* I think this was a pretty universal take on the governor’s State of the State address…
For 38 minutes, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn spoke enthusiastically, even lovingly of “our Illinois” without answering any questions about how the state will deal with its $130 billion pension debt, $9 billion in unpaid bills, or hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts that are certain to come this spring.
Quinn hammered home the theme of “This is our Illinois” throughout his State of the State speech Wednesday.
Many lawmakers, state officials and policy makers were unimpressed.
Lawmakers from both parties said Wednesday they were disappointed that Gov. Pat Quinn didn’t go further in his State of the State speech to outline how he will accomplish the elusive goal of pension reform. […]
“What he said on pension reform is no different than what he has said a thousand times,” said Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, the third ranking Democrat in the House. “We need to do pension reform, but just saying it doesn’t get it done.”
Illinois has an unfunded pension liability approaching $100 billion. Its bond rating is ever-sinking, and it has billions in unpaid bills. But you’d hardly know we live in “Deadbeat Illinois” from listening to Gov. Pat Quinn’s State of The State speech.
Quinn made only scattered references to the state’s most pressing problem — a stifling public-employee pension deficit, but the squeeze it puts on other government spending was an undercurrent throughout the governor’s fifth State of the State address.
Some are criticizing the Governor for spending too much time touting his achievements of the last four years.
In his 37 minute speech, Governor Quinn allocated only a few minutes to the under-funded pension system problem.
“I am disappointed because I don’t feel like what he talked about is going to change the direction of Illinois,” said Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy for the Illinois Policy Institute. “He didn’t talk about what really mattered, which is in-depth pension reform, and how to increase prosperity in Illinois to make us a more competitive state.”
* I disagree that he didn’t “answer any questions” about the pension debt. Quinn came out forcefully for SB1, Senate President John Cullerton’s hybrid pension reform bill. You may not like it, others may not like it, either. But that’s definitely one solution. And, unlike his past vague pronouncements, this is an actual bill with real live language that can be debated, amended and reconstructed as necessary. That’s a specific, which has been lacking in the past.
And his support of SB1 was different than what he’s said “a thousand times” before. Plus, this is a speech, not action. So, yeah, saying it doesn’t get it done, but was he supposed to call for a vote right then and there while he was at the podium?
And as far as the budget goes, the budget address is in March.
Quinn spent most of his last State of the State address talking about pensions. It didn’t move the ball forward. Everybody knows that pension reform is a huge issue. He proposed a workable, specific legislative solution yesterday.
* State of the Union and State of the State addresses usually include references to what has been done. Mark Brown compiled a list…
Although often derided for his ability to get things done in Springfield, the fact is that a lot of important and difficult legislation has been approved by the General Assembly and signed into law under Quinn, much of it with mixed popularity. […]
◆ Created and funded a long-sought public works program, Illinois Jobs Now, for rebuilding the state’s infrastructure.
◆ Overhauled the state’s Medicaid program to keep it from going broke.
◆ Changed the workers compensation program to save businesses millions of dollars in insurance premiums.
◆ Legalized civil unions for gays and lesbians.
◆ Established temporary driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.
◆ Approved a bipartisan education-reform package with benchmarks for teacher evaluations.
◆ Ethics reforms including establishing voter recall for Illinois governors, limits on campaign contributions and elimination of the scandal-plagued legislative scholarship program.
◆ Reduced pension benefits for new state employees.
◆ Closed 54 state facilities to save money over opposition from unions and local politicians of both parties.
I’m not saying Quinn was the moving force behind each of these measures, but all of it would have been hard to do without him.
* These sorts of addresses also usually provide an outline for where the president or governor wants to go. And Quinn did that as well with a whole lot of proposals that we’ll get to today.
But, as far as I’m concerned, he said what he had to say on pensions. Now comes the hard part.