Chuck Sweeny: Brady says he’ll control spending, court businesses

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bill Brady stopped by the newspaper Monday to meet the Editorial Board. Brady, the Republican candidate for governor, painted with a broad brush, as has been his practice on the campaign trail.

Neither Brady, a homebuilder and state senator from Bloomington, nor Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has been very detailed about how they intend to address Illinois’ fiscal woes, and that is frustrating to worried residents who want to know what the next four years will bring to our troubled state, whose “Land of Lincoln” motto should be changed to “Land of Enron Accounting.”

Brady described a fiscally conservative philosophy of government that concentrates on growing the private economy and shrinking government to create jobs and entice businesses to locate here.

“Regrettably, Illinois is in one of the worst, if not the worst, financial conditions of any state in the nation. We’re over $130 billion in total debt, $75 billion of it in pension obligations, $20 billion in bonded debt, and over $5 billion in unpaid bills. ... Over half of that was put in place in the last eight years,” Brady said. “We’re still losing jobs when 35 states are creating them.”

On the plus side, he said, Illinois has strong economic assets that can help turn the economy around. And it has a prime location in the middle of the country.

But other states are snatching our companies; Brady said Mitch Daniels, Indiana’s governor, comes to Chicago four times a year to recruit businesses to the Hoosier state.

“We have to give businesses consistency. I want to give them a reason to invest in Illinois, by stabilizing the tax environment, lowering some taxes,” he said. Brady would establish a council of Illinois’ most respected economic experts to recommend policies and legislation to grow the economy.

Brady said Illinois’ workers’ compensation law must be reformed. Workers’ comp costs employers half as much in Indiana as in Illinois. Brady said the state must also reduce the cost of medical malpractice insurance to keep doctors here. And he’d write a long-term capital improvements plan stretching 20 years or more.

But how, we wanted to know, would he tackle all our debts?
“I’ve called for a minimum 10 percent reduction” in government spending, he said. Brady would gradually change all pensions from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans as union contracts come due. He’d put Medicaid recipients on managed care and crack down on Medicaid fraud.

“Managed care is one of the best ways to (reduce fraud) in other states,” he said.

Brady doesn’t plan on raising taxes, and he suggested ending the 5 percent sales tax on motor fuel to entice truckers and travelers to buy gas in Illinois instead of at places like the “World’s Largest Truck Stop” on Interstate 80 in Iowa, where gas is cheaper.

Overall, “I have to take spending down from $56 billion down to nearer $48 billion, and that would give us $2 billion to shorten and pay down the $5 billion in unpaid bills,” Brady said.

Polls show him ahead of Quinn by about 12 percentage points. But unless Republicans show up in tsunami-like numbers at the polls, the Legislature is likely to remain Democratic, and that will frustrate Brady’s plans.

Brady said some rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers know things have to change in Springfield, and if he has to play the role of the Democrats’ “bad guy” to force spending controls into law, he doesn’t mind.