The Chicago Tribune’s editorial board asked Pat Quinn and Bill Brady certain questions pertaining to the most pressing issues facing our state. You can find all the questions and answers (including the answers of Independent Party candidate, Scott Lee Cohen, Green Party candidate Rich Whitney, and Libertarian candidate, Lex Green) here:
Please read and make an informed decision on Tuesday- if you haven’t made that decision yet in early voting.
The following are highlights of Pat Quinn and Bill Brady’s answers to certain questions from the Chicago Tribune’s on-line election page:
With Illinois’ unemployment rate in double digits, what specific state programs or resources do you propose to use to reduce joblessness?
PAT QUINN: It is vital to our economy to create both private and public sector jobs through tailored tax credits and outreach to our business communities. After just 10 weeks as Governor, I succeeded in enacting the first comprehensive jobs plan in Illinois in 10 years. In the next six years, it will create 439,000 jobs, improving our state’s schools, bridges, roads, and other infrastructure. This jobs plan has already helped create 155,000 jobs this year. We must continue implementing the targeted tax credits that have helped us to attract businesses, and to create and retain jobs in Illinois. The Angel Investor and New Markets Tax Credits I have implemented and expanded will continue to help bring investment to our state–helping entrepreneurs and existing businesses. The Small Business Job Creation Tax Credit I have implemented will help create 20,000 jobs this year by providing a $2,500 tax credit for every job a small business creates. The Research and Development Tax Credit provides a 6.5 percent credit on qualified research and development costs. In the past six years, academic research and development in Illinois has increased by 27.5 percent, with the help of this credit. Additionally, the Put Illinois to Work Program has helped create 26,000 private-sector jobs this year. This program was designed to create jobs throughout our State while providing employment experience to those hardest hit by the recession. Put Illinois to Work has been and will continue to be one of the most successful programs of its kind in the nation.
BILL BRADY: A Brady Administration will seek immediate approval for a two-year, $3,750 tax credit to businesses for every new job they create, $2,500 in the first year and $1,250 in the second year. Every new job yields an estimated $4,346 in tax revenue. As the economy strengthens, our state will reap additional revenues each year that will further bolster Illinois’ fiscal outlook. This job creation credit will help attract investment to Illinois and quickly create new jobs to get Illinois’ unemployed back to work. I will re-tool the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to incorporate strategic planning and performance goals, serve as Illinois’ Economic Ambassador, and create a Boarder Community Task Force to focus on our competitiveness, and appoint a Council of Economic Advisors to help us leverage our agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, and coal sectors, and work with our colleges and universities to improve funding and foster new opportunities for them to forge public-private partnerships to create jobs and keep the best and brightest working here in Illinois. The high cost of Workers’ Compensation is often cited as the single most anti-business factor when evaluating Illinois’ business climate. A Brady Administration will support providing Workers’ Compensation for injured workers through an improved system with reduce costs while ensuring workers get the quality care they deserve. In Illinois last year, Workers’ Compensation rates increased by nearly 14 percent while more than 30 states saw their rates decrease. Costs of Workers’ Compensation in Illinois are nearly double those in Indiana and higher than every neighboring state. A Brady Administration will work with business and labor to effect significant changes to the system including the requirement that the workplace be the primary cause of the injury and the use of American Medical Assoc. standards.
Explain your stance on abortion, including whether you would support or veto more or fewer restrictions while in office.
PAT QUINN: I believe in a woman’s right to choose, and I believe we must strongly consider all consequences that would result from enacting any particular restriction upon that right, intended or unintended.
BILL BRADY: As a Roman Catholic my personal beliefs are rooted in and informed by the theology of my faith. As a public servant and leader, I have great respect for the will of the electorate as expressed by popular referendum or through their elected representatives, and as Governor I will follow the will of the people. Given federal laws and Supreme Court rulings, there is little we can do but work to support mothers to carry their child to term and work to ensure implementation of a parental notification law.
What rights, if any, should be granted to same-sex couples? Should they be allowed to marry? Should civil unions be legalized? Explain.
Pat Quinn: I support civil unions for same-sex couples, giving them the same rights that are currently extended to married heterosexual couples. I believe that the civil unions bill is close to passing the Illinois General Assembly, and I look forward to signing it.
BILL BRADY: Again, my personal beliefs are rooted in and informed by the theology of my faith. I believe in traditional marriage. Marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman.
Please explain whether you believe further restrictions are needed on gun ownership, use and possession.
I believe in common sense gun laws, including banning assault weapons. I also believe in banning gun sales to straw purchasers–people who buy weapons in order sell them to those who cannot legally purchase or possess them, including felons and those afflicted with mental illness. I believe in requiring gun owners to store their weapons safely, beyond the reach of children. Sen. Brady opposes reasonable gun laws. He has either voted or spoken against all three of these restrictions. I have signed legislation to toughen penalties for felons who own weapons. I also believe in restrictions that keep guns from reaching those who should not have them. Because of my positions and my record on reasonable gun laws, I have earned the endorsement of the Jim and Sarah Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a nationally-recognized champion of common-sense gun restrictions.
BILL BRADY: The question of gun ownership in Illinois is one of personal rights and personal responsibilities. I am a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment.
Do you support the death penalty and, if so, would you lift the current unofficial moratorium or do you believe more reforms must be implemented.
PAT QUINN: I have no immediate plans to lift the state’s moratorium on the death penalty. Although I support capital punishment when applied carefully and fairly, I am deeply concerned by the possibility of an innocent person being executed. The current moratorium gives the state an opportunity to reflect on the issue and create safeguards ensuring the death penalty is not being imposed improperly. It is unconscionable that an innocent person could be put to death in Illinois. Even under the moratorium, prosecutors have continued to seek death sentences for convicted murderers, and juries have agreed that the death penalty was appropriate in many of those cases. Although the moratorium gives the state of Illinois time to review all aspects of capital punishment, and makes it possible to put effective safeguards in place, the death penalty underscores our shared belief as a society that some crimes deserve the most severe punishment, when handed down fairly and justly.
BILL BRADY: The death penalty should be a punishment available to prosecutors for the extreme and heinous murders in society today. I support capital punishment, particularly for those criminals who would continue to impose a threat to society even while behind bars. I also believe that anyone proven to have murdered a law enforcement officer should receive this ultimate punishment. I will lift the moratorium on the death penalty and allow executions to resume as soon as those capital cases work their way through the necessary appeals process. I believe a Governor has the power to stay executions or commute sentences on a case-by-case basis, not to issue a blanket moratorium on executions. Allowing the execution of any person is one of the gravest decisions a governor has to make. We have worked to put in place the safeguards necessary to protect innocent men and women from being executed. However, before allowing an execution to proceed, I would work to ensure, to the best of my ability, that it was the right decision.
The budget deficit facing the state of Illinois is estimated to total at least $13 billion. Can the deficit be closed without increasing state income taxes? Explain.
PAT QUINN: Our budget deficit has resulted from decades of fiscal mismanagement, and can only be eliminated through a comprehensive, well-reasoned plan. We must create jobs and increase revenues while cutting spending. While preserving vital education, health and public safety programs, I aim to reduce the State’s accounts payable to a normal payment cycle in the first two years of my next term. The most important means of solving our budget crisis is to grow Illinois’ economy, which will generate more revenues for the State. That said, I fully recognize that hard-nosed fiscal management is a critical element in the road to recovery. I reduced spending in the General Revenue Fund by $3 billion during the past two budget cycles, more than any Governor in Illinois’ history, by requiring agencies under my jurisdiction to achieve greater operational efficiencies. Illinois has further reduced its public employee headcount by 1,100, and we now have the lowest number of state employees per capita of any state. We have also implemented furlough days for state employees, including myself, and state spending levels are now among the lowest per capita in the nation. Earlier this year I signed a law that implements the most fundamental spending reform in the history of our State. Budgeting for Results will get us more for our money by judging programs based on performance. We will fund programs that work and cut programs that do not. I have also enacted historic pension reforms that will yield immediate dividends in cost-savings to the state and ultimately yield over $200 billion in savings over the next 35 years. Pension reform is perhaps the most critical element to achieve a balanced budget because mandated catch-up pension contributions have consumed a growing share of the General Revenue Fund and had to be brought under control
BILL BRADY: Fixing Illinois’ budget requires setting performance targets for state programs and stopping pay-to-play schemes of graft and corruption. My administration will conduct a comprehensive financial and programmatic audit, employ zero-based budgeting, work to eliminate fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, prioritize our state programs and reconstruct a budget to a maximum of 90 percent of current spending to ensure the highest level of government services to our citizens within existing revenues and still providing for the citizens who need and depend on state services. Those programs that are answering a critical need and meeting their mission should be preserved; others may need to be reduced, restructured or eliminated. Specific actions that need to be taken include: * Better manage our Medicaid system to give recipients access earlier in their illness, so patients see their doctors instead of making high-cost emergency room visits; * Restore the integrity of our special state funds and our capital funds, including the Road Fund; * Address our healthcare and pension obligations to keep the promises we have made with our employees, including our state’s teachers and hold down future costs; *Work together, employer and employee alike, to cut costs and improve efficiency; * Rebuild Illinois’ civil service system to attract and retain new employees with an honest desire to serve their neighbors and to identify strong managers with leadership skills to run the state’s programs and agencies; *Hold the line on new spending to give our normal revenue growth a chance to catch up without a tax increase; * Submit all state regulations to a cost-benefit analysis and ensure each is either cost-neutral or has an agreed funding source in order to be kept; and * Analyze all state fees and the tax burden by employment sector for competitiveness with neighboring states.
Identify specific agency, departmental or programmatic cuts you would make to achieve at least $1 billion in savings–not including the use of managed care to reduce costs for Medicaid health care services for the indigent or a restructuring of the pension system.
PAT QUINN: I have cut a record $3 billion from our state’s budget, without the help of the General Assembly, in the two budgets I have enacted. A listing of the cuts I have made, by department, can be found at budget.illinois.gov. The Budgeting for Results process we have implemented for FY2011 will lead to further savings in the next fiscal year.
Again, we must restore fiscal discipline and stop spending money we don’t have. My administration will conduct a comprehensive financial and programmatic audit, employ zero-based budgeting, work to eliminate fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, prioritize our state programs and reconstruct a budget to a maximum of 90 percent of current spending to ensure the highest level of government services to our citizens within existing revenues. Those programs that are answering a critical need and meeting their mission should be preserved; others may need to be reduced, restructured or eliminated. We must also restore the integrity of our special state funds and our capital funds, including the Road Fund. We must hold the line on new spending to give our normal revenue growth a chance to catch up through a rejuvenated economy and environment that encourages business investment and job growth.
The state’s unfunded pension liability for public workers totals about $80 billion. What steps do you propose to deal with that liability?
PAT QUINN: Our unfunded pension liability developed during years of fiscal mismanagement by my predecessor and the General Assembly, where my opponent has served for 17 years. While I did not have a vote in the decisions that led to our deficit, Sen. Brady did. His vote for the Early Retirement Initiative in 2003, added 7,000 workers to the pension rolls, and to reduce the present value of the pension funds significantly. The pension stabilization plan I proposed and signed into law last spring will save Illinois more than $200 billion over the next 35 years. It was a crucial step toward restoring our state’s fiscal health, stopping the explosive growth of our unfunded pension liability. Because of this reform, the retirement plans for new employees will be far less costly to taxpayers. We have ended the practice of double-dipping, raised the retirement age for those serving in Illinois from 60 to 67, with 10 years of service, and ensured that benefits for new employees will not exceed $106,800, and will now be based not on the highest four years of a retiree’s last 10, but on the highest eight. Going forward, I strongly support funding pension obligations; it is essential to improving Illinois’ long-term fiscal health. This year, I pushed strongly for legislation to fund our state’s annual pension obligation, my opponent worked tirelessly to block it. As a result, it never came to a vote in the Senate. Though Illinois will make scheduled pension payments in FY 2011, they will not be as significant as would be necessary to reduce our unfunded liability. I will continue fighting to fully fund our state’s pension obligation every year. It is not only the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do.
BILL BRADY: The pension issue is complex, and there is little question that the systems’ great unfunded liability is a result of recent administrations and past sessions of the General Assembly deferring or ignoring the responsibility to fund our pension systems. What is also true is that current funding levels are not working and our pension liabilities are dangerously high, thereby threatening the benefits of all state government employees and teachers. In order to protect the people who have already earned pension benefits–retirees and current employees–we must realize we can no longer afford the growth of the current system. My administration will seek to work with the leadership of our state employee labor organizations and all affected groups to explore options for improving our pension systems. I believe we need to move from the current defined benefit pension program for state employees to a defined contribution system for new employees, similar to that we offer state university employees under legislation I sponsored and similar to 401(k) options being considered and implemented by other states and private industry. I believe such a system will begin to correct the growing unfunded liability problem. It is actuarially sound and provides guarantees and benefits for the state taxpayers, state employees and their families. I will not sign a budget that does not fund our pension obligations. The Brady Administration will be committed to listening to the voice of labor and, while we may not be in agreement on every issue, the door to my office will be open and communication will take.
Providers of services to Illinois government are owed at least $5 billion from unpaid bills. How quickly would you address this and how?
PAT QUINN: As I have said, in order to restore Illinois’ fiscal heath and reduce payment cycles, we must implement a well-reasoned, responsible plan. We must attack it on all fronts, by creating jobs and increasing revenues while cutting spending and also including strategic borrowing as well as additional assistance from the federal government. To restore our state’s fiscal health, and to reduce payment cycles, I have cut $3 billion in spending in the two budgets I have enacted, reducing our state employee headcount by 1,100. While preserving vital education, health and public safety programs, I have set as a goal the reduction of the State’s accounts payable to a normal payment cycle in the first two years of my next term. We are working to ensure that bills incurred in FY2010 will be paid by December 31, 2010. For vendors and agencies that are distressed, we’re working to expedite payments.
BILL BRADY: The unpaid bills must be addressed immediately. The backlog is costing the state 9 percent interest under the Prompt Payment Act and when we borrow to pay the bills, as we did twice in FY 2010, and then it costs the state interest on those loans as well. The FY 2010 loans cost $55.3 million. We may have to borrow to pay our unpaid obligations to save the state from even higher interest payments, but only with a repayment plan and as part of a comprehensive economic development plan to rebuild our state’s economy. Another option would be to use natural revenue growth to pay down the backlog over a couple fiscal years.