Gov. Quinn emphasizes pension reform, jobs in State of the State

Gearing up for his re-election campaign for 2014, Gov. Pat Quinn called for ethics reform, increasing the minimum wage, assault weapon bans and approval of same-sex marriage legislation at his State of the State address on Wednesday.

Quinn also repeatedly pointed to the need for pension reform in the address, which he said needs to be solved before Illinois can move forward on any other reforms.

Illinois’ pension debt continues to grow by $17 million each day, which Quinn said robs education, public safety and other services of the funds they need in order to perform.

“Our vision for our Illinois cannot be fully realized without pension reform,” Quinn said. “The pension squeeze is draining our ability to teach our students. Our children are being shortchanged. And in the end, that shortchanges our economy too.”

Quinn praised Senate Bill 1, the pension reform bill filed with Sen. John Cullerton, D-6, on Jan. 9, and he called on the Illinois General Assembly members to make this legislation its first priority.

“Senate Bill 1 (is) a comprehensive bill that stabilizes our pension systems and fixes the problem,” Quinn said. “I urge all of you to be part of the solution. And while refinements may come, Senate Bill 1 is the best vehicle to get the job done.”

Once the pension issue has been solved, education reform can take place, Quinn said. He praised initiatives that help schools across the state, such as the rededication of the new Lincoln Hall, which will take place at the University next week.

“In our Illinois, anything is possible ... especially when it comes to educating our students,” he said.

Quinn said he also plans to continue creating jobs in Illinois. He asked the General Assembly to pass House Bill 190, which was filed by Rep. Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, on Jan. 18 to create more construction jobs.

“When I took the oath of office four years ago, Illinois had not had a jobs program to build highways, bridges and schools in more than 10 years,” Quinn said. “Within 10 weeks, we passed Illinois Jobs Now! ... the largest public works investment in our state’s history. ... This is supporting more than half a million jobs ... but we have much more to do.”

Quinn said small businesses are also targets of reform.

“In our Illinois, small business means big business,” he said. “Driving economic growth for small businesses requires doing all we can to make sure government is not in the way while always protecting the health and safety of consumers.”

To further stimulate the economy, Quinn plans to increase competitive manufacturing by joining forces with the University.

“In the last three years, manufacturing has been one of our state’s leading growth sectors, creating nearly 40,000 new jobs,” he said. “We’re at the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing, and we need to stay there. That’s why we’re partnering with the University of Illinois and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications to create an advanced manufacturing hub where companies — big and small — come to learn and use the world’s most sophisticated tools and software.”

Quinn also said he wants to see minimum wage increased to $10 per hour this year.

Quinn remained proud of reforms made in the past year, such as the creation of jobs, improvements on roads, bridges and railroads and reform of the education system. However, Quinn said there is still much to be done.

“Let there be no mistake; our state is at a critical juncture,” Quinn said. “We have moved Illinois forward. But we have much more to do. At this point, each and every one of us has a choice to make about what we want our Illinois to look like.”

Chrissy can be reached at capawlo2@dailyillini.com.