The Mighty Quinn
In retrospect, Blagojevich typified the "pay to play" political culture that continues to rapture this state. This corruption transcends political party, equating to what the Chicago Tribune's John Kass calls "The Combine."
Pat Quinn, by comparison, has made a career out of playing the proverbial political gadfly. A Chicagoan who has never claimed allegiance to the local Democratic machine, Quinn has mostly molded himself as a maverick reformer. His pet causes are many, and his knack for calling Sunday afternoon news conferences legendary.
Quinn enters a governor's mansion the previous occupant rarely visited with a daunting task from Day One. The state's budget deficit has ballooned to in excess of $2 billion, where a balanced budget is mandated. Some combination of tax increases and spending cuts are likely in order, and this is doubly difficult during these trying economic times. The statewide fiscal crisis has reached the point where hospitals and child care providers are not being paid for their services, and the state's capacity to borrow more is further crippled by a lowered bond rating spurred by the Blagojevich debacle.
Beyond the short-term fixes, Quinn is right to pursue reforms to state ethics laws and the means by which candidates seek office. The specifics remain vague, but probably entail limitations on donations to elected officials from those who do business with the state, more detailed disclosure and perhaps caps on individual contributions along with those made by corporations and labor unions, and possibly, but more controversially, some form of publicly-financed campaigns. The policy window of opportunity is wide open as state residents are eager to rein in a government seemingly more interested in serving its own interests.
Quinn even championed moving next year's primary election from February to September to enable our representatives in Springfield to begin digging us out of this aforementioned mess before asking for our vote once more. His proposal deserves consideration as job seekers will otherwise begin making the rounds this coming summer, including what is expected to be a full slate of individuals on both side of the aisle that seek the job he just inherited. Quinn's actions between now and then will go a long way toward determining whether his new lease is extended beyond 2010.