Governor Pat Quinn’s annual State-of-the-State address was long on promises, but short on details.
Recent economic progress in our nation is encouraging, but Illinois still faces serious challenges and a grim financial outlook that the Governor ignored during his January 29 speech to a joint session of the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives.
While the Governor touted a modest decrease in the state’s backlog of unpaid bills, he skipped over projections from his own budget office that show the backlog will balloon to $16 billion in three years.
Our national economy has turned around. It was a slower recovery from the recession than virtually any other recession that we have had … at least since the Great Depression. But Illinois is lagging far behind the rest of the country. We have the worst credit rating of any state in the nation. Our budget deficit is still a significant problem. We are one of the most business-unfriendly states in the entire nation and unfortunately this has gone on now for six years of the Quinn Administration.
Quinn is scheduled to unveil his budget plan February 19.
Governor Wants More Spending
With the Democrat’s 67% income tax hike set for a major rollback next January, Quinn’s budget plan must explain how he plans to reconcile the tax reduction with the laundry list of spending increases he outlined in his State-of-the-State speech.
The Governor called for increasing the state’s earned income tax credit on personal income taxes, cutting business filing fees, doubling state-paid college scholarships and spending more on early childhood education.
The Quinn Administration’s previously released three-year budget plan also projected significant new spending without revenues to support the expenditures.
The Governor also called for increasing the state’s minimum wage and requiring employers to offer paid sick leave to workers. While those proposals are well-intentioned, they could have unintended consequences as businesses eliminate jobs or reduce worker hours to make up for the added expenses. No one can feed a family on minimum-wage jobs no matter how many hours they work. But that’s not the purpose of a minimum-wage job. Minimum-wage jobs provide a learning experience for young workers so that they can go on to higher-paying jobs. Unfortunately, raising the minimum wage would hurt teenagers by making it even harder to find entry-level jobs. Improving the economy, reducing Illinois’ high unemployment rate and fostering growth in jobs that pay more than the minimum wage offer low-income workers a better path to the middle class.
I am willing to work with Gov. Quinn and his fellow lawmakers to right Illinois’ economic and budget wrongs, but a new approach is needed. He talks about wanting to help the middle class. But that is certainly not what the reality is. Most of his programs hurt the middle class rather than help them. We need to work on reducing the waste, fraud and abuse of some of those programs.
Propane Gas Emergency
The severe cold weather and a resulting shortage of propane to heat homes in many areas of the state prompted the introduction of Senate Bill 2757, which would take a number of steps to help alleviate the problem.
Sponsored by a bipartisan contingent of Senators, Senate Bill 2757 would temporarily increase weight allowances on Illinois interstates to 100,000 pounds for vehicles carrying propane, which would reduce transportation costs and help increase the available propane supply in the state. It would also temporary increase the threshold for eligibility in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; and establish a short-term loan program through the Illinois Finance Authority for small businesses, propane distributors, and farmers.
Internet Betting on Horseracing
While in Springfield, lawmakers also approved legislation extending the sunset date for Advanced Deposit Wagering. Under House Bill 11, persons can continue to place bets on horseracing over the Internet or telephone.
The person placing the bet must first deposit money in an account and then place wagers against the money held in the account. Winnings are also deposited into the account.
In addition, the legislation authorized six additional off-track betting licenses in the state, two each for three racetracks located in Cook County – Balmoral/Maywood, Hawthorne and Arlington.