Governor Quinn Delivers State of the State Address
On February 1, Governor Quinn delivered his 2012 State of the State address, outlining his administration's efforts to spur economic growth and improve infrastructure.
The governor applauded the growth of automotive manufacturing jobs at Ford and Chrysler plants in Chicago and Belvidere, respectively. He stated that Illinois exports are on the rise, having jumped 30 percent in 2011. Building on this momentum, the State aims to double exports by 2014 with the help of a new Export Advisory Council. His 2012 Illinois Jobs agenda will also include several tax credits: a child tax credit, a hiring veterans tax credit, and the repeal of the natural gas utility tax. The governor highlighted recent investments in transportation infrastructure including work on 5,948 miles of highway and 842 bridges. Public transportation remains a high priority with improvements to the CTA Red Line--a high priority of GO TO 2040--expansion of Amtrak service from Chicago to Rockford, efforts to open a South Suburban airport in Will County, and planning for high-speed rail from Chicago to St. Louis.
Innovation and technology were among the governor's other top strategies for economic growth. He announced several investments in technology: Illinois' first venture capital fund, the renewal of the State's research and development tax credit, a $2.3 million investment in the 1871 center to foster digital start-ups, and a $6 million competitive initiative to promote high speed broadband networks across Illinois.
Other projects highlighted in the speech include efforts underway to reduce the state's carbon footprint by expanding the use of wind turbines (Quinn stated that Illinois currently leads the nation with over 400 turbines) and the development of the next generation of energy efficient batteries. The 2012 Illinois Jobs Now agenda will include work on water infrastructure: replacing broken water mains, building waste water treatment plants, and upgrading sewers. Related to the GO TO 2040 recommendation for improving access to information, the state will continue to build on its Open Data Portal, which was launched in July 2011. Housing will continue to be a priority of the administration through affordable housing initiatives, including the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network and a partnership with Cook County to return vacant properties to use.
Issued one day before the speech, a report by the Civic Federation's Illinois Institute for Fiscal Sustainability highlighted the State's serious problem of long-term debt, citing $38.4 billion in unpaid bills and calling on Governor Quinn and the General Assembly to stabilize the state's finances. In terms of per capita debt burdens, Illinois ranks fifth in the nation because of extremely high and growing state debt (due in large part to unfunded pension obligations and increasing Medicaid costs, according to the Civic Federation). In January, Moody's downgraded its credit rating of Illinois due to the State's inability so far to address these heavy debt obligations. Governor Quinn's budget address is scheduled for February 22.