Governor Quinn Has a Lot to Answer For

By Michael Kleen

January 16, 2012

2011 was a good year for Governor Pat Quinn, but it was a terrible one for the State of Illinois. As the new year dawns, it is abundantly clear that the more the governor gets what he wants, the worse our prospects for digging out of the hole his policies and the policies of his predecessors have put us in become.

Recently, a poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found that Governor Quinn had a 35.5 percent job approval rating and that only 14.9 percent of those polled believed Illinois was headed in the right direction. In response, Governor Quinn told the press he was “not too concerned” about those numbers. That might seem surprising coming from someone whose job depends upon winning the hearts and minds of at least 51 percent of the electorate, but the fact is that Governor Quinn and his cohort of incumbent politicians simply do not care what the people of Illinois think, because we continue to reelect them despite proving time and time again to be utterly inept leaders.

Governor Quinn’s approval rating is bound to fall even lower after the Illinois legislature approved a tax exemption for several companies who threatened to leave the state after last year’s hefty corporate income tax increase. Charges of “crony capitalism” were immediately leveled, but the real reason for the public’s outrage was that the reaction of these companies to the tax increase was entirely predictable. For the Quinn administration to backpedal and make exceptions for these companies demonstrates a realization that the tax increase was a big mistake. Now small businesses will suffer while those who can afford access to the governor get away scot-free.

If that was not bad enough, three-year budget projections recently released by Governor Quinn’s office reveal that the 67 percent hikes in income and corporate taxes were not as “temporary” as he claimed when selling them to the public last year. While we in Illinois are used to being lied to about “temporary” tax and toll increases, this revelation is perhaps even more bitterly ironic given that this governor was once head of an organization called the “Coalition for Political Honesty.”

Thanks to the Governor’s refusal to cut the budget and deal with skyrocketing pension costs, Moody’s Investors Service recently downgraded Illinois’ bond rating from A1 to A2, making our state the company’s lowest-graded out of all 50 states. According to Moody’s, the downgrade was the result of a legislative session that “took no steps to implement lasting solutions to its severe pension under-funding or to its chronic bill payment delays.” Our state’s management practices, it said, are “weak.”

Not everyone in Illinois government was surprised by these developments. “This is yet another cautionary note that cannot be ignored,” Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said in response to the downgrade. “The only way out of this mess is to keep cutting spending, provide for a better business climate and, for once, let growth outpace spending.” Maybe she can slip that memo into Governor Quinn’s pocket as they pass in the hallway.

It is time for the governor to take responsibility for not only Illinois’ weak management, but for the bad policies that led us here to begin with. Rather than cut spending, make Illinois more favorable to business, and reform the pension system, Governor Quinn chose to raise taxes, increase spending, and will allow pension costs to grow by 43 percent over the next three years. It should be abundantly clear by now that Quinn’s policies are hurting Illinois. If he does not admit his mistakes and take responsibility for the mess we are in, it will be up to the voters to hold him and all the other incumbent politicians accountable in the upcoming elections.


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