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Procrastinators may have found Man of the Year

By delaying his budget address until after the March 18 primary, Gov. Pat Quinn has pulled off a shrewd piece of procrastination. Illinois’ procrastinators may have just found a new hero.

Published: Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Gov. Pat Quinn may have just put himself into contention for a major award.

Members of the Illinois Procrastinators Society might take one look at Quinn’s successful bid to postpone his budget address for 5 weeks, nod in agreement, and nominate him as their Man of the Year.

Quinn has been governor for 5 years. One would think that, by now, he would have the state budget-writing process down “pat.”

However, when Quinn approaches the podium on the last Wednesday of March, it will be the latest that he has delivered his annual budget speech.

Why?

Let’s check the record.

In 2009, he delivered his budget speech on March 18. Lawmakers, who had recently booted Rod Blagojevich out of office, were only too happy to give Quinn extra time.

In 2010, he delivered it on March 10.

In 2011, he delivered it on Feb. 16.

In 2012, he delivered it on Feb. 22.

In 2013, he delivered it on March 6.

This year, the budget address was supposed to be delivered on Feb. 19, as prescribed by law. But because of a law that Quinn signed this week, the address won’t be until March 26.

Every taxpayer in the state awaits this year’s address with keen interest. They well remember the lame-duck temporary income tax increase agreed to by the Legislature and Quinn back in January 2011, which raised individual and business income tax rates significantly.

Those tax hikes expire mostly in 11 months. While Quinn has declined to state his position on whether they should be renewed, his budget address does not have the luxury of equivocation.

To accurately plan the 2014-15 state budget, Quinn must state what he thinks should be done about revenue.

His administration already predicted that the expiration of the temporary income tax increase would mean a revenue decline of about $2 billion for the second half of the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Hovering over all this is the specter of the primary election on March 18, in which Quinn faces token opposition, and the general election on Nov. 4.

From Quinn’s perspective, it’s better to delay bad news for voters until after an election. Because he previously persuaded the Legislature to postpone budget addresses, why not get them to agree to delay this one until after the primary?

People who are skeptical of Quinn’s motives might have hit the nail on the head.

For its part, the governor’s office put forth perfectly logical reasons for seeking the delay.

For one thing, the governor needs more time to consider late-arriving economic news, according to Brooke Anderson, a spokeswoman.

For another, Quinn wants to lay out a 5-year budget blueprint “to really show the meaningful impact over the next 5 years and where Illinois could be,” Anderson said.

Never mind that a single-year budget is all that Quinn is required to produce.

Many Republicans scoffed at what they saw as a politically driven delay. But we imagine procrastinators across the state stood up and cheered. They, better than anyone, appreciate passable, if slightly insincere, excuses for putting off distasteful chores.

We don’t know whether Quinn will win re-election in the fall, but for his performance in putting off the delivery of bad political news until after the primary, he’s certainly the front-runner to receive Man of the Year honors from Illinois’ procrastinators – if they ever get around to it.

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