The Hewletts, from Tremont, were touring the Capitol with their
daughter and two sons. Jerry Howlett has the time to tour the
Statehouse because he is out of work.
The former hospital
caseworker, who has been unemployed since September, was skeptical
of the governor's promises of tax credits for employers.
"I'd like to see some tax cuts," Howlett said, "but that's not
something I think is going to happen."
Howlett was not the only person skeptical under the Statehouse
dome on Wednesday.
Democrats and Republicans, state representatives and state
senators said Quinn laid out an agenda that will cost the state
money that Illinois does not have.
State Sen. Christine Johnson, R-DeKalb, said Illinois is looking
at a $130 billion pension debt and Medicaid bills that could top $14
billion this year. She doesn't understand why the governor wants to
spend more money on new programs.
"I live in the state of Illinois," Johnson said. "I don't know
what state Gov. Quinn lives in."
Johnson, and many Senate Republicans, were quick to say they do
not see how Illinois can offer tax credits for families or offer
housing opportunities in Chicago while schools and local communities
are being shortchanged by the state.
Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, said the governor's heart is the
right place, but the state cannot afford his good intentions.
"Everyone supports veterans, and kids, and education. But the
problem is, how do we pay for that support?" Jacobs said.
The governor spent most of his 35-minute speech talking up new
programs or highlighting his three years as governor. Quinn only
briefly mentioned Illinois' fiscal woes, and he touched on the need
for Medicaid and pension reform.
Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, said Quinn will need to get
specific on Medicaid and pensions in three weeks, when the governor
delivers his budget address.
"There's two 800-pound gorillas sitting in the room, and that's
the need for Medicaid reform and the pension situation," Sullivan
said. "We as a state need to come up with some solutions."
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State Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, used his own circus animal
metaphor to criticize Quinn for the same lack of specifics.
"The elephant in the room today was the fiscal calamity that our
state is facing," LaHood said. "And to not have those addressed
today was a little bit disconcerting."
Quinn's office is quick to say that the budget speech will
include more details about how the governor plans to address both
pensions and Medicaid financial difficulties.
But Warren Ribley, director of the Illinois Department of
Commerce and Economic Opportunity, said "it's too early" to say what
those details will include.
State Rep. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, said it likely will not matter
what Quinn says in the budget speech, just like she said it does not
matter what he said in the State of the State speech.
"I'm very disillusioned. I'm very disappointed," Tracy said. "But
we have to get back to work. Speeches don't solve problems, but
getting back to work does."
Statehouse News; By BENJAMIN YOUNT and ANTHONY BRINO]