Governor Pat Quinn's 2013 State of the State address was pathetically political.
These speeches are always politically charged, but they usually at least spell out some of the challenges the state is facing and propose some concepts for solving them. Not this one.
The governor chose not to address the General Assembly and the people of Illinois on the major issues facing the state: the nation's worst credit rating, the nation's most underfunded pensions, constant budget deficits, high unemployment, struggling schools, out-migration of taxpayers and slow economic growth.
Instead, he used the speech to kick off his own long shot re-election bid. He ignored all of the state's major problems and instead proposed cat-nip for the state's wealthy, liberal political donors: a major increase in the state's minimum wage, passage of a gay marriage bill, a ban on "assault weapons," allowing online voter registration and proposing an open primary method that would make it harder to to defeat incumbent Democrats. It would also make it harder for Republicans to make it into the general election for statewide office.
He only briefly mentioned the poor condition of the state's pension systems.
Governor Quinn will have to engage the fiscal crisis next month when he proposes a formal budget for the state. He has proven to be completely ineffective at negotiating a pension reform deal so it will probably come down to Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker, Michael Madigan, to get their membership to sign onto a deal that will outrage public and private sector unions.
The outrage that a pension deal will draw is probably the reason for Quinn's unexpected call for open primaries. In an open primary, candidates from all political parties compete for votes in the primary round and the top two vote-getters move on to the general election in November. This method strips traditional political parties and their bases of power in the primary process. While the main point of the move may be to eliminate Republicans in the primary so they can't make it to a statewide general election, the short term benefit is for incumbent Democrats.
If the Democrats in Springfield choose to embark on pension reform that angers union members who make up their political base, they will want to avoid being challenged by union-backed candidates in the 2014 primaries. If there is an open primary, incumbents will be able to use their name identification, familiarity with voters and fund raising capacity to ensure a top 2 finish. Once they secure a spot in the general election, where the electorate is less liberally charged, their chances of re-election are very good.
Since the governor refuses to address the real state of Illinois, here are the numbers for you to examine yourself. Perhaps we will just have to figure it all out on our own since the people we elected to do it can't or won't:
Illinois Population: 12,875,255 people (5th largest state by population). 61 of the 102 counties in the state lost population between 2000 and 2010.
Unemployment Rate: 8.7% as of December 2012.
Median Household Income: $56,576. Per person, the average income is $29,376.
State GSP: $670.7 billion (3.7% growth from previous year) in 2011, $604.5 billion (4.4% growth) from private industries. GSP for 2012 has not yet been officially released.
Unfunded pension liability: At least $96.8 billion, Based on actuarial results, the funded ratios of the five largest pension/benefit systems range from a low of 21.2 % to a high of 46.5%. Overall the five pensions systems are only 39% funded. The state teachers retirement fund is the worst of the bunch.
Population Growth: 3.3%, 41st out of 50 states. The state's population grew older in the 2000s as young people moved away and the life expectancy of the elderly grew longer and baby boomers continued to move toward retirement. More than 250,000 residents are now age 85 or older.
Net Migration: Nearly 230,000 more people moved out of Illinois than moved in between 2000 and 2009. The biggest group of people leaving the state were 30 - 45 year old adults. Excluding international immigration, the state lost about 13.5 people to other states for every 10 domestic migrants that it received. Illinois loses 36,317 people between ages 10 and 29 each year.
Child Birth Rate: Lowest since 1976.
Households: Significant decrease in children living in families with married parents who live together and an increase in the number of families where a child does not have two married parents. The state’s poverty rate among for unmarried parents is (34.2 percent), almost five times higher than for residents who are married-with-children (7.1 percent).
Race: The Latino population is rapidly expanding in Illinois along with modest growth in the number of Asians. White and black residents are declining as a percentage of the whole state's population.
Education: Illinois has the highest high school dropout rate in the nation. 69.3% of residents age 25+ don't possess a bachelor's degree or higher.
Poverty: 13.1% live below the federal poverty level.
NOTE: Much of the data for this entry was pulled from United State Census Bureau Community Survey reports and the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs Illinois Report 2012.
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