Gov. Pat Quinn and GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady clashed on the state budget and economic strategies in their first scheduled debate.
As Illinois' 2010 gubernatorial race hits the home stretch, it's clear that the two major party candidates will spend most of their energy focusing on jobs. It's also clear that the campaign is going to be a snippy one.
At the Union League Club of Chicago this morning, Gov. Pat Quinn and GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady squared off in their first scheduled debate. The economy and job creation, which Quinn called "the central issue of our times," dominated the discussion.
Quinn, to his credit, touted many of his accomplishments since taking office, particularly with regards to job growth. In his opening remarks, the Democrat presented himself as a "doer," having cut the state's General Revenue Fund by $3 billion over two years, passed a two-tired pension reform bill and a capital construction bill, and worked with big companies like Ford and Navistar to keep jobs in or relocate to Illinois. This is a message his campaign has muddled pretty much all summer.
Brady countered vigorously, chastising Quinn for not passing a balanced state budget and for negotiating what he called "shady deals" with public employee union members. He proceeded to the 14-page jobs plan he wants to implement if elected this fall. "I've often said if higher taxes and higher fees, more litigation and regulation, deficits and debts created jobs, we'd be the number one job producing state in the nation," Brady said. Watch:
The problems with Brady's jobs bill, as we detailed previously, are aplenty. While some of his regulatory changes are worthwhile, others have already been taken up by the General Assembly recently. And the tax cuts he supports -- a "jumpstart tax credit" for businesses of any size, a slew of smaller subsides, and the permanent repeal of the state estate tax and the state sales tax on gasoline -- would increase the deficit next year and might not draw in any new revenue in the long-term.
Quinn wasted few opportunities to bash Brady for that tax platform, which he said would help "multi-millionaires" and Brady's "friends." He also called Brady out for his failure to produce a detailed budget plan, a criticism the Republican has faced for months. "We've got to have someone with common sense," Quinn quipped, "not nonsense." Watch it:
Neither candidate, as expected, offered a comprehensive proposal to pull Illinois out of its fiscal hole. Brady called, once again, for a 10 percent reduction in state spending -- which Quinn described as heartless -- without identifying where those cuts would take place. The governor, on the other hand, reiterated his support for a small income tax increase and was most compelling in discussing the state's constitutional mandate to fund education adequately, one Brady has not upheld during his 17-year tenure under the capitol dome. Watch:
Of course, Quinn's new income tax proposal -- which incorporates a mandated "property tax swap" -- would not produce enough revenue to pay off Illinois' debts or increase education funding in Illinois, particularly in the poorest districts.
There will be several other opportunities before November 2 for Quinn and Brady to make their case to the voters of Illinois. With unemployment high (but falling) and poverty rising, the trailing Quinn needs to convince folks that he's gotten the state back on the road to recovery. In five weeks, we will see if he is able to make the sell.