The Pantagraph

Brady says he can work with Democrats, has Madigan's trust

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

BLOOMINGTON — Bill Brady, the Republican candidate for governor, said Tuesday he was ready to work with Democrats on pension reform and other controversial issues if elected, adding he thinks powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan “is looking for a leader … that he can trust” to lead the state.

“And I think Mike Madigan trusts me,” Brady told The Pantagraph editorial board.

At one point, Brady called Madigan, who has been speaker almost continuously since 1983, a “dictator,” but also said the Chicago Democrat “has a lot of respect for an effective governor.”

“We saw it with Edgar,” said Brady, referring to Jim Edgar, the Republican who served two terms as governor in the 1990s and who has endorsed Brady. “And I’m not a clone of Edgar, but I do think you can learn things from that success.”

Madigan’s longevity is an example of why Brady supports term limits for state lawmakers, he told the board. Limits — 10 years in both the House and Senate, and three terms for statewide officers — are central to Brady’s ethics platform.

“It’s not a citizen legislature,” said Brady, who served in the Illinois House from 1993 to 2000 and the Senate from 2002 to the present.

The Bloomington state senator also said private-sector tools like professional audits and 401(k) plans would help solve the state’s massive budget problems that surround the state’s $13 billion deficit.

Brady, who repeatedly touts his experience as a businessman on the stump, faces Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in the Nov. 2. election.

“The solutions I see for government, I don’t see them as partisan,” said Brady.

Specifically, further pension reform requires cooperation with Democrats, Brady said. New state employees should be put into a 401(k)-style retirement plan, and maybe a similar hybrid form for some current employees, he said.

In April, Quinn signed into law pension reforms designed to save the state $220 billion over 35 years, but the changes only affect employees starting their jobs in 2011 and after. Brady said he was not sure exactly what pension changes would be allowed related to existing contracts or current employees.

But by shifting to defined-contribution 401(k) plans, common in the private sector, the state could cut what Brady called a $75 billion unfunded liability into something closer to $50 billion that could be paid off over 30 or 40 years.

When asked whether the public and private sectors were different, he replied, “Why? It shouldn’t be.

“We can’t continue to let people tell us that,” he said.

The senator also repeatedly leaned on his plan for what he calls a “business audit” of state finances that he’ll request during the fall veto session that follows the election to get a handle on state spending and how to begin reducing it.

Though there remain questions about the cost and speed of such an audit, Brady said it’s essential to his pledge to cut “a dime on every dollar in general terms of spending, because we’re spending beyond our means.”