Quinn Touts Achievements, Others Pan His Leadership
Springfield, IL – In his first State of the State speech, Illinois Governor Quinn focused on job creation, the state's tax system, and ethics in government.
Quinn said jobs are the state's top issue and he vowed to be the state's "Building Governor."
The governor said the state's job revival is being fueled by passage of Illinois Jobs Now!, which is the state's the first major construction program in nearly a decade. He said it will create more than 439,000 jobs over the next six years.
Quinn also touted the plan to sell the Thomson Correctional Center in northwest Illinois to the federal Bureau of Prisons. He said the White House Council of Economic Advisors estimates the proposal will create up to 3,800 new jobs and generate more than $1 billion in economic activity during the first years of operation.
Quinn said he has taken swift action to ensure Illinois receives the maximum amount of money available through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. He said Illinois has consistently ranked in the top five states for the number of transportation projects and the amount of federal stimulus dollars received.
The governor's administration says to date, Illinois has disbursed more than $5.6 billion, thus creating thousands of direct jobs across the state.
The State's Tax System
Quinn said he wants to overhaul the Illinois tax system to make it fair while bringing in more money for state government.
The governor said Illinois taxes the poor too heavily. He said taxes could be cut for five-million people through tax credits, bigger personal exemptions, and other changes.
Quinn acknowledged the state faces a huge budget crisis. Hesaid spending has already been cut significantly, so now Illinois needs more tax revenue.
Quinn did not propose any specific increase.
Government Ethics - Not An Oxymoron
Quinn said Illinois leaders have made great progress in restoring honesty and integrity to state government.
Quinn opened his speech by focusing on ethics reforms approved after Rod Blagojevich was
impeached and removed from office last year.
Quinn said the changes amount to "fundamental ethical reforms" for a state that badly needs honest leadership. Quinn said his administration has increased governmental ethics, developed stricter boards and commissions requirements, enacted a stronger Freedom of Information Act, provided greater access to government decision-making, and reaffirmed his commitment to pension reform.
Quinn said he hopes voters this fall approve a constitutional amendment that would allow the public to recall corrupt governors in the future. He also said the state constitution should be rewritten to let the public vote on new ethics proposals.
Reaction to the Speech
Republicans sharply criticized the speech by the Democratic governor.
State Representative Rich Myers (R-Colchester) said the governor spoke in generalities and offered no real solutions.
"He supports passenger rail. Okay, well we all support passenger rail, but what's he going to do to get that job accomplished?" said Myers. "He supports the biotechnology industry in Illinois, and the growth of the biotech industry. I think we all do."
State Representative Jil Tracy (R-Mt. Sterling) said the only thing she liked about the governor's address was his tribute to veterans. Otherwise, she had harsh words for the speech.
"I think Governor Quinn is a good man, but I don't think he's a good leader as governor," said Tracy. "We need a pep rally of ideas and solutions so we can move forward going into the legislative session, so we can accomplish things, and it was lacking. There were no ideas or solutions offered."
The speech was also criticized by Comptroller Dan Hynes, who is running against Quinn in next month's Democratic primary for governor.
Hynes said the speech lasted nearly an hour-and-a-half, which was plenty of time to outline specific solutions. But Hynes said Quinn failed to do so.
"We have a governor who refuses to lead, has not solved problems, our deficit is getting worse not better, and I think the people deserve more, they expect more," said Hynes.
Hynes said that under Quinn's watch, Illinois' budget deficit has grown from $9 billion to $13 billion.
Illinois Public Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this story