Quinn supports educational improvements during State of the State address

By Joe Palmer

State Senator Christine Johnson, R-Sycamore, said Gov. Pat Quinn avoided some major issues affecting Illinois in his State of the State address Wednesday.

“The two biggest issues in Illinois right now are pension reform and the cost of Medicaid,” Johnson said. “Quinn barely addressed these issues, and proposed little to solve them.”

The address focused on a number of issues, including the Governor’s goal to increase funding and support for educational improvements in the state.

“Now, at a time when student loan debt is more than credit card debt, too many deserving students don’t have access to higher education,” Quinn said.

In an upcoming speech, Quinn will address budgeting and other economic plans more specifically. Part of his plan is to ask for a significant increase in MAP grant funding.

Such an increase in grant funding could have a positive effect on students in Illinois.

Nearly 5,000 NIU students use state-funded MAP grants in order to afford tuition and other school-related fees. About 150,000 students use this grant money statewide, said President John Peters during a recent University Counsel meeting.

“We are still behind in cash flow payments,” Peters said. “But I appreciate all the hard work people do in order to keep these doors open.”

The address also introduced the Illinois Jobs Agenda of 2012.

“The Illinois Jobs Agenda includes three targeted tax cuts that will build and grow our economy by helping our employers, our working families and our veterans,” Quinn said.

The proposed tax cuts are the removal of the Illinois natural gas utility tax, a tax credit for parents raising children and a tax credit to businesses that hire veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. These proposals will alleviate some of the pressure on Illinois taxpayers, Quinn said.

Johnson said Quinn’s proposed tax cuts have merit to them, but she is concerned about the ability of Illinois to afford such programs.

“We need to let people have their own money to spend,” Johnson said. “Rolling back previously instituted tax hikes would have been a more significant step.”

Some other members of the General Assembly, like State Senator Mike Jacobs, D-Moline, agree that Quinn’s plan holds merit, but is not a big enough step forward.

“Today, the governor proposed aiding working families by increasing the current child tax credit, which I agree is needed,” Jacobs said. “However, I don’t think that is enough.”

In his second State of the State address since becoming governor, Quinn praised Illinois for improvements in every sector from growth in the manufacturing industry to a dramatic climb in state exports.

“In the past three years, we’ve worked together to strengthen our economy and make Illinois a better place to do business,” Quinn said.

Quinn went on to list improvements within the state’s infrastructure, including almost 6,000 miles of highway renovations over the last three years. He also mentioned the series of repairs and modernizations that have taken place in many Illinois schools, including the re-purposing of Cole Hall.

Editor’s Note: Campus Editor Kelly Bauer and The Associated Press contributed to this article.