GOP candidates for Ill. governor debate jobs, taxes - | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

GOP candidates for Ill. governor debate jobs, taxes

Posted: Updated:
Ill. Sen. Kirk Dillard, Ill. Sen. Bill Brady, Ill. Treasurer Dan Rutherford, businessman Bruce Rauner and FOX 32's Mike Flannery Ill. Sen. Kirk Dillard, Ill. Sen. Bill Brady, Ill. Treasurer Dan Rutherford, businessman Bruce Rauner and FOX 32's Mike Flannery
Debate moderator FOX 32 Political Editor Mike Flannery. Debate moderator FOX 32 Political Editor Mike Flannery.
NAPERVILLE, Ill. (FOX 32 News) -

The first formal debate among the GOP candidates vying for Illinois governor took place on Tuesday in Naperville. Moderator Mike Flannery, FOX 32's Political Editor, threw some hard questions at each man.

With Illinois sitting at the tipping point on jobs, education and taxes, this debate is a big deal.

State Senators Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, businessman Bruce Rauner and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford participated in the fiery exchange, speaking in front of representatives from debate's sponsors: The Illinois Manufacturers' Association and the Valley Industrial Association.

WATCH the entire debate by clicking the play button on the video player above.

Cindy Tomei of the Valley Industrial Association says members are anxious for changes that will lead to more job creation and a stronger economy.

When it comes to the top spot in our state, there are many things to consider. How to fix Illinois' fiscal problems was the major focus of the debate. From pension reform, to business growth, to cracking down on fraud, they each listed how they would help taxpayers get some relief and grow our coffers into a surplus.

All of the Republicans said they would like Illinois' 4-year "temporary" income tax increase to expire as scheduled on Jan. 1, 2015, a move they say will make the state friendlier to business and provide much-needed relief to residents.

The income tax would fall from a flat 5% to 3.75% if it expires on time, and is expected to reduce state revenue by about $2 billion next fiscal year. The rollback is likely to be the subject of heated debate in the Legislature this year.

They also want to go beyond that to a wide-ranging redo of the way the state collects revenue. The Republican candidates promise - some more vaguely than others - to make cuts in state spending.

Treasurer Dan Rutherford is the only one who was willing to discuss keeping the income tax at its current level for a time, in light of the $6 billion in unpaid bills. But he said he would seek a comprehensive fix for our chronic budget problems.

"Revenue may need to be on the table," Rutherford said. "But I will tell you as the governor, I will not sign any - any revenue - into law that is not a part of a comprehensive, verifiable, long-term solution to the finances of our state."

But the former legislator from Chenoa said he would work with the Democrat-controlled General Assembly to reach consensus on how to reduce spending.

"A governor is not king of the forest," Rutherford said. "You cannot go in and command it to be done."

Brady, who won the 2010 GOP nomination but lost to Gov. Pat Quinn in the general election, noted he supported legislation last year to cut public-employee pensions and eliminate the state's $100 billion unfunded liability. He says that measure -- which currently is being challenged in court by labor unions and retired state employees -- could save Illinois $1.3 billion in the first year if it's allowed to take effect.

"I look at it as a promise," Brady said. "A promised cut to the people of Illinois, individuals who paid a 67% increase one week's pay over the last several years and to businesses."

Rauner, a businessman from Winnetka making his first bid for public office, said he supports replacing public-worker pensions with a 401K-style, defined contribution plan he says would create "dramatic savings" within three years. He also said the state should take a tougher stance on rooting out Medicaid fraud, calling the insurance program for the poor and disabled "broken and corrupt and out of control."

"We in Illinois have become as hostile to business as any state in America," Rauner said. "If we don't fundamentally transform that, nothing else matters. We can't afford education. We can't afford health care. We can't afford infrastructure. We can't afford anything else."

"We need a top-to-bottom overhaul of our tax structure in Illinois," Dillard said. "We are overtaxed. We are greatly overregulated."

Dillard also said Illinois should target Medicaid abuses.

"If you clean up your Medicaid rolls, people who truly need our help will get better help and taxpayers will save billions of dollars," the lawmaker from Hinsdale told reporters afterward.

Dillard and Rauner both said that if elected they would convene a task force of business and other leaders to analyze Illinois' tax structure and recommend changes. They said they would be open to considering imposing a tax on services -- such as haircuts and landscaping -- if it meant lowering tax rates overall.

Brady, of Bloomington, said there's "no question" that the state should broaden its tax base in order to reduce rates. But he said Illinois first must find a way to require out-of-state companies that sell products in Illinois online to pay state taxes. The Illinois Supreme Court last year threw out a law that imposes the so-called "Amazon tax" on some digital sales.

"It's an unfair advantage to out-of-state retailers," Brady said.

But Rutherford called a tax on services "a bad idea."

"When government starts to be able to tax something new, they're going to look for the next thing new after that," he said.

Unemployment will be at the heart of the election for Illinois governor. Illinois has the third worst unemployment rate in the United States. Only Nevada and Rhode Island are doing worse in that department. The candidates answered questions regarding how they would help Illinoisans find work.

The candidates said Illinois needs to do more to prepare residents for available jobs, addressing the so-called "skills gap" in Illinois.

Dillard said the state needs a second math and science academy for high-performing students, which should be located in Jacksonville. Rauner said vocational and technical education should be returned to Illinois high schools, and schools should partner more with business. Rutherford said Illinois must increase funding for grants to help students pay for a post-secondary education. Brady wants to abolish the state board of education and empower regional offices of education to tailor local offerings to meet area job needs.

The race for governor has recently been focused on allegations against Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford. A state employee is accusing the candidate of harassment, and submitted his resignation on Monday.

Rutherford calls those claims politically motivated and alleges the man's attorney demanded $300,000 for the complaint to go away.

The Republican who wins the nomination in the March 18 primary likely will face Quinn in November. The Chicago Democrat faces a lesser-known challenger, anti-violence activist Tio Hardiman of Hillside, in the primary.


EXCLUSIVE: Ill. Treasurer Rutherford responds to harassment claim

Rutherford: Gov. rival Rauner behind staffer's allegations

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Us!

Share Your Photos & Video

Powered by WorldNow

119 East 10th Street
Austin, TX 78701

Phone: (512) 476-7777
Fax: (512) 495-7001

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices