It’s official. It took the people of Illinois this long but they finally made up their minds. Our governor is the most unpopular governor in the nation.
Governor Quinn sits at a dismal 25 percent approval rating and a 64 percent disapproval rating. This all makes sense though. Illinois is the third worst managed state in the nation. We are just behind California and Rhode Island in regards to the amount of public debt, unemployment, median household income, and percentage of residents living below the poverty line. However, it is rated the second worst according to its decrepit credit rating.
However, Quinn is not the only person to blame for Illinois’ current economy. The interesting fact is that Quinn actually just proposed a bold piece of legislation to modify the public pension system and end the public pension debt by 2042. Quinn’s proposal looks similar to that of conservative Governor Scott Walker.
Quinn’s plan proposes to impose a 3 percent increased in public employee contributions whereas Walker imposed a 5.8 percent hike. The proposal also pushes to increase the retirement age to 67. Quinn believes that elevating the retirement age is imperative since 90 percent of current retired public employees pay nothing for healthcare costs and make it harder for the government to deliver.
But all of these changes are anemic to workers, so the public unions say. They derailed Quinn’s proposal. As a result, Illinois will tragically add $17 million to the unfunded pension liability on a daily basis and ultimately contribute to the $95 billion pension debt.
The interesting part of this whole plan is that there is no outrage against Governor Quinn like there was with Walker in Wisconsin. The public unions stand against his plan but there are no efforts made to impeach him or vote him out of office. The fact of the matter is that if Quinn were a Republican governor, there would be signs all over Chicago saying, “Recall Pat Quinn.” But he’s a Democrat and stuck in a lame-duck session.
That’s where Illinois stands. It’s a quagmire. The fact is that people voted for Governor Quinn to lead. Illinoisans did not vote for public unions to manage public policy. Just like Wisconsinites did with Walker by reelecting him in the recall election and rejecting the public unions’ attempt to stall legislation. Quinn needs to stand up to the unions and pass pension reform.
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I’m part of that 25 percent of Illinois that approves of Quinn. Although I would have liked a much more conservative reform closer to that of Walker, I believe that Governor Quinn made a series of substantial proposals that should receive a serious reception and not political demagoguery. The problem is that the Democrats are tied to the unions and will not fight them even it it’s for the best of the country. I don’t see the unions trying to impeach Quinn but I also don’t see Quinn standing up to the unions. There is no battle going on here. Quinn got bullied and now he’s going to let it go. He’s probably going to compromise with the unions and take out the good reforms that I am complimenting.
That’s probably the crux of many issues in today’s politics. There is compromise but a wrong kind of compromise that happens only because of special interest groups that have a powerful influence in the legislative process. A good compromise is both parties sitting down and getting something that they don’t want. Compromise is realizing that divided government exists.
So far, Quinn did that and should not back down. He’s unpopular for many reasons but maybe one of the biggest reasons is that he doesn’t get things done as effectively as most people would like. This is his moment to take. If he stands up to the unions and fixes the pension system, he will no longer be the most unpopular governor.
The current approval ratings for congress show the same exact issue. Congress has a 7 percent approval rating and still declining because of the gridlock that composes mediocre bills like the fiscal cliff deal. They need to compromise as well-remember good compromise.
Illinois can either be Congress, or step up and get things done like Governor Christie who enjoys a 73 percent approval rating.
Alex Uzarowicz | Knox College | @AUzarowicz