Pat Quinn sworn in as Illinois governor

Quinn was sworn in yesterday in Springfield amid an immense budget crisis. According to Fox Chicago TV News, Quinn began his inaugural address by calling for unity and pledging to work with all in state government, including his former political opponents.

"We are one people. We must be one people to address the challenges ahead," he said.

The 63-year-old Democrat, who was lieutenant governor of Illinois until 2009, beat Republican State Senator Bill Brady in the November election. In January in the same year, he had taken over the office from the then Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested on federal corruption charges.

Quinn becomes the state's governor at a time when the budget deficit could hit USD 15 billion. He and other Democratic leaders are trying to pass a major income tax increase that would boost the 3 per cent income tax rate to 5.25 per cent for four years, a 75 per cent increase.

They're also looking at a dollar-a-pack increase in cigarette taxes, more than double the current rate. Together, the increases would produce about USD 7.5 billion a year, backers say.

The money would be used in several ways; to close the gap between annual government costs and revenues, to provide money for education and property tax relief, and to finance borrowing about USD 8 billion to pay off the state's backlog of overdue bills.

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