Today is the day Gov. Pat Quinn owes us an answer.
A year ago, Quinn signed a bill raising our state income taxes by 67 percent. In his State of the State address today, he needs to tell us what he did with our money. Apparently, he’s not using it to pay bills.
According to a report by the Civic Federation of Chicago, Illinois’ unpaid bills, which now total $9.2 billion, will reach $35 billion by 2017. Quinn’s tax increase is set to expire in 2015 -- the year he will leave office, whether he wants to admit it or not -- and he owes it to his successor to use his tax bounty to reduce the state’s indebtedness.
However, during the one speech of the year that his constituents may actually listen to, Quinn will not offer his solution to the state’s budget crisis. According to the Associated Press:
Quinn said he will discuss the state’s budget troubles, including his goal of cutting the state’s Medicaid and pension costs. But details on those issues will wait until his budget proposal is released Feb. 22, he said.
Quinn said Tuesday that focusing on jobs and economic growth is the only way to a better budget. He called it a “very provocative document that will challenge the members of the General Assembly to show political courage to do important things that have to be done on our budget to make sure our state is strong.”
Instead, Quinn will promote his proposal to increase the tax break for unemployed veterans. In other words, the governor believes -- or wants us to believe -- that Illinois can grow its way out of our financial mess. The fact that a tax increase hasn’t helped us pay our bills suggests that isn’t true.
You can’t blame the governor for wanting to talk about tax cuts in his State of the State address. That’s the only subject that gets applause from both parties.
But the biggest criticism of Governor Quinn is that the former political gadfly does not have leadership skills. Nobody likes Mayor Rahm Emanuel's solutions for balancing Chicago's budget -- canceling teacher raises, cutting library hours -- but at least he's not afraid to offer solutions. We’re not going to see the leadership we need today. We may not see until we have a new governor.
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