SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov. Pat Quinn has focused part of his State of the State address on Illinois' business climate. The Chicago Democrat says he will create a new position in his office that will focus on advocating for small businesses.The advocate will advise Quinn on issues and help start and grow businesses.
Quinn also called for reducing a filing fee to create a limited liability company to $39 from its current fee of $500. That's among the highest in the nation.
Quinn's office says he will propose legislation intended to reduce Illinois' fee to the lowest in the nation. The idea is to make it easier for small businesses to get started.
Quinn's spoke Wednesday in Springfield. It's the second time Quinn is giving a State of the State address during an election year. All of the Republican gubernatorial candidates challenging him are listening in person. They are venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady.
Quinn also mentioned the following issues and initiatives in his speech:
Water program expansion
Quinn announced a $1 billion extension of a loan program. He says a sound infrastructure is critical to a strong economy. Quinn says the program will create 28,000 jobs.
The program first started in 2012 under Quinn's administration. Officials said that the state had one of the largest backlogs of drinking water repairs nationwide. Quinn says the state has received about 91 applications worth more than $1 billion in requests. Cities that have or will receive loans include Bloomington-Normal and Clinton.
Center for medical start-ups
Quinn is promoting a new Chicago center that will open later this year to help start medical technology companies. He says the so-called "bio-hub" will drive economic growth.
Officials with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity say the idea is to help entrepreneurs and prospective investors. The center will be modeled after 1871, a Chicago hub for digital startups that officials say created 800 jobs during its first year. The project also will receive a $1 million loan from either DCEO or the Illinois Finance Authority.
Early education funding
Quinn wants to beef up early education in Illinois. He didn't detail how much money the initiative will cost or how it will be run. He says he wants to increase access to prenatal care, early learning and parental support.
Quinn says putting more resources into early education will pay off in the future. The Illinois State Board of Education is asking lawmakers for a $25 million increase in early childhood education next year. But funding could be scarce. That's because a scheduled rollback of the state's temporary income tax may mean cuts for schools and social services.
Minimum wage increase
Quinn says raising Illinois' minimum wage is about dignity and decency. He says he wants to raise the state's $8.25 rate to at least $10 an hour. He has wanted to increase the rate for years. Trying to do so has also been part of a national Democratic strategy.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced plans to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour, a jump over the current federal $7.25 rate. Minimum wage also has been a major issue on the 2014 gubernatorial campaign trail for Illinois Republicans. Three of the four GOP candidates oppose an increase.
Earned income tax credit
Quinn wants to again double an income tax credit aimed at helping poor Illinois families keep more of the money they earn. He says the tax credit should be increased over five years.
The state last increased the credit in 2011 as part of an incentive package aimed at keeping big businesses in the state. At the time, the state's rate for the credit was among the lowest in the nation. The legislation increased it over two years from its original 5 percent to 10 percent by this year. State officials said it would eventually translate to an average of about $100 a year per family.