Critics: Quinn speech shows disconnect from state deficit

February 1, 2012 4:15:57 PM PST
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn emphasized the positive Wednesday in his State of the State address.

As he advised two days earlier, Quinn's speech focused on jobs and economic development, and not the state's fiscal crisis.

"I will have more to say about these serious matters during my budget address three weeks from today," he said. "But we must always remember that strong economic growth is essential to resolving our fiscal challenges."

Watch complete video of Gov. Quinn's State of the State address

Quinn also listed accomplishments during his three years as governor -- from abolishing the death penalty and legalizing civil unions to education, workmen's comp and McCormick Place reforms to the state's capital construction program.

"Every day you see the fruits of our labor all across Illinois," said Quinn.

"I felt like I was listening to a game of fantasy government. It's not real," said State Rep. Tom Cross, (R) House Minority Leader.

Republican House and Senate leaders said the speech revealed the governor's disconnect from the state's deficit and worsening credit, driven by its skyrocketing pension and Medicaid costs.

"Not once did we hear an apology for the dead and unpaid bills that we owe the vendors of this state," said State Sen. Bill Brady, (R) Bloomington.

Despite the deficit, the governor proposed new programs for education and tax cuts for natural gas users, families with children and businesses that hire veterans.

"Unemployment for young returning veterans in our country is 30 percent. That's shameful," he said.

But Republicans wondered how the governor could find money to underwrite new programs.

"We have some dire problems right now and glossing over them with happy talk isn't going help the people of this state prepare themselves to do the things that are necessary to really get this state moving in the right direction," said State Sen. Matt Murphy, (R) Palatine.

"I agree with some of the governor's priorities, but he needs to make budget cuts to pay for these new programs," said Sen. Kirk Dillard, (R) Hinsdale.

"There was barely a passing reference to the enormous fiscal problems that we're experiencing," said Sen. Christine Radogno, (R) Senate Minority Leader.

Lawmakers applauded politely at several points during the 40-minute address -- most of it from fellow Democrats, who defended the governor's for promoting new programs to help the state's families and children.

"The purpose of the State of the State is to be as aspirational as you can be," said State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, (D) Oylmpia Fields. "I think he wants to lay out the good things that have happened because for some folks complaining and shooting down Illinois is a better political meme."

"We should never stop investing in the people of Illinois. That's what he was talking about, investing in education," said Sen. Donne Trotter, (D) Chicago.

Both chambers of the General Assembly adjourned for the week after the speech.