As I sat here Wednesday morning staring at a blank screen onto which words are supposed to flow from my brain through this keyboard, there were a few moments before Gov. Pat Quinn began his annual State of the State address.
While it’s a significant news event of the day, a large part of me couldn’t be less interested in anything Quinn has to say. This is still Illinois, right? What on Earth could he say? Illinois government is a disaster.
As journalist David Frum pointed out in a recent piece, this state’s credit rating is on par with the African nation of Botswana. Actually, that’s an insult to Botswana, a small desert nation that’s doing OK in comparison with other African nations.
Here on our own continent, Illinois is racing toward the bottom with California. At least the Pacific Ocean can ease their landing. We have to apologize to Iowa and Indiana for the ruckus.
Quinn can’t be entirely honest and no politician from any party ever is during these kinds of speeches. But wouldn’t it be refreshing if Quinn stepped behind the lectern and said it like he probably knows it is.
“Ladies and Gentleman. Your Majesty, the speaker, and the rest of you. Yeah, I’m sorry, but we’ve got big problems. And they aren’t getting much better.”
After loosening his tie, he steps down toward the chamber.
“Look, I know the two guys before me were bad. One’s still in prison and the other one is on house arrest. Even though I’m still a free man, it turns out that I’m not very good at this governor thing, either. But look what I had for role models. Cut me some slack.”
Quinn stuffs his hands into his pockets and stares down at his loafers.
“But, frankly, you guys aren’t exactly on fire, either. I mean, c’mon. It takes a Democratic governor to lecture on pension reform and you guys still can’t get anything done? The unfunded pension liability we’ve been fretting over for several years is at $200 billion now.”
He looks at the date on his watch. It might be a special day to deliver an annual address, but it’s just another day that the state incurs $21 million in debt because of its failure to act on pension reform. Tomorrow, tack on another $21 million.
“And I haven’t even mentioned the $9 billion and climbing in unpaid bills. If Illinois was a retail shopper, we’d be rejected for a Kohl’s card.”
Quinn sighs. He fumbles through his note cards, most of which are about raising the minimum wage, gay marriage and an assault weapons ban even though state officials still haven’t dealt with the court mandate to develop a concealed-carry law in Illinois.
“This stuff’s all well and good and we have the votes for some of it, but to most people in Illinois, they aren’t the most pressing matters. The fact is, we’re broke.”
• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinLyonsNWH.