POLITICS -- February 20, 2012 at 5:25 PM EDT
Illinois Gov. Quinn Outlines State's Budget Priorities
UPDATE | This post was updated Thursday, Feb. 23.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recently sat down with NewsHour correspondent Ray Suarez to outline his plan for building a stronger, more competitive state economy. In addition to job creation, the Democratic governor cited the need for continued pension reform and investments in infrastructure. He also talked about making tough choices in tough times, defending last year's unpopular income tax hike.
"That's never easy," Quinn said. "But it was important for our state to right the fiscal ship, to tell credit agencies that we are going to make hard choices, and make economies that were necessary."
To help get things moving again, Quinn said that unlike other states, Illinois would welcome federal dollars. He highlighted state plans to build high-speed rail lines from Chicago to St. Louis and from Chicago to Detroit, and the potential economic benefits. He was perplexed by the decisions of other governors to turn back the money.
"I think it's puzzling why they wouldn't want to take federal money to build something important that creates jobs today and really makes your economy work better by lowering transportation times, which is very important in Illinois," he said.
But with the federal government tightening its belt and the economic recovery still precarious, Quinn has a challenging road ahead.
On Wednesday, Quinn delivered his budget proposal, which affiliate WTTW in Chicago noted the governor has dubbed, "The state's rendezvous with reality."
The proposal includes changes to the pension system and Medicaid payments and the closure of several prisons. Quinn said in his speech that "too much money is spent on public worker pensions and health care for the poor, and too many loopholes have been carved into the state's tax code for businesses," and suggested task forces complete studies into how to create reforms, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The Tribune reported that Quinn suggested closings of mental health centers and social service offices as well, and that "without major changes, the Medicaid program could collapse, and the pension systems will require so much money that funding for education, health care and public safety would suffer."
Watch WTTW's report on the budget here.