Chapter Update

Thursday, February 2

February 2012 - State Legislative Update

Phil Milsk, NASW Illinois Governmental Relations Consultant

New initiatives announced with little mention of the state's fiscal crisis

Governor Quinn gave his State of the State address to a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate today. The full text of his speech is available on the state of Illinois' website. The governor made every effort to emphasize the accomplishments during his tenure as governor since he took over for Rod Blagojevich following the 2009 impeachment. He highlighted legislation he has signed such as the legalization of civil unions, the repeal of the death penalty, major education reform, the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Illinois DREAM Act, campaign finance reform, workers' compensation reform, and others. He also mentioned a number of infrastructure improvement projects completed or initiated while he has been in office including the CTA Red Line renovation, improved highways and bridges, and building projects at state universities.

He focused a great deal on job creation, mentioning the expanded working hours at the Ford Plant on the far southside of Chicago as well as touting the efforts of a recycling business in Romeoville. He also highlighted advancement in technology such as broadband upgrades and accessibility.

As for the future, he briefly mentioned the need for pension reform and Medicaid reform without going into any detail. He steered clear of any budget details, saving those for the budget message he will deliver later this month.  

He mentioned several new initiatives: (1) A new technology center at the Merchandise Mart for launching digital start-ups; (2) A $6 million statewide competition to build "ultra-high broadband" in neighborhoods across the state; (3) Abolishing the natural gas utility tax, which he called "unfair, regressive, and not based on the ability to pay"; (4) A new Child Tax Credit of up to $100 per year for a "typical family of four"; (5) A tax credit for hiring veterans; (5) An unspecified major investment in early childhood education;  (6) Raising the high school dropout age to 18; (7) Making more MAP Grants available to college students; (8) An investment in modernizing classrooms across the state; (9) Creation of the Illinois Foreclosure Protection Network and a major housing initiative jointly with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; and (9) A clean water initiative. He acknowledged that some of these initiatives will require legislative action. He also did not specify how the initiatives would be funded.

It will certainly be interesting to see what the governor proposes for his 2013 budget and what will come of efforts to reform the state's pension systems to reduce the state's liabilities. Medicaid—always a political hot button issue—will have very strict scrutiny in an election year.

Posted on 02/02/12 at 10:48 AM

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