SPRINGFIELD -- Reaction to Governor Quinn's State of the State address ran from supportive to outraged, but all agree that his focus on pension reform needs to become the top legislative priority. Many, however, question whether the political courage Quinn asked for in his speech is there to fix it.
Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka responded in a news release saying, "Gov. Quinn is a good-hearted man and I appreciate his efforts in delivering today's State of the State address," but then added, "Today my office has more than 161,980 unpaid bills totaling more than $6.5 billion - and the state's total bill backlog reaches $9 billion. Our unfunded pension liability is $97 billion, and growing by $17 million each day. And the nation's bond rating agencies have downgraded Illinois 12 times in the last four years - giving us the worst credit in the nation and costing taxpayers more whenever the state borrows .... We cannot afford tangents or distractions - we have to address our finances, and time is of the essence."
Treasurer Dan Rutherford echoed those sentiments, saying, "We need strong leadership to get our state back in line."
Greg Baise, President and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, added in a statement, "The Illinois General Assembly must pass pension reform in the near future because the fiscal instability is not only threatening important state services, it's forcing businesses to look elsewhere for future investments."
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce was not enthusiastic about the address, calling the state's failure to address the growing pension crisis 'unconscionable' and fearing the Governor's proposal to raise the state's minimum wage to $10/hr. will only make the state's financial situation worse. "This is an untimely, ill-advised and outrageous proposal that puts a dagger to the heart of the very employers politicians normally say they want to grow and be successful: small, medium and entrepreneurial businesses. In addition, I think legislating a $10.00 minimum wage will be a barrier to the creation of more seasonal and part time employment for young people and entry level jobs." Doug Whitley President & CEO of the Illinois Chamber. He calls the proposal 'bewildering.'