“I’ll see your $10 minimum wage and raise you two sick days,” said Governor Quinn, bellied up to the table with a set of chips stacked neatly in front of him. It was dealer’s choice on Wednesday with Quinn as the dealer. Bluffing his way through the required State of the State address, the cards he dealt didn’t jive with the cards already on the table, as much as he wanted to make everyone believe it.
On a cold winter’s afternoon, on a train bound to nowhere, poker face intact, Governor Quinn said, “Illinois is making a comeback,” and “We’re getting the job done,” stating that under his leadership Illinois has restored integrity in state government and passed comprehensive pension reform. He disregarded the facts that more work needs to be done on pensions, we still have the worst credit rating in the US, and his administration shuffled a known gang member between state agencies.
He then upped the ante for big government with his “blue print for the state,” an aggressive push for government expansion, making his case via anecdotal evidence and statistics that went uncited.
For example, the governor stated that we’ve seen growth in job creation, while we know that, despite having the 5th largest GDP in the nation, we have the highest unemployment rate in the Midwest region. Our labor force has contracted, and the state’s jobless rate is nearly two points higher than the national average, even with a smaller workforce.
“The secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.” Unflinchingly, Quinn asserted Medicaid would save $2 billion. Is anybody buying this bluff when we know that he replaced employees from a private company who found halfway through a review of the program that 55% of cases finalized had eligibility errors? Quinn then handed the contract over to public employees who had enrolled those who were ineligible in the first place.
The biggest bluff of all was to the 1.1 million small business owners that employ 3 out of 4 private sector employees. In one breath, the governor lauded small business, saying he would “renew focus on small businesses” (a threat frightening enough to make even the most daring entrepreneur tremble); and in the next, called for an increase in the minimum wage and government programs that will require tax increases.
He can’t bluff away statistics that place Illinois 2nd in state out-migration; or our overall economic performance rank of 47th, and our rating from CEO’s around the country as the 48th most attractive place to do business.
For business owner’s hearing the SOTS address, the tune going through their head can only be Kenny Rogers’ Gambler, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.” After hearing the table talk yesterday, those that can leave may just call his bluff, cash in their chips, and walk away from the game.
Quinn didn’t lay all his cards on the table. He offered no specifics on how to adequately reform K-12 education, improve our jobs climate or manage the state efficiently.
But, why gamble on Illinois’ future? We can win this game in one legislative session through policies that bring about true and substantial pension reform, Medicaid reform, tax reform and education reform. Then, implement sound policies that focus on growth in Energy, Agriculture and Transportation – each a major area of opportunity for the state. Illinois has all the right ingredients to be a powerhouse in the Midwest and in the world.
Governor Quinn, I call. Lay all your cards on the table, because “if you’re gonna play the game, boy, you got learn to play it right.”
I’m betting on Illinois; I see our potential. But anyone familiar with gaming understands that the odds are stacked in the house’s favor. Those of us who remain in the game now wonder if the buy-in on Dealer Quinn’s hand is too big of a gamble.