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Reeder: As governor, Quinn resists taking stands

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – Will the real Pat Quinn stand up?

One of the trademarks of the old pot-stirring Pat Quinn – the one who existed before he became governor – is you knew where he stood.  

You may not have always have liked that rabble-rouser’s positions, but his resoluteness was admirable. Today? Not so much.

Take a look at how Quinn handled an interview (http://peoriapublicradio.org/post/quinn-not-ruling-out-raising-income-tax) with another reporter who dared to ask about whether the governor supports keeping the “temporary” 67 percent income tax hike:

QUINN: “Well, I think we have to deal with the pension reform, which is the No. 1 fiscal, financial issue.”

REPORTER: “But ... you campaigned on raising the income tax, should it stay in place?”

QUINN: “I have worked very hard on pension reform, I know the committee that I proposed ...” 

In journalism, that’s what we call a non-answer.

Voters deserve to know where their chief executive – who is seeking re-election – stands on one of the most important issues facing the state of Illinois. But we’re left in the dark.

I liked the old Pat Quinn better.

That Pat Quinn wasn’t ashamed to take a position. Apparently, that’s not the case anymore. And his habits are rubbing off on the aides reporting to him.

Today, his office packs in more flip-flops than a group of college spring breakers heading to South Padre Island.

Don’t believe me?

A few weeks ago, I asked all of the gubernatorial candidates where they stood on a constitutional amendment being promoted by GOP hopeful Bruce Rauner. The measure would limit the terms of state lawmakers, reduce the number of senators and slightly increase the number of House members.

Here’s how a Quinn spokesman responded to my queries:

Me: “So I could say he [Quinn] opposes the amendment as currently written because it includes expanding the size of the House?”

Spokesman: “Yes.”

That would seem a straightforward and unambiguous answer. You can read the full email exchange on ilnews.org. (http://ilnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Email-Conversation-Reeder-Blanchette.pdf) 

But after my article was published, another Quinn aide started telling newspaper editors that wasn’t what was said.

When I got wind of this, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for his emails to find out just what was said.

It turns out, the administration was falsely claiming that that it had never made a statement that it had. 

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.

After all, it’s possible the original spokesman misspoke or the governor changed his position. Or perhaps there wasn’t adequate communication between two spokesmen.

So I asked Quinn spokesman Abdon Pallasch to clarify where the governor stands on the amendment.

He declined.

So at the end of the day, we don’t know where the governor stands on two important issues: whether the tax hike should be made permanent and a proposed constitutional amendment creating term limits for lawmakers. 

The people of Illinois deserve to know where candidates stand on issues. Without this information voters can’t make informed decisions.

When the administration chooses obfuscation it shows contempt not only for the voters, but also for our democratic system.

Don’t the people of Illinois deserve better?   

• Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at sreeder@illinoispolicy.org. Readers can subscribe to his free political newsletter by going to ilnews.org or follow his work on Twitter @scottreeder.

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