Quinn began his inaugural address by calling for unity and pledging to work with all in state government, including his former political opponents.
"We are one people," Quinn said. "We must be one people to address the challenges ahead."
The state's 41st governor takes the reins at a time when the budget deficit could hit $15 billion. He and other Democratic leaders are trying to pass a major income tax increase that would boost the 3 percent income tax rate to 5.25 percent for four years, a 75 percent increase. They're also looking at a dollar-a-pack increase in cigarette taxes, more than double the current rate.
Together, the increases would produce about $7.5 billion a year, backers say. The money would be used in several ways: to close the gap between annual government costs and revenues, to provide money for education and property tax relief, and to finance borrowing about $8 billion to pay off the state's backlog of overdue bills.
Quinn's inaugural address offered broad promises to solve the state's fiscal crisis soon — "We will pay our bills. We will stabilize our budget and strengthen our economy" — but no firm details of how it would be done.
He also referenced the political scandal that landed him in the governor's mansion. Quinn was lieutenant governor until January 2009 when he took over from then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was removed from office by lawmakers after his arrest on federal corruption charges.
"We know our government suffered an integrity crisis before I assumed office. It was a sad situation indeed. The people of Illinois were afraid their government had lost faith in them. We have restored honesty and integrity to the office of governor and we have replaced a government of deals with a government of ideals," he said.
Quinn lost his composure a few times during his speech, breaking down when he mentioned his late father and when describing a soldier. In addition to stressing the importance of honoring veterans and service members, his major themes included job creation and education, saying, "It's important . . . that we not bungle raising our children."
Quinn beat Republican state Sen. Bill Brady in the November election.