Gov. Pat Quinn sounded tone-deaf in his declaration that “Illinois is making a comeback” in his State of the State address Wednesday.
For example, Quinn’s claim that the job market is on the rebound stems from the fact that unemployment is three points lower than its bottom-of-the-trough level of 11.3 percent during the Great Recession.
In December, unemployment in Illinois was measured at 8.6 percent, after the economy shed 3,200 jobs. That leaves Illinois with the second-worst jobless rate in the country, where it has been for months. Meanwhile, the Pew Charitable Trust projects Illinois will be dead last in job creation in 2014. The national unemployment rate is 6.7 percent.
Contrary to the theme Quinn repeated time and again during his speech in Springfield, that hardly sounds like “getting the job done.”
Quinn also counted the courtship of international businesses, including Japanese railcar maker Nippon-Sharyo, which decided to expand its operation in Rochelle. Media reports on Wednesday also confirmed that Schaumburg-based Cancer Treatment Centers had decided to move its corporate headquarters to Boca Raton, Fla., the same city where Office Depot Inc. plans to move its newly formed company. That company chose Boca Raton over Naperville.
Quinn claimed credit for the pension reform legislation in which he had limited participation, a reform that will not stop the state’s finances from sliding into a deficit in the billions within a few years without cuts in spending or increases in revenue.
Quinn talked of more spending – doubling the number of math scholarships for college students, expanding investment in roads, water systems and other infrastructure, and building the Illiana Expressway and a third airport south of Chicago.
Then there was the obligatory section of the speech that included the buzzword “middle class,” but had little to nothing to do with middle-class taxpayers.
Instead, Quinn called for mandatory earned sick days for Illinois workers, and an increase in the minimum wage to $10 an hour. Missing was any mention of the growing property tax burden homeowners face, and, as expected, the state’s income tax increase that is scheduled to “sunset” at the end of this year was not mentioned.
Yet it is those middle-class taxpayers who work to pay the higher taxes to the state and the too-numerous local governments that always seem to need more money. It is also they who seem destined to foot the bill for the ambitious plans of a governor who insists that higher taxes, too-high unemployment and continued, nagging bulletins about fiscal crisis constitute “getting the job done.”