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Reeder: Gov. Quinn not the same guy as activist Quinn

Scott Reeder

Scott Reeder

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Updated: December 1, 2013 7:56AM



Will the real Pat Quinn stand up?

One of the trademarks of the old Pat Quinn, the political activist who existed before he became lieutenant governor and then governor, is that you knew where he stood.

You may not have always liked his positions, but his resoluteness was admirable.

Today? Not so much.

When asked recently by another reporter whether he supports keeping the temporary income tax increase from 3 percent to 5 percent after it expires at the end of 2014, here’s how it went:

QUINN: “Well I think we have to deal with the pension reform, which is the No. 1 fiscal, financial issue.”

REPORTER: “But ... you campaigned on raising the income tax, should it stay in place?”

QUINN: “I have worked very hard on pension reform. I know the committee that I proposed ...”

In journalism, that’s what we call a non-answer.

Voters deserve to know where their chief executive, who is seeking re-election, stands on one of the most important issues facing the state of Illinois.

I liked the old Pat Quinn better. He didn’t hesitate to take a position. Apparently, that’s not the case anymore.

A few weeks ago, I asked all of the gubernatorial candidates where they stood on a constitutional amendment being promoted by Republican candidate Bruce Rauner. The measure would limit the terms of state legislators, reduce the number of senators and slightly increase the number of House members.

When I asked a Quinn spokesman by email whether Quinn opposes the amendment because it includes enlarging the House, the spokesman answered, “yes.”

That would seem a straightforward and unambiguous answer. You can read the full email exchange on ilnews.org.

But after my article was published, reporting Quinn’s stance, another Quinn aide started telling newspaper editors that wasn’t what was said.

When I got wind of this, I filed a request for the second aide’s emails under Illinois’ freedom of information law and found out that was exactly what was said.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. After all, it’s possible the original spokesman misspoke or the governor changed his position. Or perhaps there wasn’t adequate communication between two spokesmen.

So I asked Quinn spokesman Abdon Pallasch to clarify where the governor stands on the amendment. He declined.

So we’re unsure where the governor stands on two important issues — whether the tax increase should be made permanent and the proposed constitutional amendment on term limits for lawmakers.

The people of Illinois deserve to know where candidates stand on issues. Without such information, voters can’t make informed decisions.

When the administration chooses obfuscation, the people deserve better.

Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist-in-residence at the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonprofit research group that supports the free market and limited government.



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