Illinois Governor Pat Quinn at noon on Wednesday delivered his annual State of the State address, a speech centered principally on the topics of jobs and the economy.
As the Associated Press reports, the address largely emphasized small programs that tap into large problems currently facing the state, such as tax relief for families. He also put out a call for more education spending, including upgraded technology in classrooms, and for the abolishment of what the governor called the "unfair, regressive" natural utility tax, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The governor also introduced a new, higher tax credit to be offered to businesses that hire veterans. The credit -- equivalent to 20 percent of a worker's annual wages not to exceed $5,000 -- would be offered to companies hiring veterans from the Iraq, Afghanistan or Persian Gulf Wars, according to the Tribune, and exceeds an existing $1,200 credit employers can currently claim for hiring veterans.
As the Chicago Sun-Times reported, the governor also introduced an increase in funding for the state's Monetary Award Program, which provides grants for low-income college students.
Quinn did not, however, delve far into the state's dire financial health. Recently, Moody's Investors Services' downgraded Illinois' credit rating to the lowest level of any state in the country and the Civic Federation's recent report examined the state's vastly ballooning backlog of unpaid bills. It is unclear how the governor will pay for any of the new programs he unveiled Wednesday, even as many of them, such as the Hiring Veterans Tax Credit, are not expected to be costly.
"No reform is easy. Reforming our Medicaid and our public pension systems will require political courage," Quinn noted during the speech, as reported by WBEZ.
"By the same token, no major investment is easy," the governor continued. "Moving forward on the vision that I have laid out today will require true partnership. We have real challenges to tackle. Like all of you, I recognize the severity of our fiscal situation. But cuts alone will not resolve this situation. We must build and grow our economy."
Any sort of proposal for new state spending was expected to be met with criticism from state Republicans. GOP leaders last month, on the one-year anniversary of the income tax hike that Gov. Quinn approved, lashed out at the increase as a "failure" in its attempt to help alleviate the state's ongoing financial problems.
State Senator Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) told the Sun-Times that, going into the speech, he had hoped the governor would outline a plan for major pension reform and strategies to reduce the state's spending levels.
"We've seen many news reports that show Illinois' finances continue to deteriorate, even as our obligations increase,” Sandack told the Sun-Times. "I'm interested in how Governor Quinn plans to balance the budget, and how he proposes to cut spending in order to avoid the $800 million deficit his own budget office predicts for 2015."
Details of how Quinn might do just that will probably have to wait a few more weeks. While the governor touched briefly on issues such as the state's soaring Medicaid costs and pension obligations Wednesday, those issues will not be on the table in further detail until the governor's Feb. 22 budget address.