In a wide-ranging, hour-long address that covered topics from the importance of education to bringing prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to his state, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) said he plans to cut the general fund budget by $2 billion and called for increased, yet fairer, taxes in his Jan. 13 state of the state speech.
"We have to make sure that everyone is listening to the truth, because our state, as you know, has a severe budget deficit," Quinn told the Democratic-controlled General Assembly. "We have done everything we can this year to try to manage this financial crisis. It's the worst financial calamity that Illinois has ever had."
Calling the current tax system "unfair," Quinn said the state should move away from reliance on property taxes and "other levies that are not based on ability to pay." He added, "There is a principle as old as the Bible: that taxes should be based on ability to pay." With proper reform, he said, taxes could be cut for 5 million people while also raising enough revenue to stave off drastic cuts to state services.
Quinn, who faces a primary challenge in February and is up for reelection this fall, said he will seek budget cuts, but they must be "focused" to minimize possible ill-effects. He mentioned Illinois' $1 billion corrections budget — one of the state's largest departments — as an example of an area where any cuts must be properly managed.
"Our society has to ask itself, 'Is the best way to punish a low ? level, non ? violent offender — someone who has committed a crime and has to serve some kind of punishment — is it the best way to have them go to a state prison, with its cost?'" Quinn said. "I think it's important in our state that we examine this issue."