CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday defended his call for “investment” in several new programs in his State of the State Address, even though the state is in a budget crisis.
In the address earlier this week the governor outlined a number of noble goals, but gave no clear indication of how the state would pay for his ideas. Among the ideas were investments to upgrade school infrastructure and maintain clean water, and a $6 million competition to build ultra-high-speed broadband in neighborhoods across the state.
But in an editorial Thursday, the Chicago Tribune mocked Quinn’s plans by comparing them to Eliza Doolittle’s dreamy and unrealistic vision for a room with “one enormous chair,” and “lots of choc’late for me to eat,” in the song “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” from Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady.”
“Wouldn’t it be loverly, too, if Illinois could afford the lavish wish list that the governor crooned during his State of the State address — a fabulous treasure of new spending notions and tax breaks. If only, that is, history didn’t exist,” the Tribune said.
But in reality, the Tribune editorial went on, the state is in such poor financial condition that Moody’s Investors Service has rated it the least creditworthy of any state. The state now has nearly $200 billion in debts, pension obligations and unpaid bills, the Tribune said.
But speaking on the CBS 2 Morning News Friday, Quinn took a Keynesian view of the state’s economic situation, and argued that government spending in the form of “investment” will actually help close the budget gap in the long run.
“You have to invest in job creation,” Quinn said. “The best way to get out of our budget mess – a better budget – is to have more jobs; more revenue from those jobs. And so we have to invest in housing, clean water, and fixing up our schools. This puts people to work today, and they have revenue in their pocket and it will help us with our better budget. So I really believe in a tough time, you have to invest in your state.”
Quinn said budget cuts are necessary too, but cutting the budget in a vacuum will not solve the state’s fiscal problems.
“You have to invest. In tough times, you can’t just cut,” Quinn said. “We’ve got to cut – no question about it – but you’ve got to build and grow your economy. It’s very important.”
He argued that the state’s long-term fiscal health is dependent on job creation, and also suggested tax cuts for working families.
“We have to get more employment in Illinois; more job growth. We’ve created 100,000 jobs in Illinois in the past two years. Twenty thousand of them are manufacturing jobs,” Quinn said. “We must stay on this pace. We cannot relent. We have to go forward. I do believe in tax cuts; giving a family a $50 per child tax cut is a god way to get more consumer spending, and that’s another way to get more jobs.”
Quinn also touted an announcement Thursday that Chrysler is bringing 1,800 new jobs to the Belvidere Assembly Plant. The new workers will build the Dodge Dart at the plant, which had only 200 employees when Quinn took office, but will have 4,200 by this summer.
““We invested about $60 million a couple of years ago, and Chrysler invested $700 million, and they’re going to do even do more with these 1,800 new manufacturing jobs,” Quinn said.
The governor added that even more job opportunities are coming in Illinois.
““If you’re able-bodied and you’re breathing, I want you working in Illinois, and I think everybody feels that way,” Quinn said. “The best way to keep families together, the best way to fight crime and fight poverty, is a J-O-B.”
Quinn said job opportunities will soon be coming in south suburban Harvey once crews finish the demolition of the Dixie Square Mall – a facility famous for its appearance in “The Blues Brothers,” but infamous for being shuttered and left to decay for 33 years. New retail will be constructed on the site, bringing new employment opportunities for south suburban residents, Quinn said.
Other job opportunities will arise from the construction of a high-speed rail line from Chicago to St. Louis, and investment in construction, housing and clean water, Quinn said.
At 2 p.m. Friday, Quinn will join Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in Berwyn to announce a plan to return vacant properties to productive use and increase affordable housing options. The plan is part of Quinn’s 2012 Illinois Jobs Agenda.