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Quinn faces daunting State of State as Illinois struggles

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

What do you say about the ''state'' of the state of Illinois? That was the question facing Governor Pat Quinn on the eve of an annual speech that is supposed to describe the government and economic landscape.

Not an enviable position for anyone, but he will have a captive audience. The state of the state Wednesday at high noon could be as short as one word: broke. But Governor Quinn is likely to make it far longer as he attempts to put lipstick on the badly wrinkled face of Illinois.

The state's image has been telegraphed around the world the past year as broke and corrupt with more of the same on the horizon, hardly a position of optimism from which to take the podium and describe the state of the state.

Illinois' finances were recently awarded with the same creditworthy score as the land-locked African nation of Botswana, a mostly rural nation dependent on diamond production and safari tourism.

Of the states, only California was rated worse than Chicago, but one rating service at least gave California a positive outlook. Illinois' was negative.

On Newsweek's Daily Beast website Tuesday, a stinging lead-up to the governor's speech, "Welcome to Botswana" the headline. It's official, claims the author  Illinois is the worst governed state in the nation.

Quinn is unlikely to acknowledge such a rabid description of life in the Land of Lincoln. But when he tells the General Assembly about the state's financial health, there will be little positive change to report from a year ago. Illinois still has the worst pension gap in the nation. The state cannot pay any more of its bills this year than last and is approaching $9 billion in unpaid bills - a quarter of the state budget.

And according to newly released figures, the federal government essentially owned and operated a third of Illinois in 2011. That is the amount of federal transfer money it took to keep Illinois afloat. With aid from Washington being cut as well, the funding pond is evaporating.

(Copyright ©2014 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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