Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn had had enough. A festering sore had turned into a gaping wound, and the leader of the fifth-largest state took off the gloves. It was time to fight.
Given Illinois’ battered economy and huge deficits, it would be reasonable to think Quinn was about to wage war on the things that had created the mess.
But that would have required difficult decisions.
Instead, Quinn chose to defend the status quo — skyrocketing taxes and reckless spending — by leveling a broadside at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was running a marketing campaign in Illinois aimed at winning over that state’s overtaxed companies.
But Christie had just gotten started. He then traveled to Illinois, meeting with corporate leaders receptive to his vision of spending reductions, pro-growth initiatives, and a pledge not to raise taxes.
Predictably, Quinn took issue with Christie. “I don’t believe . . . governors should be kicking each other in the shins,” he said.
Of course not. That just wouldn’t be politically correct. And making the sin mortal is that Christie’s actions invoked competition among states.
It’s truly sad when competition, the bedrock of America which created the most prosperous nation in history, is reduced to “kicking someone in the shins.”
Instead of fixing his state, though, Quinn would rather criticize a governor who dared to put the interests of his people over government; a leader who understands that freeing business from the shackles of government leads to lower costs, increased productivity, and the only thing that can jumpstart an economy: jobs.
Under Quinn’s reign as governor and lieutenant governor, Illinois’ situation has become dire. Its deficit this year is $15 billion, and that doesn’t include $80 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, earning Illinois first place in that category.
The answer for Quinn and the Democrats (who control both legislative chambers) is twofold: Borrow $15 billion to pay the $15 billion owed. Maybe that’s Illinois’ “new math,” but even if the deficit is financed at a lower rate, the amount owed hasn’t changed. Then, raise taxes at a staggering rate.
To state that Quinn has done No. 2 is a masterpiece of an understatement. He has just signed into law a 67 percent increase in the state income tax, along with similar jumps in business taxes. When combined with national taxes, Illinois now has the fourth-highest overall corporate income tax in the industrialized world.
The key difference between the two governors is that Christie can attract businesses to his state, despite New Jersey also having one of the worst business climates. Why? Because Christie is running his state like a business, operating within the same constraints as the private-sector: control labor costs, increase efficiencies, and don’t spend money that isn’t there.
Even though he is vastly outnumbered by the tax-and-spend Democrats who control the legislature, Christie’s bully pulpit, take-no-prisoners attitude has paid dividends: The Garden State is moving in the right direction on the business climate list.
And that has business taking note.
Here’s what leaders like Quinn don’t understand. The governors in South Carolina, Arizona, Texas and New Jersey, send this message: We’re in the game all the way, and we’ll do whatever it takes to get — and keep — you here.
The Founding Fathers inherently knew that competition among states was necessary for the Republic to thrive. That vision worked then, and, if we don’t bow to political correctness, it can work now.
Governors can and should be competing with their counterparts, and not just for a meaningless Super Bowl bet. But most don’t, either because their business climate is too hostile, or they are worried about bruising egos.
In either case, that amounts to unacceptable failure. And with the volatile electorate demanding solutions, not excuses, that’s not a good position in which to be.
People gravitate to places they sense are on the right track. And for the first time in a generation, Americans are viewing New Jersey as a land of opportunity, not just the butt of late-night jokes.
Which has Chris Christie smiling, because he knows what Pat Quinn doesn’t: The real joke is on Illinois, and New Jersey will be laughing all the way to the bank.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com
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