Quinn rambles, critics bristle over State of the State

  • Gov. Pat Quinn delivers the State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly on the House floor at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield Wednesday.

    Gov. Pat Quinn delivers the State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly on the House floor at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield Wednesday. Associated Press

Posted1/14/2010 12:01 AM

SPRINGFIELD - Just weeks before voters go to the polls, Gov. Pat Quinn used his State of the State speech Wednesday to deliver a free-form 73-minute address painting the picture of a kinder, safer, more ethical Illinois under his brief reign and suggesting things will get even better if he remains.

"In taking that oath of office, I knew we had a state in crisis. It needed an honest government and an honest governor," Quinn said, reading from a stack of crumpled yellow legal pad pages. "In the past year, we've worked night and day to win the trust of the people."


But lawmakers and political rivals shredded the speech as politically self-serving and failing to delve into meaningful details of how the governor plans to erase an economically crippling $12 billion deficit even as he continues to call on the General Assembly to raise taxes.

"If you want to enlighten me on how I can help you and not be in a partisan fashion, then give me some idea of where you're going to lead before you ask me to follow," said state Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, a Des Plaines Republican. "It was lacking in content that would solve problems."

"This was a political speech. We came to Springfield for two days so he could give a political speech," added House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego. "There was not one single specific proposal in an hour and 15 minutes."

Immediately following the speech in the Illinois House, lawmakers adjourned and will not return to the Capitol until after the Feb. 2 primary, in which Quinn is challenged by state Comptroller Dan Hynes.

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"The speech was disappointing in a lot ways because it failed to address the most important issues facing our state - a growing budget crisis, job losses, mounting debt and the fact that our communities are less safe because of bad judgment by this governor," Hynes said afterward.

Hynes continued to blast the governor's controversial early prisoner release program and said Quinn still fails to take responsibility for mismanagement in the program that led to violent prisoners being released after spending only a few days in prison.

In the speech, Quinn again pointed the finger of blame for those failures at his prison director, Michael Randle, noting he immediately shut the program down upon learning of it from media reports.

Moving on, Quinn said he wants to focus on putting people to work in the coming months.

"I want to be the building governor. I want to build more things across the state, more good things, than any other governor," Quinn said.


Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay was among a local contingent at the Capitol on Wednesday.

"I was very disappointed that the governor failed to spend much time talking about the financial state of the state. You'd think for taking more than an hour, he'd talk more about how to pull us out," McConnaughay said. "The only thing I did hear was how he looks forward to raising our taxes."

The Republicans running for governor similarly lambasted Quinn's offering as self-serving.

Quinn's speech began with a recounting of how he came into office - via an impeachment and forced ouster of Rod Blagojevich - and almost chronologically ran through what he considers to be his accomplishments during his year in office. Also on Wednesday, Quinn's campaign issued a video highlighting his first year in office.

He touted work on ethics reform, construction spending, mammograms, soybeans, high-speed rail and Internet, biotechnology, tourism, energy efficiency and his Super 8 discount card.

He ended with an ode to veterans and a tearful recollection of his own father's military service and the lessons he'd learned from his dad.

"We can play politics, we can call each other names and avoid the problems, but that's really not what our service members do when they get a responsibility. It's certainly wasn't what my father did," Quinn said. "He taught me always to work hard to treat other people with dignity, don't call people names, be honest, be trustworthy. That to me is what Illinois is all about."

Daily Herald staff writers Timothy Magaw and Chase Castle contributed to this report.