Illinois’s Gov. Pat Quinn faces a daunting to-do list
Blagojevich's replacement, known as populist with an unassuming manner, has inherited a state government in crisis.
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“We have a duty, a mission to restore the faith of the people of Illinois in the integrity of their government,” he said in remarks following his swearing in. On Friday, he declared a “year of reform,” and said he would push to move the state’s primary back from February to September, since he believes that the focus for now should be governing, rather than campaigning. His first official act as governor was to make the ethics commission he created following Blagojevich’s arrest a permanent body under the governor’s office. He asked the commission for suggestions on cleaning up Illinois politics within 100 days.Skip to next paragraph
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But while Quinn seems clear on where he wants to go when it comes to ethics and reform, the bigger challenge may be dealing with the state’s fiscal crises. Illinois faces a budget deficit of around $4 billion, is behind on payments to healthcare and day-care providers, faces rising unemployment, and has been trying to get a major capital-spending bill passed for some time. A budget is due Feb. 15, though Quinn has asked for a one-month extension.
“The first budget will be simply to get the state government functional again. No one has been willing to make a decision for four or five months now,” says Dick Simpson, a political scientist at the University of Illinois in Chicago and a former Chicago alderman.
“The good news is that he’s been in state government for quite a while, he understands the budget,” says Professor Simpson. It’s less clear how well he’ll be able to work with state lawmakers and how well he’ll be able to manage something as huge as the state government.
“He’ll have a 100-day honeymoon when things can get done,” says Simpson. “After that, there will be inevitable clashes with other political figures.”
Even those who disagree with him on most policy issues acknowledge there’s never been any hint of corruption surrounding Quinn.
“His first political job was on the Cook County Board of Review. That’s an excellent place to get bribes, but my understanding is he was absolutely honest,” says Ann Lousin, a professor at John Marshall Law School and a former Illinois House parliamentarian, who has often found herself on the opposite sides of issues from Quinn over the years.
Professor Lousin is still skeptical about how good a governor he’ll be, and says she hopes he’ll spend more time on the fiscal crisis and less on pet issues like giving people the power of recall. But like many, she’s mostly relieved to see someone new.