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Quinn tackles income tax plan, gay marriage during Harper visit
By Ashok Selvam | Daily Herald Staff

Gov. Pat Quinn addresses the audience at Harper College in Palatine Monday. He also took questions and posed for pictures.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Gov. Pat Quinn discussed issues including gay marriage and teachers' pensions at Harper College in Palatine Monday night.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Gov. Pat Quinn and John Olson of Elk Grove Village share a moment after the governor's speech. Looking on is Courtney Olson whose brother, John T. Olson, was killed in Iraq.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 4/14/2009 12:01 AM

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Gov. Pat Quinn said he thinks Springfield lawmakers will eventually allow for civil unions, which would give homosexual couples rights comparable to those of married couples.

"I think that's probably where the legislature is headed in the state," he said.

Gay marriage was one of the questions Quinn addressed Monday at Harper College in Palatine. Quinn also said he supported the federal DREAM Act, which would allow some undocumented immigrants who came to America as children and are pursuing an education to earn conditional permanent residency.

He discussed the pension system for public school teachers, saying it needs to better mirror private systems.

"We cannot afford to have a public pension system that, essentially, goes bust and no one will have a pension," Quinn said.

While he called community colleges the state's "heart and soul," he still would not endorse Harper's proposal to offer four-year bachelor's degrees. Quinn said his reservations stem from possible amendments to the bill, and that he also wanted to see how traditional four-year schools would react to the potential competition.

"I want to make sure that we do this in a way that provides a good model for the entire state," he said.

The Illinois House approved the measure last month, which now awaits the Senate's vote and, possibly, Quinn's signature. If approved, Harper could start its pilot program next year. Quinn, who taught at two community colleges - Triton and Prairie State - is known as a supporter of the community college system.

After his remarks to more than 200 audience members, Quinn headed to Hoffman Estates for a fundraiser held by Taxpayers for Quinn.

The fundraiser ended a busy day of travel for Quinn, who earlier stopped by Wrigley Field for a couple rainy innings at the Cubs' home opener. During his suburban appearances, he dubbed himself "the accidental governor," a reference to his ascendancy from lieutenant governor in the aftermath of Gov. Blagojevich's impeachment.

Quinn also stumped for his ethics-reform bills, which he hopes will prevent political corruption, of which his predecessor has been accused.

Quinn's birthday, Dec. 16, 1948, is the same day as the 175th anniversary of the infamous Boston Tea Party protest. Thirty years later, in 1978, Quinn urged voters to send tea bags to then-Gov. James Thompson to protest salary raises for Springfield lawmakers.

Now that another 30 years have passed, residents across the state are organizing tea parties of their own Wednesday to protest Quinn's proposed tax increases. Quinn didn't find the gesture ironic, simply calling it "an American way to express your opinion."

He added that he didn't create the state's $11 billion budget deficit and sees the tax increases as a way to address the deficit, allow Illinois to pay its bills and avoid becoming a "deadbeat state."

Residents in the Northwest suburbs made their own protest statement last week with the lopsided results from two advisory referendums questioning Cook County government.

The first questioned last year's county sales-tax increase, which voters overwhelmingly asked to repeal. The second asked if voters would want to secede from Cook County and form their own county government.

"I think that people should express themselves," Quinn said. "I believe in referendums. I think it was real healthy to have that."

Q&A: Quinn calls himself 'the accidental governor'