Metro-east legislators Jay Hoffman and Jerry Costello II on Thursday said Gov. Pat Quinn's State of the State address didn't have enough emphasis on improving the state's finances.
Rep. Hoffman, D-Belleville, said: "I understand that this wasn't the budget address -- that'll come later -- but if you want to truly measure where we are as a state...it really is a fiscal crisis that needs to be dealt with."
Quinn said the state's roughly $100 billion pension liability has to be addressed, but critics say he didn't adequately address the issue during his speech.
The governor also spoke of wanting to increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour, legalizing gay marriage and banning so-called assault weapons.
"Some of the issues that he brought up are important," Hoffman said, "but the real focus this session, and the real state of the state, is the budgetary crisis we're facing. I hope that from now until the end of this legislative session, our main focus is on solving the state's terrible fiscal situation."
On Quinn's other proposals, Hoffman said: "Those issues will work their way through the General Assembly. I'm keeping an open mind."
On guns, Hoffman said: "I think we need to put money into mental health, and make sure that there are adequate background checks that are done. But some of the proposals that I have seen would really hamper law-abiding citizens who use hunting rifles and other guns for sport."
On increasing the minimum wage, Hoffman said: "While I do believe we need to ensure fair pay for a day's work, we really should be focusing all our efforts right now on solving the fiscal crisis. That should be something that we don't just wait until the last day of May to do."
Rep. Costello, D-Smithton, said Quinn overlooked the "dire fiscal state" of Illinois.
"The residents of Illinois are forced to pay for decades of fiscal mismanagement through a tax increase and cuts to important services, and yet the budget is a long way from balanced. In order to get Illinois back on track and get Illinoisans back to work, we must focus on eliminating waste and abuse, improving the business climate and economic growth, and making government officials accountable to the people of Illinois," Costello said.
Costello also took issue with Quinn's touting the closure of 54 state facilities, most of them in downstate Illinois.
Accountability means that people are held responsible for their mistakes. In his speech, Gov. Quinn mentioned the closure of 54 facilities as a positive step for the state, even as we hear about a growing number of attacks on prison guards, most recently at Menard Correctional Center," he said. "I have always been a staunch proponent of fiscal responsibility, but we, as policy-makers, cannot forget our sacred obligation to protect the welfare of our residents and those who serve to protect and assist the public. By this measure, Gov. Quinn has let us down and should be held accountable.
Costello also said the state must "find creative ways to make government smarter and leaner so that we can more effectively provide services like education and healthcare. We cannot add burdens onto working families and increase taxes in areas that are still struggling through this sluggish economy."