knows he's wrong, but it's in his DNA to do exactly the wrong thing --- he knows he shouldn't be talking about it", said Brady. "I can gurantee you there are thousands of business leaders that are saying right now, 'wait a second, this guy's scaring me.'"
Among other east-central Illinois lawmakers, Democratic State Representative Naomi Jakobsson of Urbana was the most supportive. In an audio news release sent out by the Illinois House Speaker's office, Jakobsson said the governor gave a "pretty good review" of how much progress Illinois has made in the year since he took office.
"He talked about a lot of the things that we were able to accomplish, and I often do that too", said Jakobsson. "It's good to remind people that we can work together, we do things together, both sides of the aisle, and we get some good things done."
State Senator Dale Righter, a Mattoon Republican, said Quinn talked only in "broad strokes" about the budget deficit, and has failed to consider cuts proposed by the Republican miniority.
"The governing party here in Illinois doesn't want to take ahold of the reins, and do something we all know is responsible, because that would potentially be politically unpopular", said Righter.
Democrat State Senator Mike Frerichs of Champaign, said he wanted to hear more specifics about the budget --- and hoped they would be forthcoming in the governor's budget address. Frerichs says quick action is needed to solve the state's budget crisis.
"I'm hopeful we do something this Spring", said Frerichs, "because quite frankly, I don't see how we make it through next November, when some people say we'll deal with those issues, without defaulting on a lot of our promises.
From WILL - Afternoon Magazine Archives - January 13, 2010 1:06 PM
With Mike Lawrence (Political Analyst; Board Member, Illinois Issues; Journalist; Columnist for The News-Gazette and The State Journal-Register; former Director of the Paul Simon Public Policiy Institute, Southern Illinois University Carbondale), and , and Charles H. Wheeler III (Director, Public Affairs Reporting Program; Associate Professor, Public Affairs Reporting and the Institute for Legal, Legislative and Policy Studies, University of Illinois, Springfield ), and , and Richard J. Winkel Jr. (Director, Office of Public Leadership, Institute of Government and Public Affairs; Adjunct Professor, College of Law, University of Illinois)
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn delivers his State of the State Address, Wednesday, January 13th, at 12 noon. WILL-AM will broadcast Illinois Public Radio's live coverage of the speech before state lawmakers in the House chamber of the Illinois Statehouse in Springfield.
Barbara Flynn Curie is a fellow Democrat in the Illinois House. She says she still supports the governor's call for an income tax hike to reduce the state's multi-billion dollar
"I do think that it's critical if we want to maintain services for the vulnerable, people who are our responsibility, we really have to do the job", says Flynn Curie.
Curie says she thinks the governor should blame the state's dire financial situation on the global recession rather than over-spending on the part of lawmakers.
Meantime - the top Republican in the Illinois House, Minority Leader Tom Cross, says there's more room for cuts in the state budget - before lawmakers talk about raising taxes. Cross says the economy is the biggest issue facing the state..And he thinks there are better ways to improve the state's bottom line than Governor Quinn's plan to raise the income tax.
"I think the governor and many of his colleagues on his side of the aisle, the income tax hike is the easy way to address some of these issues", says Cross. "The tough issues are the issues of reform."
Cross says the state should look to make budget cuts before raising taxes. He says that would save money - and help lure businesses into Illinois.