Illinois governor lays out ambitious agenda, forgets to mention how to pay for it


I HAVE A POINT: Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn delivers the State of the State address Wednesday to a joint session of the General Assembly in the House chambers at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill.

By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn humble-bragged about everything from the state’s still murky pension reforms to not being Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday in his State of the State-de facto re-election campaign kick of speech.

Quinn outlined an ambitious to-do list: A new multibillion-dollar building program for the state, new “economic blueprint,” a birth-to-5 years old early childhood initiative and, of course, a higher minimum wage.

“I said it last year, and I’ll say it again. It’s time to raise Illinois’ minimum wage to at least $10 an hour,” Quinn said.

But the governor did not say how he will pay for any of his wish list.

Quinn didn’t even use code words.

And he certainly did not say the words tax, tax increase, revenue, pension lawsuits, or hole in the new state budget.

State Sen. Kirk Dillard, one of four Republicans looking to replace Quinn as the state’s chief executive, said the missing pieces of the speech tell Illinois’ real story.

“He didn’t tell us that Illinois is second in the nation in out-migration of people,” Dillard told reporters after the speech. “Or that many surveys rate us the third worse run state in America.”

Others had the same feeling about the speech.

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said Quinn is going to have to say how he intends to pay for existing projects, must less any new initiatives.

“If (the 2011 temporary income tax increase) does not hold, that’s like a $5 billion hit on the budget,” Topinka said. “There really has to be some attention paid to the finances of the state.”

Bill Brady, state senator and GOP candidate for governor, said Quinn didn’t say anything new or useful during his 35-minute address.

“Pat Quinn is a guy who goes through the motions,” Brady said. “He doesn’t seem to get anything done. But he does go through the motions, I’ll give him that. “

But perhaps the clearest sign that Quinn’s pie-in-the-sky speech failed to garner support came from his own party’s budget architect, state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion.

“We’ve got a really difficult fiscal situation coming up and he’s talking about getting rid of money that’s coming in,” Bradley said as he dismissed the governor’s speech. “It’s a great thing to say in a speech, but it’s political rhetoric.”

Quinn is scheduled to deliver his budget address Feb. 19, about one month before voters go to the polls for the March primary.

Contact Benjamin Yount at or find him on Twitter @BenYount.

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