By Brady Cremeens
Illinois News Network
Gov. Pat Quinn has spent about 10 percent of his time in Springfield during the past six months.
The Democrat governor found himself absent from the Illinois capital on all but 19 days since August.
In fact, Chicago has accommodated Quinn seven-times more often than has Springfield.
Illinois News Network learned this after obtaining the governor’s schedule through the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
The vast majority of the governor’s time has been spent in the Windy City, where he logged 148 days between Aug. 1 and Feb. 7. Other forays included a three-day trip to Tokyo and a three-day trip to Washington, D.C.
“It is unfortunate that Gov. Quinn, like his predecessor, has not spent more time in the capitol city. There is a regrettable lack of engagement and trust-building with the Legislature,” said Mike Lawrence, former senior policy advisor to Gov. Jim Edgar and past director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.
“There is also a lack of interaction with state workers, which contributes to low morale among them and negatively affects the day-to-day management of state government,” he added.
Of the 19 days the governor did spend in Springfield during that same time period, only eight were full days. The others were spent flying in for a short time (an average of fewer than five hours) and then leaving again, usually to Chicago.
More than 20 times Quinn flew from Chicago to an in-state location (a couple were out-of-state, including Milwaukee) and then back to Chicago again in the same day in 2013.
State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, defends the governor’s scheduling priorities.
“I think Gov. Quinn does a good job of spreading his time around the whole state,” he said. “He spends a lot of time with the folks who make up the families and businesses that are so important to our communities.
“He’s in Springfield when he needs to be, and I think he wants the whole state to know he’s their governor too.”
Quinn’s office declined to comment for this story.
Included in the Springfield legislative sessions that the governor missed was a special session on Dec. 3 when Illinois lawmakers were wrestling with the controversial public pension reform bill.
Quinn signed the bill behind closed doors in a private ceremony in Chicago two days after the law was passed in Springfield.
State House Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, says that a governor should be involved and in Springfield at least while the Legislature is meeting.
“This governor promised that he’d spend the majority of his time in Springfield,” he said. “That he hasn’t kept that promise is really frustrating.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily important that he lives here while the Legislature isn’t in session, but he should be here when we are. It’s important that he’s engaged as part of the process. So far he hasn’t been.”
Taxpayers fund the maintenance and upkeep of the Executive Mansion in Springfield, where the governor resides while he’s in Springfield. Annually, the bill runs about $500,000.