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Kadner: Quinn’s message: Run, Lisa, run!

Governor PQuinn Vetoed Senate Bill 1652 which stops State's Electric Utilities from imposing billions rate hikes by ComEd.  Governor

Governor Pat Quinn Vetoed Senate Bill 1652, which stops State's Electric Utilities from imposing billions in rate hikes by ComEd. Governor Quinn was joined by Attorney General Lisa Madigan and advocates from across the state at the Thompson Center, Monday, September 12, 2011. | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times.

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Updated: April 8, 2013 7:46AM



Run, Lisa, run.

That was my reaction to Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget address on Wednesday.

It was a clear call for new leadership in Illinois, and Lisa Madigan, the state attorney general, ought to enter the race for governor.

Quinn is no leader. He is unable to rally public opinion. The Legislature repeatedly turns a deaf ear to his pleas for pension reform. He has no idea how to move the state forward.

Some newspaper editorial writers have written that Madigan should not run for office unless her father steps down as speaker of the House of Representatives. I think voters are capable of deciding for themselves if a father-daughter power combo bothers them.

With Quinn at about a 25 percent approval rating in some polls, the people of Illinois are desperate to hear a different kind of message from their governor.

Whether that’s Madigan or someone else makes no difference to me.

I just want to see as many qualified people as possible competing in next year’s gubernatorial election, and the attorney general is certainly one of those people.

Quinn’s budget proposal includes an estimated $400 million in cuts to public education, including about $150 million cut in general state aid for local schools and another $145 million slashed in transportation funding.

That’s going to mean either higher property tax bills on already stressed-out homeowners and businesses or cuts in classroom programs.

For the 117th time, Quinn told legislators that they have to do something about pension reform.

It’s really, really, really important, guys. This time I mean it, the governor said.

I half expected him to threaten to lie down on the floor and hold his breath until the House and Senate acted.

Apparently, Quinn believes saying the same words over and over will result in a different outcome. He has repeatedly said he doesn’t want the Legislature to focus on anything but pension reform, believing lawmakers are unable to walk and chew gum at the same time.

But they did pass legislation to expand gambling that could have generated millions of dollars in new income, and the governor vetoed the bill, contending that it would allow for mob influence and political corruption.

On Wednesday, Quinn said he could sign a new gambling bill if the new revenue went to education and paid down the teachers’ pension system’s debt.

There’s no way to guarantee that any revenue from casinos would increase the general education budget or reduce the pension debt.

For example, Illinois lawmakers made the same sort of promise about lottery money, then failed to adequately increase education funding over decades to keep pace with school spending. As a result, despite the lottery revenue, the percentage of state support for public education in Illinois is at an all-time low.

In addition to turning his back on gambling revenue, the governor has also failed to aggressively pursue one of the largest public works projects in Illinois, a south suburban airport. While the state buys land for the airport, Quinn has not designated a governing authority that would speed federal approval of the project.

Jobs, businesses and people have moved out of south Cook County to northwest Indiana while Illinois political leaders have failed to achieve the new airport, which could generate millions of dollars in tax money and create jobs.

There are many who say the airport plan is a white elephant. I disagree.

But the governor should either do everything he can to make the airport happen or kill the idea.

That’s what leaders are hired to do. Make major decisions. Bring people together. Provide a vision for those who cannot see the future.

Illinois teeters on the brink of financial calamity. And while people point to pension reform as the way out, the fact is that any solution won’t provide relief for the state’s short-term spending and income gap.

Despite a temporary income tax increase that generates about $7 billion a year, the state is unable to pay its bills. And Quinn and other political leaders imply they are willing to let that tax increase expire in 2015.

What they should do is replace the state’s flat income tax with a graduated one that would not only raise more money but would be based on a person’s ability to pay.

I do not know what Lisa Madigan, or any other potential candidate for governor, thinks about these things. But I want to hear what they have to say.

I would like to hear Madigan talk about her father’s leadership in the House, the state’s failure to make pension payments for decades and the lack of public education funding.

Is there anyone willing to suggest that Lisa Madigan would be a worse governor than Rod Blagojevich?

Or George Ryan? Or Pat Quinn?

Quinn is certainly not to blame for the problems of this state. He’s just the guy unable to solve them.

There are Republicans who believe they can do better. Great. I want to hear them explain how they would work with a Democratic House and Senate.

Or do they just want a local version of the political gridlock that grips Washington, D.C., where every vote devolves into a crisis?

Hey, maybe it doesn’t matter in Illinois, where even Democrats can’t agree among themselves on solutions to our problems.

Actually, I don’t know why any ambitious politician would want to be governor of this state.

If Madigan wants to do it, that might actually be a hopeful sign. I mean, she’s got to know about all the financial time bombs ticking away in Springfield.

Quinn used to think he had all the answers. It turns out, he didn’t even know the key question.

How do you lead Illinois?



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