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State of State a campaign kickoff?

Quinn says Illinois has moved forward

Gov. Pat Quinn gave his annual State of the State address Wednesday, but area lawmakers – Democrats and Republicans – say it resembled a campaign speech.

"It seemed like an election kickoff," said state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, who represents Whiteside County. "The [governor's] race is becoming tighter. Let's quit the politics. Unfortunately, the state of campaigns is that they're perpetual."

Two prominent Democrats, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and former Obama Chief of Staff Bill Daley, are mentioned as possible opponents to Quinn in next year's Democratic primary.

In his speech, Quinn, who became governor in 2009, said "we have moved Illinois forward."

Jacobs, in part, agreed.

"We haven't gotten credit for some of the strides," he said. "We have gotten spending under control."

He said he wishes Quinn would show more leadership in solving the state's pension crisis. And he took exception to what he considered the governor's approach to government.

"I'm not sure if there is really a role in government to lift all boats. We should lift the boats of those trying to help themselves. We may have a little philosophical difference," Jacobs said.

Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said Quinn adequately pointed out the big problems that the state faces – nearly $100 billion in pension liability, $9 billion in unpaid bills and a jobless rate higher than the national average.

But the freshman legislator said he would like to have heard more specifics on the governor's approach to the pension issue.

During the speech, Quinn said he would support Senate Bill 1, which includes increased contributions and reduced benefits.

Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, whose district includes Whiteside County, said the bill is not the solution.

"It would end up in the court system," the freshman lawmaker said. "All that will do is kick the can down the road. We need a more viable option. We need to have all sides come together to work on the issue."

Smiddy disagreed with Quinn's upbeat assessment of Illinois.

"I don't know who he is trying to convince that he has done a good job as governor. He has talked about a lot of accomplishments that, for the most part, are benefitting Chicago and not downstate," Smiddy said.

Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, agreed with Quinn's proposals to help veterans and the disabled. But he parted ways with the governor's push to increase the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 an hour.

"That sounds good for the person looking for a job," the senator said. "The problem is that it hits small businesses, which are 85 percent of the businesses. [With the increased minimum wage], they have to cut costs by not hiring or they pass on the costs to consumers. Hurting employers is one thing Illinois doesn't need right now."

Bivins also said he opposes Senate Bill 1, calling it unconstitutional.

Overall, he said, many saw the State of the State address as a campaign speech.

"That wasn't unexpected."

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