Gov. Pat Quinn has finally been forced to do something he’s spent his entire career avoiding: act like a leader.
The word that always appeared in the same sentence as Quinn’s name was “gadfly.” Quinn was always the guy on the outside, complaining that the powerful guys on the inside had too much power, and were using it the wrong way. He made his name in politics with the Cutback Amendment, which reduced the size of the Illinois House of Representatives from 177 to 118. That was a follow-up to a stunt in which Quinn asked voters to send tea bags to Springfield to protest a legislative pay increase.
As a commissioner of the Cook County Board of Tax Appeals, he helped found the Citizens Utility Board, to keep an eye on power-hungry power companies.
Now, through no fault of effort of his own, Quinn is now on the inside. He’s the guy with the power. In the year and a half since he succeeded Rod Blagojevich, Quinn has done his damnedest to avoid acting like a leader. But the General Assembly, which is even more eager to avoid responsibility, forced his hand by ceding him the power to cut the state’s budget.
Thursday morning, Quinn announced $1.4 billion in spending reductions. Some of them were easy, like canceling the $500,000 World Trotting Derby. But Quinn also cut $90.7 million from the Department of Mental Health’s community services program. According to the department, that will result in 70,000 Illinoisans losing “access to basic mental health care including medications, psychiatry visits and case management.”
That’s the kind of a cut a younger Pat Quinn might have complained about.
At his press conference. Quinn promised that his budget will protect “schools, health care, human services and public safety” -- even though he’s cutting all those services.
He also held out hope that his Illinois Jobs Now! Capital plan will rescue him from having to make more tough decisions.
“As the state economy improves, as we get more revenue from the income tax and sales tax, we’ll get back to a good place,” he said.
Pat Quinn may not be governor much longer, but at least he's finally discovered what leadership feels like.