CHICAGO – Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn offered a preview Friday of his life after public office, delivering a speech on consumer rights to lawyers and students and also taking a shot at his successor.
The Democratic governor, who lost to Republican Bruce Rauner in November, used his first public appearance since leaving the governorship to give a keynote during a Loyola University Chicago School of Law panel on forced arbitration. He recalled his activist days helping start Citizens Utility Board, scrutinized Chicago officials and lawmakers on protecting consumer rights and said he planned on citizen-focused advocacy work.
“I’ve done a lot of petition drives ... I still think I can collect autographs of everyday people for causes that really count,” he told reporters. “Using petition and referendums sometimes is the only way you have to go around the lobbyists and special interest groups and sometimes the legislators who pay too much attention to them. We’ve got to wake them up and going to the ballot box with a referendum is the only way to do it.”
He also reflected on his gubernatorial loss, warning the Republican’s proposed budget would “harm Illinois for generations.”
“If anybody in Illinois knew the budget he presented last week was what he had in store, the election result would have been different on Nov. 4,” he said. “That’s the worst budget I’ve ever seen that any governor has presented in the history of Illinois. It’s very, very unfair to important causes that help everyday people.”
Rauner has repeatedly said that Quinn signed a budget that was incomplete, phony and not balanced.
His proposed spending plan – which is sure to face tough challenges in the Democrat-controlled House and Senate – calls for major cuts, including $1.5 billion from Medicaid. Other cuts would impact mental health and addiction treatment and after-school programs.
Quinn said he’s still working on a final report with recommendations and ideas for lawmakers, which he expects to finish this year. He wouldn’t directly address some of his own more controversial moves, including a flurry of activity before he left office. Quinn commuted the sentences of six people, issued three executive orders, handed out appointments and signed bills during Rauner’s inaugural celebrations.
Quinn, who has a law degree, played the part of a student Friday, taking notes during the panel and asking what legislators could do when it comes to companies requiring arbitration to resolve disputes. Critics say being forced into arbitration shields corporations from public scrutiny lawsuits can generate, among other things. Proponents’ arguments include saving time and money.
He wouldn’t rule out a future run for public office nor discuss the Chicago mayoral race, saying he’s focused on other things currently. He said these days he’s playing basketball, watching sports and taking “vigorous brisk” walks.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “I like organizing citizens.”