SPRINGFIELD — In a speech foreshadowing his 2014 campaign for re-election, Gov. Pat Quinn Wednesday called on lawmakers to help him enact new gun laws, boost the minimum wage and open up Illinois’ election laws.

The Democrat from Chicago, who is facing a potential primary challenge next year, used the setting of his annual State of the State address to again call on the Legislature to overhaul the state’s underfunded pension system.

Although he used the word “pension” just eight times in the 39-minute address, he made it clear that the rising cost of employee benefits is leaving less money to spend on other parts of the state budget.

“Our state is at a critical juncture,” Quinn said. “The pension squeeze is draining our ability to teach our students. Our children are being short-changed. And in the end, that short-changes our economy.”

Quinn, who delivered his speech with potential primary challenger Attorney General Lisa Madigan sitting just steps away, said he supports a plan that would require local school districts and universities to pay more toward employee pensions and force workers and retirees to choose between reduced cost-of-living increases and health insurance.

“We cannot allow our economic recovery to be held hostage by the pension crisis,” Quinn said.

The sponsor of the pension fix, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, thanked the governor for embracing the plan.

“This legislation paves the way for us to address pension costs in a fair and constitutional manner,” Cullerton said.

With pension reform expected to be a dominant theme in his budget address set for March 6, Quinn spent much of his fourth State of the State speech offering up a smorgasbord of initiatives fit for the campaign trail.

Republicans said it was little more than a stump speech aimed at shoring up his base in anticipation of a primary fight.

“By and large, I think it was more of a campaign kick-off speech than anything else,” said Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont.

“The governor has a battle within his own party. He’s on the ropes,” added state Sen. Bill Brady, a Bloomington Republican who is considering another run for governor.

On guns, Quinn again said he wants to ban the sale and possession of military-style semi-automatic weapons, and he provided his blueprint for complying with a federal court’s decision requiring the state to join the rest of the nation in allowing concealed carry.

His proposal would require applicants to be fingerprinted and would require tougher background checks on certain kinds of gun purchases. His plan would ban concealed weapons from being carried in many areas.

“We must ensure that guns are kept out of everyday public places because guns don’t belong in our schools, shopping malls or sports stadiums,” he said.

Quinn also wants to boost reporting of mentally ill people in order to assist the state police in screening concealed carry applicants.

He also would require Illinois schools to conduct additional drills to prepare students in the event of an armed attack.

“Our students and teachers can never be too prepared,” Quinn said.

House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said violent video games also should be addressed.

“I don’t think they’re healthy, and I think that should be part of the discussion as well,” Cross said.

Downstate Republicans said they are wary of Quinn’s gun control proposals.

“Let me be clear, governor: I will fight you every step of the way to protect the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens,” said state Rep. Adam Brown, R-Champaign.

Quinn also wants to raise the minimum-wage to $10 an hour, from $8.25. The move is supported by members of the Legislative Black Caucus, who represent a key constituency for Quinn in the upcoming election.

“Our shared vision for a better Illinois also means we must honor the productivity of our workers,” Quinn said.

Business groups say an increase will kill job creation at a critical time in the state’s recovery from the recession.

Quinn, whose predecessor went to jail on corruption charges, also shined a spotlight on ethics reform, proposing new rules on lawmakers aimed at limiting their ability to vote on issues that might represent a conflict of interest.

“In our Illinois, government belongs to the people, not to the office holders,” Quinn said.

The governor also wants to launch a first-ever online voter registration system. And he wants an open primary election, in which voters wouldn’t be forced to choose a party when they walk into the polling place.

The proposed election changes come just days after another potential Quinn primary challenger, former White House chief of staff William Daley of Chicago, suggested Illinois eliminate partisan primary elections.

Quinn, who has made veterans a cornerstone of his political life, unveiled a proposal designed to put military veterans on a faster track to getting jobs in various licensed professions, such as nursing, and careers in law enforcement.

He used the death of Tyler Ziegel, a Marine from Metamora, to illustrate the need for the General Assembly to make tough decisions. Ziegel was injured in Iraq in 2004 and underwent 59 surgeries before dying in an accident last year.

“If our service members can summon that kind of courage day after day, then surely we can summon political courage in the days to come,” Quinn said.


EARLIER STORY

SPRINGFIELD — In a speech foreshadowing his 2014 campaign for re-election, Gov. Pat Quinn called on lawmakers Wednesday to help him put in place new gun laws, boost the minimum wage and open up Illinois’ election laws.

The Democrat from Chicago, who is facing a potential primary challenge in just over a year, used the setting of his annual State of the State address to again call on the legislature to overhaul the state’s underfunded pension system.

He used the word “pension” eight times in the 39-minute address, making it clear that he believes the rising cost of employee benefits is leaving less money to spend on other parts of the state budget.

“Our state is at a critical juncture. The pension squeeze is draining our ability to teach our students. Our children are being shortchanged. And, in the end, that shortchanges our economy,” Quinn said.

The governor, who has struggled to convince lawmakers to act on a pension overhaul, made it clear that he supports a plan floated by Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, that would require local school districts and universities to pay more toward employee pensions and force workers and retirees to choose between reduced cost-of-living increases and health insurance.

“We cannot allow our economic recovery to be held hostage by the pension crisis,” Quinn said.

With pension reform also expected to be a dominant theme in his budget speech set for March 6, Quinn spent much of his fourth State of the State speech offering up a smorgasbord of initiatives fit for the campaign trail.

On guns, Quinn again said he wants to ban the sale and possession of military-style semi-automatic weapons and he provided his blueprint for complying with a federal court’s decision requiring the state to join the rest of the nation in allowing concealed carry.

His proposal would require applicants to be fingerprinted and would require tougher background checks on certain kinds of gun purchases.

His plan would ban concealed weapons from being carried in many areas.

“We must ensure that guns are kept out of everyday public places because guns don’t belong in our schools, shopping malls or sports stadiums,” he said.

Quinn also wants to boost reporting of mentally ill people in order to assist the state police in screening concealed carry applicants.

And, he would require Illinois schools to conduct additional drills to prepare students in the event of an armed attack.

“Our students and teachers can never be too prepared,” Quinn said.

Quinn also wants to raise the minimum-wage to $10 an hour, up from $8.25. The move is supported by members of the Legislative Black Caucus, which represents a key constituency for Quinn in the upcoming election.

Business groups are already girding for a fight over the proposal, saying it will kill job creation at a critical time in the state’s recovery from the recession. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

“Our shared vision for a better Illinois also means we must honor the productivity of our workers,” Quinn said.

Quinn, whose predecessor went to jail on corruption charges, also shined a spotlight on ethics reform, proposing new rules on lawmakers aimed at limiting their ability to vote on issues that might represent a conflict of interest.

“In our Illinois, government belongs to the people, not to the office holders,” Quinn said.

The governor also wants to launch a first-ever online voter registration system. And, he wants an open primary election, in which voters wouldn’t be forced to choose a party when they walk into the polling place.

The proposed election changes come just days after a potential primary challenger, former White House chief of staff William Daley of Chicago, suggested Illinois eliminate partisan primary elections.

“Our democracy is strongest when more voters raise their voices and the ballot box,” Quinn said.

Quinn, who has made veterans a cornerstone of his political life, unveiled a proposal designed to put military veterans on a faster track to getting jobs in various licensed professions, such as nursing and careers in law enforcement.

He used the death of Tyler Ziegel, a Marine from Metamora, to illustrate the need for the General Assembly to make tough decisions. Ziegel was injured in Iraq in 2004 and underwent 59 surgeries before dying in an accident last year.

“If our service members can summon that kind of courage day after day, then surely we can summon political courage in the days to come,” Quinn said.


By The Associated Press

EARLIER REPORT: SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's fifth State of the State address focused on Quinn's successes on job creation, spending cuts and help for veterans.

Prepared remarks from Wednesday's speech made only scattered references to the state's massive deficit in funding its public pension system. But a need for solving the $96 billion problem ran as an undercurrent throughout the address.

The Democrat's annual State of the State address called for a tough new law banning lawmakers' votes on issues where they have a conflict of interest.

It also renewed a plea for a ban on sales of military-style assault weapons and wants county officials to better report mental health records of potential gun owners.

Quinn also sought a 20 percent minimum-wage increase — to $10 an hour.

Quinn to issue executive order for veteran hiring

Gov. Pat Quinn says he’s signed an executive order designed to help military veterans get jobs.

The order calls for state agencies to streamline the process for veterans applying for job licenses. Quinn says the agencies should consider the veterans’ special skills and allow them to skip the extra training that some licenses require.

He made the executive order public in his State of the State address before lawmakers Wednesday in Springfield. His move follows the Obama Administration’s push to help veterans transition from military to civilian life.

Quinn has been a strong supporter of veterans and the military. He says all Illinois residents owe veterans their gratitude.

Quinn proposes raising Illinois minimum wage

Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed raising Illinois’ minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 an hour.

He outlined the plan during his annual State of the State speech before lawmakers on Wednesday.

Quinn says nobody should work 40 hours a week and live in poverty. The federal rate has been $7.25 an hour since 2007.

The current Illinois rate took effect in July 2010, when it increased by a quarter. The U.S. Department of Labor says only two other states — Washington and Oregon — have a minimum wage higher than Illinois.

A proposal to raise the minimum wage came up in the state Senate last year but wasn’t called for a floor vote.

Quinn renews call for Illinois assault weapons ban

Gov. Pat Quinn is renewing his call for an assault weapons ban in Illinois.

The Chicago Democrat promoted the idea during his annual State of the State address on Wednesday. He asked lawmakers to move forward with strong public safety legislation. He says Illinois must prohibit the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Quinn says assault weapons don’t belong in everyday public places like schools, shopping malls or sports stadiums.

He says lawmakers should also pass legislation requiring every Illinois school to practice active safety drills.

Quinn has pushed for an assault weapons ban since a deadly shooting at a Colorado movie theater last summer. He used his power of amendatory veto to rewrite a bill to ban assault weapons. Lawmakers rejected it.

Quinn says Illinois should approve gay marriage

Gov. Pat Quinn says it’s time for Illinois to allow gay marriage.

The Chicago Democrat framed the issue as a measure against discrimination during his annual State of the State address on Wednesday. He praised senators who moved a bill out of committee earlier this week and says it’s time to pass the bill so Illinois can achieve “full equality.”

The bill’s sponsors expect a Senate floor vote on Valentine’s Day.

Quinn helped Illinois approve civil unions in 2011.

If Illinois approves gay marriage, it would become the 10th state in the nation to do so. Advocates say momentum in other states and President Barack Obama’s support fuel their efforts in Illinois.

Some religious groups have opposed the idea.

Quinn proposes manufacturing lab for companies

Gov. Pat Quinn wants to create a manufacturing lab in Chicago to allow companies to learn and use new tools and software.

He proposed the so-called Illinois Manufacturing Lab during his State of the State address on Wednesday.

The Chicago Democrat says the lab will be established through a partnership between the University of Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications and private companies.

The lab would let manufacturers simulate supply chains, train workers and use new technology, among other things. It will be started with $5 million from the state and $5 million raised from private businesses.

Quinn says the idea will help close the make Illinois manufacturers more competitive.

Quinn’s State of State includes ethics proposal

Gov. Pat Quinn wants lawmakers to recuse themselves from taking a vote or other official action if there’s a conflict of interest.

Quinn included the proposal in his State of the State speech on Wednesday after discussing improvements made against corruption under his tenure. Both of Quinn’s predecessors went to prison on corruption convictions.

Quinn says citizens should be able to trust their elected officials.

He says dozens of states have banned conflict of interest voting. The governor says Illinois should join them.

The proposal would also prevent lawmakers from representing a person or corporation where there’s a financial or personal conflict of interest.

Quinn: Pensions are ‘toughest of issues’

Gov. Pat Quinn is telling lawmakers that they hold the solution to solving the state’s fiscal crisis, particularly Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation pension problem.

The Chicago Democrat says it’s hard but not impossible.

He spoke to lawmakers during his annual State of the State address on Wednesday.

Quinn put his support behind Senate Bill 1, which was measure introduced last month. It includes parts of a Senate-approved measure along with the increased contributions and reduced benefits in the bill that failed to get a House vote. It’s sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton.

Illinois has nearly $100 billion in unfunded liability and Quinn called it the “toughest of issues” in the state.

However, he only made scattered references throughout his speech to the problem.