Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois delivered an optimistic assessment of the 2014 "State of the State Address," in which the governor introduced a five-year blueprint centered on jobs, education and fairness. The date of yesterday's speech marked the fifth anniversary of Quinn's taking office during an unprecedented triple crisis of government corruption, economic collapse and financial instability.
Yesterday also marked the unofficial kickoff of the 2014 campaign kickoff for reelection, as Quinn used the occasion to list his accomplishments and list his priorities going forward. Quinn was criticized for not talking about the expiring state income tax (Dec. 31, 2014) and his proposal to replace that money. That will come in next month's budget address.
He also did not mention Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s No. 1 legislative priority— imposing pension cuts on current and retired city workers. That will also come next month in the budget address.
Quinn did propose raising the state's minimum wage to $10.00 per hour, stripping that issue from his Republican opponents who have offered a mixed bag of proposals, with one candidate advocating a "lowering of the minimum wage."
Quinn reminded how he got to the governor's office, "We had one former Governor in jail and another on the way to jail. Our economy had plunged into the worst recession since the Great Depression, brought to its knees by greedy and corrupt financiers."
"We inherited a perfect storm and repairing the damage that had been done over decades would not happen overnight," Governor Quinn said. "Over the past five years, we have rebuilt one hard step at a time and our economic recovery is strengthening every day. We've been getting the job done and Illinois is making a comeback.”
"By following the steps I have outlined today– creating more jobs, investing in our children from birth to five and helping more workers join the middle class - we can create a stronger economy than ever before and reform Illinois for the next generation,” the Governor said.
The five-year blueprint is more than a speech before the Illinois General Assembly, giving the lawmakers and statewide constitutional officials a report on the condition of the state of Illinois.
By contrast with his last election in 2010, Governor Quinn is in a far stronger position than he was in 2010. For one, he had a serious Democratic primary opponent in former Illinois State Comptroller Dan Hynes.
Quinn narrowly defeated Hynes then.
But that wasn't all.
In the general election in 2010, Quinn narrowly defeated State Senator Bill Brady, although right up until Election Day Brady believed he would be the next governor of Illinois as the polling showed that he was ahead.
This go around, Quinn does not have a serious primary opponent on March 18. His Republican opponent has yet to be determined, with Quinn being possibly facing one of the following: Bruce Rauner, State Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard or state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
In spite of the fact Rauner has spent million of dollars of his own money in the campaign, he is still struggling. His opponents have also been struggling.
Meanwhile, Quinn gets the main stage with his speech and listing his accomplishments, saying that first and foremost integrity in state government has been restored. "When I took the oath of office, state government hadn’t properly invested in our infrastructure in 10 years. Within 10 weeks, we passed the largest construction program in Illinois history. So far, we've built and repaired 7,595 miles of road, 1,311 bridges and 978 schools."
"Five years ago Illinois did not guarantee equal rights to all couples. Our state did not even provide civil unions. Today we embrace full marriage equality -- it’s the law of the land," as Quinn continued. "And unlike our predecessors, we’ve made the tough calls to balance the budget. We cut more than one billion dollars in state spending. We overhauled our Medicaid program to save taxpayers over two billion dollars."
Quinn then talked about his crown jewel, pension reform "We took hard steps to return Illinois to sound financial footing."
"We also accomplished comprehensive pension reform, something no governor or legislature had been able to do. Previous governors and legislators from both parties created the pension crisis. They did not make the required payments into the pension funds. There was no fiscal accountability. And it led to a culture of instability shaking the confidence of taxpayers and businesses. Resolving Illinois’ pension crisis was the tallest task of all. But together, we got the job done," said Quinn.
Quinn thanked the legislative conference committee members: Senator Raoul, Representative Nekritz, Senator Biss, Representative Senger, Representative Turner, Representative Zalewski, Senator Murphy, Senator Brady and Representative Tracy. And thank you, House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, Leader Christine Radogno and Leader Jim Durkin.
Quinn acknowledged that pension reform was "hard" and "painful."
Quinn triumphantly declared, "Illinois is making a comeback."
The Governor's blueprint had specific proposals, which included reducing the LLC fee from $500 to $39. He is also asked for the enactment of a "Small Business Advocate" to examine existing policies and proposals for their impact on the state’s small businesses. He also proposed investing in BioHub, a new biotech center for start-ups. Quinn also proposed doubling the investment in the Clean Water Initiative, a revolving loan program to help municipalities upgrade water and sewer systems while creating thousands of skilled jobs.
State of State Address transcript
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