Governor's race: Quinn and Brady on the issues

Monday, October 18, 2010

SPRINGFIELD -- No other issue dominates Illinois' five-way governor's race like finding a way out of the state's historic budget mess.

Comptroller Dan Hynes has suggested that deficit could grow to a staggering $15 billion by the state's next fiscal year without some kind of aggressive response.

So far, neither of the two major-party candidates, Gov. Quinn or state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), has offered a clear-cut strategy to completely eradicate the meltdown.

Below is a look at the plans they've put forth, as well as their positions on two of the campaign's other major talking points: jobs and social issues.

BUDGET

Once Quinn and Brady emerged from their respective February primaries, it became clear the Nov. 2 race between them would be a referendum on the Democratic governor's plan to raise the state's income tax.

Quinn wants to boost the state's 3 percent individual income tax rate by a percentage point. He says that, along with borrowing, unspecified spending cuts and a redoubling of efforts to get federal funding are the answers to the state's fiscal calamity.

By contrast, Brady opposes increases in taxes or fees and wants to completely eliminate Illinois' estate tax. The senator has proposed cutting state spending by 10 percent and launching a "comprehensive" statewide audit to identify government waste.

Brady has left open the possibility that he could wring more than 10 percent in spending cuts from the state's Medicaid program, while Quinn has pledged to avoid "harming education, health care and public safety."

"To my knowledge, no one has laid out a specific plan for where they'd cut or if they increase revenues where they'd increase revenues," said Robert Mandeville, budget director under former Gov. James Thompson from 1977 to 1990.

"Quinn has come the closest, saying he'd favor an increase in the income tax, which is probably the fairest revenue source but one that isn't politically feasible right now," said Mandeville, who said the ultimate answer may involve a combination of "the good points" from both candidates' plans.

JOBS

Brady said the state has lost 200,000 jobs since Quinn took over for impeached ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich in January 2009 and argues that pace will continue if the Democratic governor succeeds in raising the state's income tax.

The state senator, who has pushed a series of business tax breaks, has advocated a two-year tax credit that would allow businesses to write off up to $3,750 for each new job they create.

Quinn, meanwhile, says Illinois is leading the Midwest this year so far in job growth and predicts the $31 billion capital construction program he enacted last year will result in 400,000 new jobs in the next six years, many tied to the construction industry.

Quinn, who points to his successful courtships of Ford Motor Co. and United Parcel Service to bring new jobs here or preserve existing ones, signed legislation last spring that gives small businesses a $2,500 tax credit for every full-time job they create.

But some advocates for the unemployed say the candidates' publicly stated plans really offer no immediate relief for the state's jobless population.

"They're both saying words and skirting the issue," said Edith Crigler, president of the Chicago Jobs Council, a nonprofit advocacy organization devoted to helping those in poverty find employment.

SOCIAL ISSUES

Brady and Quinn clash over a whole host of hot-button topics, from gun control to civil unions to abortion to the death penalty.

Brady, backed by the Illinois State Rifle Association, favors allowing Illinoisans to carry concealed weapons so long as they are licensed by the state. Quinn opposes that.

The governor favors granting gays and lesbians the right to enter into civil unions and has promised to sign legislation authorizing that should it reach his desk by the end of the year. Brady, saying his beliefs are rooted in "traditional marriage," opposes civil unions between gays and lesbians.

On the death penalty, Brady said it is time to lift the moratorium on executions that former Gov. George Ryan imposed before leaving office after 12 Death Row inmates were exonerated. The moratorium remained in place under Blagojevich, and Quinn says he'd continue that stance for fear of "an innocent man or woman being executed."

And with abortion, Brady opposes it in cases of rape and incest but does not object to the procedure if it is necessary to save the life of the mother. Quinn favors abortion rights.