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Quinn: ‘We will pay our bills’

llinois Gov. PQuinn takes oath office as sons Patrick David watch during inaugural ceremonies Monday Springfield. | AP

llinois Gov. Pat Quinn takes the oath of office as sons Patrick and David watch during inaugural ceremonies Monday in Springfield. | AP

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Updated: April 19, 2011 5:16AM

SPRINGFIELD-Mixing pomp, partying and talk of a tax hike, Gov. Quinn was sworn into office Monday, promising to create a “government of ideals” and to resolve a suffocating fiscal crisis “very, very soon.”

To the rockabilly of The Million Dollar Quartet, the state’s 41st governor boogied into the night with Chicago businesswoman Monica Walker at a black-tie, privately funded, inaugural gala. Aides described Walker as a “friend” of the governor.

Quinn and Walker shared the ceremonial first dance to George Strait’s “I Just Want To Dance With You,” at about 10 p.m.

The partying came on the eve of an expected, make-or-break vote on a scaled-back income-tax hike plan, which Quinn considers the key to escaping a $15 billion fiscal crisis that ranks as the top issue confronting his new administration.

Earlier Monday, Quinn placed his hand on a family Bible, took the oath of office from Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke and flashed a broad smile as about 2,000 supporters gave him a rousing standing ovation.

“Today is our giant hour, and nothing less than gianthood will do for all of us in Illinois to confront our awesome challenges,” Quinn said later, quoting Illinois’ late poet laureate Gwendolyn Brooks in a roughly 25-minute inaugural address.

“I want to be a humble governor who’s proud of our people,” Quinn said.

Quinn’s swearing in came as he moved to scale back a proposed 75-percent income tax hike and $1-a-pack cigarette tax increase and the Senate sent him a plan to end free bus and train rides for senior citizens in six months.

Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) floated a temporary, four-year increase in the 3-percent individual income tax to 5 percent instead of 5 ¼ percent as earlier proposed. They also pitched increasing the corporate income tax from 4.8 percent to 7 percent instead of 8.4 percent.

As part of the revised revenue package, spending increases would be capped at 1.7 percent per year over the four-year lifespan of the tax hike; any spending in excess would cause the tax rate to revert to its current level, legislative sources said.

An infusion of new funds for schools and $325 property-tax rebates for homeowners remained part of the package, though they were tied to passage of the cigarette tax, which has been stalled in the House for months.

It was unclear whether those changes would jumpstart the governor’s tax-hike push among Democrats. Most Republican seemed to be in lockstep against any tax hike and hoped to run out the clock on this lame-duck legislative session, which ends at noon Wednesday.

“I think the governor and the leaders should let a new Legislature be sworn in, the one people elected, so we can deal with the crisis reasonably,” said Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), Quinn’s vanquished rival in the November election.

During his speech, which began with a tribute by Quinn to the victims of the Arizona shooting, the governor made an oblique reference to impeached ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich and to the evolving tax package.

“I’m here today to say we’ve restored integrity and honesty to the office of governor,” Quinn said, interrupted by applause, “and we have replaced a government of deals with a government of ideals.

“We also understand after dealing with a serious, serious integrity crisis that harmed the fiber of our government, that we also must deal with a fiscal crisis. I’m here today to say we will pay our bills, that we will stabilize our budget,” Quinn said. “We will strengthen our economy. We will do that, and we will do that very, very soon.”

The governor was joined on the stage by his mother, Eileen, sons David and Patrick, and brothers Thomas and John. There was also a who’s who of Illinois politics at the event, including Mayor Daley, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), former Gov. James Thompson, the statewide officeholders and legislative leaders.

During his speech, Quinn choked up when he referred to his late father and Marine Capt. Ryan Beaupre, who died in Iraq in 2004. He also showed flashes of humility, drawing the biggest laugh of his address when he recalled the political ups and downs of his more than three-decade long career in government, which is now at its zenith.

“I haven’t won every election. I lost a few along the way,” the governor said. “And there is a saying, one day a peacock, the next day a feather duster. I’ve been there.”

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