SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn entered a somewhat subdued joint session of the Illinois legislature Wednesday to outline his agenda for a new session dogged by many of the same issues which were left unresolved from the last one. The most pressing was pension reform, which the Governor called a threat to the state's prosperity. "Let there be no mistake," Quinn told legislators, "our state is at a critical juncture," saying state leaders must commit to the difficult task of pension reform now.
Quinn referenced other difficult reforms the state has embarked upon, including overhauling Medicare, abolishing the troubled legislative scholarship programs, and closing 53 state facilities to save money. Pensions, he pleaded, must be next, adding, "This is no small issue, and doing what's hard isn't always what's popular at the moment, but we must remember that hard is not impossible."
Calling on legislators to show 'real political courage' to do the right thing, the Governor then touted Senate Bill 1, which Quinn said would fix the pension problem, a statement which was greeted by a smattering of applause from lawmakers.
But much of Quinn's address seemed to ignore the fact the state is billions in debt with one of the worst credit ratings in the nation, focusing on spending and social issues without once mentioning any need for budget cuts beyond pension reform.
On the spending front, Gov. Quinn sought money for job training, increased access to Medicaid health coverage and the creation of health exchanges, and help for those with disabilities seeking jobs.
Quinn also pushed for a $10/hr. minimum wage by 2017, legalizing gay marriage, allowing voter registration online, and an aggressive gun control agenda, citing the recent massacre at Sandy Hook in Connecticutt. "We cannot wait for another tragedy to happen before taking action," Quinn said in pushing for a ban on assault weapons ban and high-capacity magazines ban, mandatory background checks, and a law requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns. He also asked for legislation requiring counties to provide law enforcement with reliable mental health records in real time and mandating schools practice safety drills periodically.