Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn used his State of The State address on Wednesday to declare that Illinois "is making a comeback" but still has a way to go.
On the fifth anniversary of the date he took over from impeached and disgraced governor Rod Blagojevich, Quinn announced a handful of initiatives aimed at the state's business community and at his political base.
"Our economy had plunged into the worst recession since the Great Depression, brought to its knees by greedy and corrupt financiers,” he said, “and our financial house was on fire, set ablaze by decades of mismanagement and an utter lack of willingness to make tough calls.
"We've rebuilt one hard step at a time,” he added,.”and we've been getting the job done."
The governor proposed cutting the fee to incorporate a “limited liability corporation” and naming a small-business advocate based in his office. He also wants to double the state's earned-income tax credit, boost the minimum wage to "at least" $10 an hour, and guarantee every worker a minimum of two paid sick days.
He did not indicate in his speech where he stands on the "temporary" hike in the state's individual and corporate income tax rates, which is due to begin expiring on Jan. 1.
Quinn praised passage of the state pension reform law, which is under attack in the courts, and noted that the state has made all the required pension payments under his watch.
He pointed to private-sector employment growth of 280,000 jobs and the state’s first new infrastructure program since before George Ryan was governor.
"Today, we can tell the people of Illinois we stopped the bleeding,” Quinn said. “We turned the corner. And Illinois is making a comeback."
Local lawmakers react
State Senator Dave Syverson says the governor didn't paint a realistic picture about the budget problems Illinois still faces. The Rockford Republican says proposing a minimum wage hike won't turn things around. He says doing thinks like addressing workers compensation could help to improve the state's business climate. He says that in turn will help the economy grow.
“In most cases, you're gonna grow middle-income jobs,” Syverson said.
Syverson says he was encouraged the governor mentioned providing a boost to early childhood education. But he says the state needs to take a long look at eliminating inefficient programs before spending more money in other areas.
Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Steve Stadelman says the speech was effective in outlining some of the tough budget decisions the state has made over the past year.
"We've got a long ways to go, but it's a step in the right direction,” Stadelman said.
Stadelman says he would like to hear the governor talk about reviving gaming legislation. Past proposals have included new casinos for cities like Rockford. But Governor Quinn has vetoed such bills, saying they did not contain enough oversight.