One day after Democratic Illinois Governor Pat Quinn delivered his second State of the State address, it would be difficult to find a single state legislator who hasn't weighed in publicly on the governor's latest annual address -- and the consensus seems to be a tepid at best.
In his address, the governor put out the call for more education spending, including upgraded technology in classrooms, and for the abolishment of what he described as the "unfair, regressive" natural utility tax. He also proposed an increased tax credit for businesses who hire veterans as well as upped funding for a program providing grants for low-income college students.
(Scroll down to watch the governor's State of the State address in full.)
While the governor also said that the state has "no choice" but to address its pension and Medicaid funding problems, he also said that cuts were not the sole solution to the state's budget woes, WBEZ reported.
"Like all of you, I recognize the severity of our fiscal situation," Quinn said. "But cuts alone will not resolve this situation. We must build and grow our economy."
Leading off the state GOP's response was the state Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady, who said in a statement that the governor "has no comprehensive plan for dealing with the near catastrophic fiscal condition of our state or the political courage to make the reforms necessary for Illinois to have a government that it can afford."
Brady's remarks set the tone for other state GOP leaders. State Sen. Christine Johnson (R-DeKalb), expressing frustration with how the governor plans to pay for the new or expanded programs he spoke of Wednesday, told The Telegraph "I live in the state of Illinois. ... I don't know what state Governor Quinn lives in."
State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka told the Associated Press she felt the state "needed something that said, 'We are going to try to get our fiscal house in order. We know we're in trouble.' And I didn't hear any of that."
Topinka, who has been outspoken about the state's fast-growing amount of unpaid bills, called the new programs Quinn proposed as "almost like Blagojevich-lite," the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
"He did the same thing. You'd have all these programs, and there was never any money to back them up," Topinka continued.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Jason Barickman (R-Champaign) said the governor displayed "total disregard for the problems facing our state," according to the AP.
On the other side of the aisle, reactions were to Quinn's address were also cool.
State Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) said that "the new programs run counter, I believe, to what the citizens want," according to the Belleville News-Democrat. "They don't want any new programs, however wonderful they may be. They want us to reduce our unpaid bills, and to see to it that this temporary tax goes out of existence in three years."
The governor, state Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) told the Peoria Journal Star, "did a good job of laying out his vision and what he wants to see accomplished," but added an important caveat: "How do we afford it?"
"I look forward to hearing how we can fund these important priorities within a balanced budget," Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) echoed, as the Quad City Times reported.
Even national conservative figures managed to jab Quinn. While praising Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels for his state's approval of a new right-to-work law, Americans For Tax Reform President Grover Norquist said that "while Pat Quinn's Illinois continues to tax and spend itself into oblivion at the behest of union bosses, Mitch Daniels' Indiana stands as an example for the entire Midwest."
The state's financial health was criticized as "a very frightening situation" in a report, issued Monday, by the Civic Federation. On the heels of Moody's Investor Services downgrading the state's credit to the lowest rating of any in the U.S., the report projected the state's unpaid bill backlog could balloon to $34.8 billion from its current level of $9.2 billion unless drastic action is taken to address the state's pension, Medicaid and other costs.
The governor is expected to delve into more details of the state's financial health during his budget address Feb. 22.
WATCH Gov. Pat Quinn deliver the State of the State address Wednesday:
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