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Southland lawmakers, business leaders: Quinn’s address comes up short

Anthony DeLuca

Anthony DeLuca

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Updated: February 6, 2013 6:04PM

Southland lawmakers and business owners on Wednesday had plenty to say about Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s State of the State address.

State Rep. Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights) said he liked how Quinn touched upon his accomplishments, including ending the state scholarship program, putting caps on political contributions, and reforming workers compensation.

DeLuca said he was less thrilled to hear Quinn say little about the Illiana Expressway, a southeast Metra rail line, or a casino in the south suburbs. He also said he didn’t like how Quinn put pension reform on the shoulders of the legislators.

“I don’t like too much when he stands there and preaches like we are the problem,” DeLuca said. “We know it’s a problem and we know it didn’t happen overnight.”

State Rep. William Davis (D-Hazel Crest) said he wished Quinn would have made stronger statements about pension reform.

“He wants to tread lightly but if he’s the governor, he’s supposed to provide leadership and take advantage and say, ‘This is what we need to do,’ ” Davis said.

Patty Schuss, spokeswoman for State Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), said the senate Republican leader was disappointed Quinn didn’t spend more time talking about the state’s fiscal situation.

“He spent less than 30 seconds talking about pension reform, which is a critical element of getting the state back on track,” Schuss said.

She also said Quinn’s speech was his “first campaign speech” for the 2014 gubernatorial election.

“It was his campaign kickoff,” Schuss said. “He was aiming his appeal at his base voters.”

State Rep. Renee Kosel (R-New Lenox) was also underwhelmed with Quinn’s statements regarding pension reform.

“He came up with no ideas to get both sides together to get things done,” Kosel said. “It is going to be difficult, but you know what? Show some leadership and let’s work it out.”

Local business leaders were also critical of Quinn, both on pension reform and his suggestion to increase the state’s minimum wage to $10 per hour.

“It’s the absolute wrong timing to do something like this. and it doesn’t seem to stop,” said Chicago Franchise Systems president David C. Howey Jr., whose business sells restaurant franchises. “It’s a snowball, and it’s a very dangerous snowball.”

David Hinderliter, the president and chief executive officer of the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce, called the measure to raise the minimum wage “anti-job.” He said restaurants would be less willing to hire teenagers if they had to pay them $10 an hour.

“I understand the emotional side, but the business side says that’s not realistic,” Hinderliter said. “I think all business groups will be against the minimum wage (increase).”

Hinderliter called pension reform the state’s “No. 1 problem.”

“We have to fix our pension problem in order to fix any of our challenges,” he said.

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