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Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010 12:40 pm

Quinn, GOP clash over ‘State of the State’

Governor’s address emphasizes education, tax cuts and green energy to promote job growth

STATE | Diane Ivey

Governor Pat Quinn emphasized his reform efforts during his “State of the State” address Wednesday, urging bipartisan cooperation as the General Assembly begins its 2010 session.

Quinn, who addressed his audience via note cards, said his administration provided stability and positive change after his rise to power in January 2008.

“I think in the course of carrying out our duties in the past year, we’ve done very well in the respect to restoring ethics and integrity to our government,” Quinn said. “We understood that there was a need to pass strong, tough laws to deal with honesty and integrity. The integrity of our government must always match the honesty of our people.”

The address included a laundry list of what Quinn touted as accomplishments, along with broad generalizations for the state’s future.

Among the top issues discussed were ethics, job creation, public safety, the “green economy,” education, and tax cuts.

Quinn said he would be the “building governor” as part of his efforts to revive the economy and create jobs. He wants to “prime the pump” by repairing more bridges and paving more roads. High-speed rail was also emphasized as an integral part of Illinois’ infrastructure.

“We want to be an inland port for the whole nation,” he said.

However, House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, says he was unimpressed with Quinn’s plans, and that he felt the speech lacked a clear vision for the state’s future.

“There wasn’t a single specific proposal that I heard in the whole speech,” Cross says. “It was a feel-good, ‘try to explain things that have gone wrong in my campaign’ campaign speech. I think he’s a decent guy, but I question the ability to get a lot of these things done.”

The governor spoke on the importance of so-called “green-collar jobs,” positions in renewable energy, wind power, and water conservation.

“We have to understand that we have to have a green way of thinking and a green way of acting,” Quinn said. “We have to teach young people who may be in a violent neighborhood not to take up a gun and use it against a fellow human being. Rather, they should take up a caulking gun and learn how to weatherize buildings.”

Though the state’s budget deficit was briefly discussed, Quinn spent more time criticizing the past summer’s plan to save money by cutting human services.

“There’s some who have budget plans that sound good when you say them fast,” he said. “But when you take a look at the fine print, they’re there cutting human services, cutting education, cutting health care. The key to the economy in Illinois is for us to keep our human services, our education, and our health care top notch.”

But, Cross says, human services were threatened by Quinn’s first round of budget cuts. According to Cross, Quinn did not fight to keep services, but said he was going to make cuts and then reneged on his promises.

“He played a vicious, evil game with human service providers and those that benefit from those services by threatening to make cuts and claiming he was going to make cuts and not doing them,” Cross says.

Quinn said he will continue to work to establish a fair tax code, and that he would attempt to cut taxes for five million low-income people in Illinois.

“[Our tax system] relies way too much on property taxes and other levies that aren’t based on ability to pay,” he said.

Quinn closed the speech by discussing veterans’ programs, including the Illinois Military Family Relief Trust Fund, which provides financial assistance to families of servicemen and women. A long-term care facility for veterans in Chicago is also in the works, he said.

His final push for cooperation was inspired by the spirit of the military.

“We can play politics, we can call each other names, we can kind of avoid the problems, but that’s not what our service members do when they get a responsibility,” Quinn said.

Contact Diane Ivey at divey@illinoistimes.com.

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