Doug Whitley chuckled when asked for a reaction to Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget address, which was delivered Wednesday.
Whitley, the president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and a Batavia resident, said there were laudable items in Quinn’s address. But Whitley added that the presentation didn’t really resemble its label.
“The humorous part on that is, what budget?” Whitley said. “I didn’t think it was a budget address. It was a political address. … It was really short on any type of details.”
There was some support for Quinn’s address, in which he proposed keeping an income-tax increase that will expire at the end of the year, in the name of avoiding cuts to education.
He also proposed providing every homeowner in Illinois with a guaranteed $500 property tax refund.
Quinn stressed education funding, saying “we’re moving to modernize classrooms across the state. Every classroom in Illinois should be a classroom of the future. The great equalizer in our democracy is public education. All students – no matter where they live – deserve to go to a first-rate school.”
Local Republican state officials criticized the Democratic governor’s address, as did his opponent in the November election, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner. Whitley said Quinn touched on themes that would be “appealing to voters,” such as education, property tax relief and pension reform. But as far as the $500 refund, Whitley said “it’s easy for a politician to talk about sending people checks. … The other side of it is not taking the money in the first place.”
In a statement, Rauner said Quinn was breaking a promise by keeping the income-tax increase, a 67 percent increase that was approved in 2011. Rauner said Quinn promised the tax would be temporary, and “he broke that promise.”
“After five years of Pat Quinn’s failed leadership, we have record tax hikes, outrageously high unemployment, massive cuts in education, and there’s still a giant budget mess in Springfield,” Rauner said. “It’s now or never to save Illinois.”
State Rep. Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville, said she was disappointed but not surprised with the address, saying Quinn chose campaign themes over workable plans to create jobs and heal the economy.
“Today, the governor proposed more election-year spending and more taxes, neither of which we can afford,” Hatcher said in a statement.
State Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, asked why Quinn wants “to make the 2011 ‘temporary’ income tax hike permanent? Most of us would be a little more willing to put up with higher taxes if we believed those dollars were spent efficiently.” Instead, he said, there has been waste, and he asks, “where is that money?”
• Bloomberg News contributed to this story