Quinn: China trade mission worth the cost to taxpayers
BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND ABDON M. PALLASCH Staff reporters September 15, 2011 4:36PM
Updated: September 15, 2011 9:33PM
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn Friday will embark on the first trade mission to China by an Illinois governor since Republican Jim Edgar’s era in a bid to boost exports with the state’s third largest foreign trading partner.
“They see our state and our universities, our agriculture, our great companies, as places they want to connect to. Part of getting investment for Illinois is you have to go face-to-face and talk to companies in China about why Illinois is a good place to invest,” Quinn told reporters Thursday.
The governor will be gone for eight days and lead a 30-member delegation that includes representatives from Navistar, Archer Daniels Midland and United Airlines along with union leaders, university administrators and state and local officials.
Quinn’s office said the trip will cost taxpayers more than $132,000, which includes the cost of interpreters, meeting room rentals and travel expenses once in China. The governor said he intends to cover his own travel and lodging expenses.
Asked if the $132,000 in public funds could be spent better elsewhere given his announcement last week of plans to lay off more than 1,900 state workers and close seven state facilities, the governor said, “No I don’t, really.”
“I think it’s a reasonable investment when you’re signing contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars ... worth literally thousands of jobs in Illinois,” Quinn said.
While the group of state officeholders traveling with Quinn is exclusively Democratic, the governor drew praise for his trip from one of his chief GOP critics, state Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine).
“The timing’s not great when you’re talking about laying people off, and the human services issues that have been raised,” Murphy said. “But as the governor, you’re sort of our promoter in chief. You should be out there promoting Illinois, and going to China strikes me as an appropriate thing to do.”