Gov. Quinn: Illinois stands at critical juncture

Illinois’ top official delivers State of the State address

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn

Gov. Pat Quinn delivered his State of the State Message today to a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly.

Governors typically use the State of the State to highlight their priorities and to call on the General Assembly to act on these priorities.

Details on implementation – and the resources needed to accomplish these priorities – will be contained in the governor’s budget. The governor’s budget address to the joint session of the General Assembly has been pushed back to Wednesday, March 6.

Quinn began by stating that Illinois is at a critical juncture. There will need to be tough decisions made to balance our budget.

The point that the governor wove throughout his speech was the need to reform the state’s public pension systems. He said that this will be hard, but not impossible, and it will take political courage to make these tough decisions.

Although he indicated that further refinements might be necessary, the governor supported Senate President John Cullerton’s pension reform package presented in Senate Bill 1.

Other highlights contained in his speech include:

  • calling for an increase in the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour over the next four years;
  • increased access to health coverage for the uninsured through Medicaid and the creation of the Illinois Health Insurance Exchange;
  • addressing gun violence, saying that there needs to be a comprehensive plan including gun safety legislation, mental health care and violence prevention strategies. Quinn called for a ban on the sale of assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines, the strengthening of background checks and requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns;
  • open primaries where a voter would not need to declare a party affiliation to vote in a primary election;
  • passage of the Marriage Equality Act allowing for same-sex marriage;
  • greater use of public-private partnerships to address key areas. Quinn announced a partnership with the University of Illinois and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications to create an advanced manufacturing hub to help Illinois’ manufacturing companies, large and small; and
  • increasing opportunities for veterans. The governor signed an Executive Order today that directs the state’s licensing agencies to assess military training for state license requirements.

The governor kept stressing that the public pension systems must be reformed now or other programs and services would be squeezed, hindering our ability to provide quality education, safe communities, good infrastructure and the other elements that are needed to create jobs and provide a prosperous future to all Illinoisans.

by Lori Clark, director of State and Federal Relations for NIU

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