SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Pat Quinn's Monday series of good-news stops across Illinois mark the second round of trips he's made following criticism that his frequent Chicago focus might draw a challenger from elsewhere in the state in the 2014 Democratic primary.
Quinn started the day welcoming the Stanley Cup to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield with Chicago Blackhawks' owner Rocky Wirtz before heading to Bradley University in Peoria, where he announced a total of $4.8 million in construction grants to Bradley, Illinois Wesleyan University and Eureka College.
Quinn is facing a primary challenge from fellow Chicago resident Bill Daley. While the bulk of Democratic votes are cast in heavily Democratic Cook County, Quinn has been criticized by Democratic leaders outside of the Chicago area who say he hasn't paid the rest of the state enough attention.
Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson has said the governor was previously tied up in Springfield because of the state's pension crisis. Illinois is facing a $97 billion pension shortfall, and lawmakers have been unable to reach a deal to solve the problem.
Monday's trips followed Quinn's visit to Galesburg in western Illinois last week for President Barack Obama's economic address at Knox College.
The grants Quinn announced Monday are part of $90 million set aside this year in the Illinois Jobs Now capital construction program that renovates and expands campus facilities for private and public colleges. Quinn also later announced an additional $3.1 million in construction grants for Augustana College, Knox and Montmouth Colleges during a visit to Augustana's Rock Island campus.
Quinn, in a statement, called the colleges "educational jewels," noting the investments will "help the schools stay competitive with other small colleges and continue to produce well-prepared graduates."
Quinn said the capital construction program will support more than 439,000 jobs over six years.
"We're all in this together," he said in Rock Island. "We truly believe in our students, their teachers and parents."
In Rockford, he formally awarded the Rock River Water Reclamation District $15 million in low-interest loans to connect the village of Winnebago to the reclamation district's treatment plan, complete repairs and reduce area sewer backups. He says the projects_part of the state's $1 billion Clean Water Initiative that is funded by annual federal grants and the federal stimulus program— will create 132 construction jobs for area trade union members.