Quinn welcomes lakeshore funding, defends cutting elsewhere

Tribune reporter

Gov. Pat Quinn joined U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, today to finalize an agreement that will allow Illinois to receive roughly $2 million a year in federal funding to help restore and protect the Lake Michigan shoreline.

The Illinois Coastal Management Program has been years in development and will use state and federal dollars to combat invasive species, restore natural habitats, cleanup industrial sites and harbors, develop recreational areas, and help manage storm water and pollution.

Illinois has roughly 63 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, which is one of the mostly densely populated coastal areas in the Great Lakes region.

“It’s important that we commit ourselves today to protecting the lake,” Quinn said, adding that Lake Michigan “defines our culture” in Illinois.

Quinn and Durbin joined officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for a signing ceremony at Loyola University Chicago’s Lake Shore Campus on the city’s Far North Side.

Meanwhile, Quinn defended his call for statewide officers to cut their budgets by at least 9 percent, despite opposition from fellow Democrats Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Secretary of State Jesse White.

Madigan has said cutting her budget any further will make it harder to keep qualified attorneys and peruse legal action that actually brings in money for the state.

White has said such cuts would force him to close several driver's license facilities, where he has long worked to cut waiting times.

Quinn took specific aim at Republicans Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, saying they should be on board after traveling “up and down Illinois saying we need to cut spending.”

“It’s not easy, I know that,” Quinn said. “It’s very hard. But if we don’t do it, we’ll never get our budget back in the shape that we want it to be. We’ve got to have a better budget and everybody’s got to participate.”

Quinn also played down an audit released this week that found his administration bungled awarding a set of contracts worth $7 billion to provide health insurance for more than 400,000 state employees and their families.

The governor said the deal was the first to issue major contracts under new rules, adding he wants to review the findings closely to determine what  changes should be put in place to prevent future mistakes.

“It was a very complicated procurement, it was something that was done for the first time under a brand new law,” Quinn said. “If there are things that need to be improved, they will be improved.”

“We’ll read the audit and learn from it.”


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