Our View: Governor Pat Quinn rolled out last week something that Illinois desperately needs: leadership.
Quinn found his voice in bold back-to-back announcements of plans to tackle Illinois’ most intractable and daunting budget problems: unaffordable Medicaid and unaffordable pension programs.
Despite heaping praise on task forces composed of bi-partisan groups of lawmakers tasked with supplying bi-partisan solutions, the lawmakers deadlocked on bi-partisan plans. Instead of waiting for lawmakers to continue their haggling, Quinn stuck out his neck with his own detailed plans to stabilize both programs which are blowing gaping holes in the Illinois budget.
On cue, entrenched interest groups of the status quo and oxes aiming to be gored, cried foul, cried unconstitutional, and just, well, cried in reaction to the governor’s plans. However, amidst their cries, they offered no proposals of their own to plug the Illinois budget deficit being driven by Illinois Medicaid and Illinois pension costs.
Quinn did what no other elected official has done. He put concrete plans on the table that had brutal cuts to Illinois’ health care program for the poor, including cutting the number adult diapers supplied to incontinent individuals and requiring state retirees to pay a health care insurance premium. That took courage.
As one House lawmaker said, “Boy, did Quinn show some balls or what?”
It’s the same type of kind courage–or balls–that Quinn displayed when he called for an income tax increase to balance Illinois’ chronically unbalanced budget despite the howls of mostly unprintable reactions. The governor’s income tax hike proposal zigged, zagged and zigged some more before he finally signed the law that boosted the individual income tax from 3% to 5% in January 2011.
In 2014, voters may not reward Quinn for his courage. His approval rating is currently hovering at 36%. But if he stays the course and avoids his past penchant for zigging and zagging at warp speed, history will reward Quinn.