On Friday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced a $25 million state grant to help rebuild Chicago water mains.
"To create 300 jobs in construction, cleaning up our water systems," Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said.
A question about Illinois' 9.2-percent jobless rate, which is nearly two percentage points higher than the national average, put the governor on the defense.
"I did not create this problem, I inherited it from previous governors. My job is to straighten it out," Gov. Quinn said.
The Illinois unemployment rate is second highest in the country, following Nevada, and at least a half percentage point higher than any of its five bordering states.
"We have the highest tax rate, we have more government regulation that most other states," Dr. Faisal Rahman, Xavier University, said.
Rahman, an economist, said the job shortage is caused by businesses leaving Illinois or not expanding or locating here in the first place. Among their fears, he says, are the state's fiscal issues caused by unfunded pension debt.
"The city and the state could very well be in default the same way Detroit has been," Dr. Rahman said.
State lawmakers--under pressure from public employee unions--have been unable to reform the pension system. Still, labor leaders expect the private sector to fill the jobs shortage.
"Because at the end of the day, if we don't grow business, working people can't go to work," Robert Reiter, Chicago Federation of Labor, said.
"This is a serious situation. Our state can be even better if we get the pension liability resolved," Gov. Quinn said.
"We've lost tens of thousands of jobs since Pat Quinn's been the governor," Senator Kirk Dillard said.
Dillard , a Republican running for governor, said whether or not pension reform happens before the election, Illinois unemployment will be a major issue in the 2014 campaign.
"We are overtaxed, we're over-regulated, we have a toxic reputation nationally and a cadence of corruption that continues," Dillard said.