Gov. Pat Quinn says he wants to reopen shuttered state historic sites, such as the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, "soon." Quinn is visiting the State Journal-Register editorial board to discuss the state's budget woes and other issues.

1:35 p.m.: Gov. Quinn says he won't lift moratorium on death penalty

Gov. Pat Quinn says he "is not willing" to lift the moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois right now.

The governor, who just wrapped up an interview with the State Journal-Register editorial board, said he still has questions about the death penalty and believes the moratorium provides the state with the opportunity to study and reflect on the issue. Quinn also said he believes the public supports keeping the moratorium, as opposed to an outright ban on the death penalty.

"I actually think the public favors the moratorium approach right now," he said, adding that he would not want to ban the death penalty "until we make absolutely sure the system has zero tolerance for mistakes."

Republican George Ryan instituted the moratorium when he was governor, and his successor, Democrat Rod Blagojevich, kept it in place. While judges and juries may impose the death penalty, no executions have occurred in Illinois for years.

Regarding plans to clean up state government, Quinn had praise for his own Illinois Reform Commission and the legislature's Joint Committee on Government Reform.

The governor said he was concerned that the legislature might pursue "cosmetic" and not "substantial" ethics legislation.

Quinn also said if no progress is made by the time the legislative session is over, he will resort to a public petition drive to get ethics reform legislation passed.

State Capitol Bureau

1:20 p.m.: Gov. Quinn says he wants to reopen state historic sites 'soon'

Gov. Pat Quinn says he wants to reopen shuttered state historic sites, such as the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, "soon."

The governor called the closing of the Dana-Thomas House "a vindictive act" by his predecessor, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Quinn stressed the importance of keeping the sites open.

"History-based tourism is one of the fastest-growing kinds of tourism in America," he told the State Journal-Register editorial board. "It's very important for Springfield, in particular."

Quinn said he spoke to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, about using money in a supplemental appropriation to fund the reopening of the sites this fiscal year. The current fiscal year runs through June 30.

For the next fiscal year, Quinn wants to pay for reopening the sites by using the savings from his plan to merge the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency into the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. He also noted that he has proposed increasing DNR's budget for the next fiscal year.

Quinn said he has "full confidence" in DNR head Marc Miller to take care of the historic sites.

The governor also said that the Illinois Constitution gives him the "executive reorganization" power to merge IHPA and DNR.

State Capitol Bureau

1:15 p.m.: Quinn defends choice for state police director

Gov. Pat Quinn says his choice to become the next director of the Illinois State Police is fully qualified, despite his lack of formal police experience.

Twenty-nine-year-old Army veteran Jonathon Monken's credentials have come under unfair scrutiny since the announcement of his nomination, Quinn said. Some legislators claim Monken's lack of police experience is a major problem.

"Has he ever written a ticket? No. Does he know how to train people? Absolutely," Quinn said today during an appearance at the State Journal-Register editorial board.

Monken served in the Sunni triangle in Iraq, one of the most violent areas of the country. Quinn said this life experience more than qualifies him to be the director of the State Police.

"To me, most people would say that is the ultimate police work," Quinn said. "There are some who maybe want to make things a little more political than they should be."

State Capitol Bureau

1:10 p.m.: Quinn says he had no idea IDOT head's wife would get House seat

Gov. Pat Quinn says he had no idea that Gary Hannig's wife, Betsy, would take her husband's place in the Illinois House of Representatives after Gary Hannig left the legislature to head the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Speaking to the State Journal-Register editorial board, the governor said he knew of no deal for Betsy Hannig to take her husband's place, and he said the practice of one spouse replacing another isn't unusual in Illinois politics. Both Hannigs are Litchfield Democrats.

"It isn't unheard of that a spouse fill the term of someone who has left," Quinn said, adding that Betsy Hannig has indicated that she is only serving out the rest of her husband's term and will not run for re-election.

Quinn acknowledged there's a lot of distrust toward IDOT. The agency needs a major "housecleaning" and "overhaul," he said.

The governor also repeated previous comments that he wants to move the state's primary election from Feb. 2 to a later date. He said having the primary at such an early date serves as a distraction for lawmakers.

"Permanent campaigning, permanent fundraising, permanent politics - when do we have time for governance?" asked Quinn.

State Capitol Bureau

1 p.m.: Quinn says increased gas taxes bad idea

Even though some lawmakers favor increasing the state's gas tax to help pay for a capital construction program, Gov. Pat Quinn doesn't think the idea would get enough support in the General Assembly.

Additionally, Quinn does not believe the gas tax is based on people's ability to pay.

"It is a regressive levy," Quinn said, speaking to the State Journal-Register editorial board.

The Democratic governor said his capital construction plan, which calls for raising funds by boosting fees associated with driving, is more progressive.

Because people are buying more fuel-efficient vehicles, Quinn said that relying on a gas tax hike for the construction program's funding is unrealistic.

"It is a better way to go to have a user fee on the people who use vehicles, whatever way they are fueled," Quinn said.

He added: "Any kind of transportation initiative will include public transportation as well as road and highways."

Quinn said he hopes that by next Friday -- April 3 -- lawmakers will have passed a portion of the capital construction program.

State Capitol Bureau

12:45 p.m.: Gov. Quinn says he'll take pay cut

Gov. Pat Quinn wants to "lead by example" by sacrificing part of his pay.

Quinn told the State Journal-Register editorial board today that he will take only about $150,000 of his $177,000 salary. He plans to donate the rest to organizations such as the Military Family Relief Trust Fund. The governor plans to take four furlough days, as well.

Regarding his proposal to increase the state income tax rate on individuals from 3 percent to 4.5 percent, Quinn said he wishes Illinois had a progressive tax system where people who earn more would pay more in taxes.

But he said he recognizes that implementing such a plan would be difficult. Instituting a progressive tax in Illinois would require changing the Illinois Constitution.

As a workaround, the governor said he wants to ease the burden on taxpayers by increasing the personal exemption that taxpayers can claim. The personal exemption shields some income from being taxed.

"I don't like raising the income tax, but we've tried to ameliorate the burden by having generous personal exemptions," he said.

State Capitol Bureau

12:30 p.m.: Quinn defends pension reform plans

Gov. Pat Quinn defended his pension reforms to the State Journal-Register editorial board Thursday.

"Right now, it is severely underfunded, and we have to do something about it," said Quinn, a Democrat who became governor in January after former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was removed from office.

Quinn's plan would allow current employees' pension benefits to remain unchanged, while new employees would receive lesser pension benefits that he said would be similar to Social Security.

The state could save more than $150 million over the next several decades, according to Quinn.

"I've laid out some strong pension forms," Quinn said.

There is a wave of opposition to the plan, particularly from state employee labor unions, but the current system is "an unaffordable plan," Quinn said.

State Capitol Bureau