Quinn announces plan to double funding to MAP grant at State of the State address

By Eleanor Black

In his annual State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Pat Quinn discussed the successes he has seen during his five years as governor of the state of Illinois and his goals for the state’s future. He also had a positive message to those watching: Illinois is making a comeback.

Among the successes mentioned by Quinn in his review of the year, he focused on the legalization of same-sex marriage, balancing budget measures and the state’s comprehensive pension reform.

He reiterated his administration’s commitment to higher education by saying he would double funding of the MAP grant, which currently helps 140,000 students go to college.

Quinn also outlined a five-year blueprint for jobs and economic growth, which he said aims to “create more jobs, deliver stronger education and build an economy that works for everyone.”

The first step involved focusing on supporting small businesses, which has been done by providing loans and investments through the Advantage Illinois program. Quinn outlined his goal to decrease the initial setup fee for local businesses from $500 to $39. Additionally, the governor issued an executive order to establish a “small business advocate” who would “examine policies and proposals through the lens of how they impact small businesses,” he said.

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    Sen. Michael Frerichs, D-52, agreed that small businesses are important to the job growth of Illinois and said the state should reduce their costs and streamline their growth.

    “I think that we need to be targeted in how we attract jobs and grow them in the state of Illinois,” he said. “But for long-term health, that is going to be very important to growing our tax base and making sure that young people graduating from college have opportunities to have good paying jobs here in Illinois.”

    In terms of education, Quinn put his focus on early childhood by introducing the Birth to Five Initiative. This will involve ensuring prenatal care for mothers, access to quality early childhood learning opportunities and strong parent support and services.

    Frerichs said he was happy to see Quinn’s investments in both early childhood and higher education. He applauded his goal of funding those programs, as did Jaclyn Gelfond, president of the Illini Democrats and junior in LAS.

    She said that although she knows it is not the job of the governor, she would have liked to hear him talk more regarding issues pertaining to college students such as student debt and more affordable college education.

    Quinn also continued to promote raising the minimum wage in Illinois to $10 an hour, adding that by doing so, those workers would spend more money in their local communities, further aiding the economy.

    Gelfond said an increase to the minimum wage was one of the most important issues to her. However, College Republicans Vice President Max Balkan, a junior in Business, said the governor was vying for re-election with the issues he addressed in his speech.

    “I imagine he’s trying to base his re-election campaign on this,” he said. “It’s probably him touting himself a lot just to talk about how good he’s going to be.”

    Regardless of intentions, Gelfond said she wasn’t quite sure the goals Quinn outlined would come to fruition.

    “They always have these grand ideas in the State of the Union and State of the State addresses — they’re good plans and good ideas, but I don’t know if they’re all attainable,” she said. Though he has no way of knowing what is to come, Frerichs does have a positive outlook for the state.

    “We have a long way to go in Illinois, things are improving and I am very optimistic about the potential of the people in this state,” Frerichs said. “Some people have asked for more specifics but I think those will come in the governor’s budget address. This is a talk about a vision for where the state of Illinois needs to be going.”

    Eleanor can be reached at [email protected].