SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn again urged lawmakers to pass pension reform this year, but also asked them to increase the state's minimum wage, make voter registration available online, allow voters to participate in primary elections without declaring party affiliation and ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Quinn also announced plans for an Illinois Manufacturing Lab at the University of Illinois.
"In the last three years manufacturing has been one of our state's leading growth sectors, creating nearly 40,000 new jobs. We're at the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing and we need to stay there.
"That's why we're partnering with the University of Illinois and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications to create an advanced manufacturing hub where companies big and small can come to learn and use the world's most sophisticated tools and software."
Quinn's State of the State address, delivered to a joint session of the Legislature at noon today, also included calling for increasing the state minimum wage from the current $8.25 an hour to $10 an hour over the next four years.
He also asked lawmakers to pass a comprehensive plan including "gun safety legislation, mental health care and violence prevention strategies," including banning the sale of "assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines."
The governor also urged legislators to pass what he called "a marriage equality" law in Illinois. A bill allowing gay marriage in the state cleared a Senate committee Tuesday.
Also, Quinn said "Illinois should join 15 other states in making voter registration available online," and suggested that Illinois should have a law allowing voters "to participate in primary elections without having to publicly declare their party affiliation."
Although it was not the overarching theme of his speech, several times Quinn mentioned the need to fix Illinois' underfunded pension system, concluding that "we cannot allow our economic recovery to be held hostage by the pension crisis.
"We simply must act. Our vision for our Illinois cannot be fully realized without pension reform. This problem cannot be delayed, deferred or delegated to the next session ... to the next generation."
He called Senate President John Cullerton's pension reform legislation "the best vehicle to get the job done."
Cullerton's bill, SB 1, gives government employees a choice between reduced retirement benefits with state-subsidized health care, or keeping their current benefits without health care.