ISN fact checks Quinn’s State of the State

By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Statehouse News

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Statehouse News spoke with lawmakers, a university president and people outside of the state Capitol to go between the lines of Gov. Pat Quinn’s State of the State


In 35 minutes, Quinn outlined his agenda for the spring legislative session, referring to investments in higher education and tax breaks designed to employ more veterans for his 2012 jobs agenda.

However, he only briefly referenced Illinois’ crushing pension and Medicaid debt.


Higher education

Quinn challenged lawmakers to increase the amount of money available to students from low-income families as part of the Monetary Awards Program, or MAP, Grant program. 

“While nearly 150,000 Illinois students received state MAP scholarships last year …, just as many qualified applicants were denied because of a lack of funding,” Quinn said. 

In fiscal 2012, the current state budget, Illinois is on pace to spend $420 million. Last year, Illinois spent $390 million. 

But the state will need to balance more spending in the MAP program next year with the hundreds of millions of dollars in state aid payments the state owes to colleges and universities.

But Poshard is quick to say he’d rather see students get more in MAP grants.

Kelly Kraft, Quinn’s budget spokeswoman, said the governor will deliver more specifics on his plans for the MAP program during his budget speech on Feb. 22. 


Job creation credits

The governor touted his job creation history: more jobs at Chicago’s Ford automobile manufacturing plant and Belvidere’s Chrysler automobile manufacturing plant, and of course large increases in the number of soybeans shipped overseas. 

Ford is spending about $117 million and adding 400 jobs, while Chrysler is adding 400 to 500 workers to build newly designed cars.

But Quinn said more needs to be done when he presented his Jobs Agenda for 2012, which he said will “grow our economy by helping our employers, our working families and our veterans.”

The jobs agenda includes investments in high-tech infrastructure to build what he calls “gigabyte” communities, investments in education to have a better trained workforce. 

The governor also wants a tax credit, worth between $5 million and $10 million annually, to help veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars find work. 

Doug Whitley, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, which advocates for businesses statewide, said Illinois already has a $1,200 tax credit for businesses that hire veterans, but it is underused.

Whitley said he doesn’t know why the credit is not more popular, but Quinn’s push to hire veterans may popularize that tax credit. 

“We have 100,000 veterans coming home … and Gov. Quinn is reminding employers that they need to be sensitized to the needs of hiring veterans,” Whitley said. “I think it was a positive element” in the speech.


Medicaid and pensions

Illinois two biggest expenses, Medicaid and pensions, were eyed for reform in Quinn’s speech, but he did not elaborate on how that would be accomplished.

“No reform is easy,” Quinn said at the end of his speech. “And reforming our Medicaid and public pension systems will require real political courage.”

Lawmakers blasted the governor for not offering more details. 

Kraft said those details will come in three weeks when the governor delivers his budget address.

Wednesday’s “focus was the vision for our state,” Kraft said.

“It would have been a little more intellectually honest to acknowledge what an overwhelming fiscal crisis the state is facing,” said Redfield. “Even if we really cut down to the core services and increase revenue, we’re still going to have a hard time keeping it together.”

Redfield said that Medicaid spending may be the biggest problem for Illinois this year, adding that Medicaid is “almost insolvable.”

Originally reported by Illinois Statehouse News. Read the original article here.

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