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Decision 2014: Illinois gubernatorial candidates on the record

Interested in the gubernatorial candidates positions on taxes, schools, term limits? Read this compilation. 



No agreement on term limits among gubernatorial candidates

By Rod Thomson - October 8, 2013

Among the field of contenders for the 2014 Illinois gubernatorial race, there is almost no agreement on the issue of legislative term limits or energy in pursuit of the cause.

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner launched the issue to the forefront by creating a Political Action Committee to fund a campaign promoting the idea of putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

But the rest of the field of candidates only gives mild degrees of support for term limits as a general proposition. None of them favors Rauner’s concrete proposal. And none of them are pushing the issue.

Rauner is proposing to amend the Illinois Constitution to limit terms for state lawmakers to eight years of lifetime service, and to restructure the General Assembly to reduce the number of senators and increase the number of representatives. The amendment also calls for increasing the threshold for overriding a governor’s veto from three-fifths to two-thirds.

Rauner, a venture capitalist and the only candidate for governor who does not hold elected office, created the Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits PAC to financially back the constitutional amendment. The PAC has raised $205,000 through the filing period ending Sept. 30. His argument for term limits is blunt.

“We are the worst-run state in America with the most corrupt politicians in America,” Rauner said. “It’s time we dramatically shake up the system and get rid of these career politicians. We want regular, everyday people who are going into public service for the right reasons.”

To increase the chances of passing constitutional muster, the term limits proposal also includes reducing the number of Senate seats and increasing House seats. So instead of two House members for each Senate member, there would be three House members per senator. This is a strategy for making it more difficult for incumbent representatives to run as quasi incumbents for a Senate seat because they already represent half of the district. And that could also limit the number of terms being served.

Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf added that the shift in General Assembly size meets the requirement that amendments be both structural and procedural — a hurdle that tripped up term limits when the issue went before the Illinois Supreme Court in 1994.

But the threefold nature of the proposal presents opportunities for opposition to the overall amendment.

State Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, said he favors term limits in concept, but he thinks that allowing voters to recall politicians is “quicker and better.” He is more in favor of term limits only for legislative leaders, such as House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has been the Speaker since 1983 — with only a two-year interruption when Republicans briefly gained the majority.

Dillard, who has been in the state Senate for 19 years, said if an amendment were crafted well, he would support it. But he thinks Rauner’s is poorly written and does not support it. Part of his opposition is reducing the number of Senate seats.

“By shrinking the Senate, [Rauner] puts more power in the hands of Mike Madigan,” Dillard said. “And by shrinking Senate seats, and thereby greatly increasing the size of Senate districts, rural Illinoisans will suffer from being far from their senator. Bruce’s proposal decimates downstate Illinois,” he said.

Neither Rauner’s or Dillard’s ideas are slam dunks for Illinois Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington. While he is “quite amenable to term limits” on the entire General Assembly, he said “it’s not realistic to put term limits on [only] legislative leaders.”

Brady, who served seven years in the state House and has been in the state Senate for 11 years, said he supports limiting House members to five terms and Senate members to three terms, and then allowing for someone term-limited from office to be able to run in the opposite chamber. So someone could serve 22 years in the General Assembly — nearly three times what Rauner’s proposal envisions.

On Rauner’s specific amendment, Brady said it does not handle staggered terms and could leave some elected members term-limited out of office in mid-term.

Brady favors repeal of the 1980 Cutback Amendment and a return to multi-member districts in the House that allowed for cumulative voting. That system calls for three members per district and allows voters to spread their vote among two or three candidates or cast three votes for a single candidate.

The Cutback Amendment changed that to one vote per office and reduced the House of Representatives from 177 to 118 members. The change came after the General Assembly gave itself a 40 percent pay raise that outraged residents.

Brady believes that would allow for better representation by promoting more turnover in office.

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford is not a supporter of term limits except for the legislative leadership of the Speaker of the House and Senate President. Otherwise, he said, voters are the term limiters.

“Let the local electorate be free to re-elect their own representative,” he said.

On the Democrat side, Gov. Pat Quinn was at one time such a strong proponent of term limits that he ran a campaign entitled “Eight is Enough” to limit state legislators to eight consecutive years in office.

That was the proposed amendment the Illinois Supreme Court struck down because it did not adhere to the legal standard that amendments generated by voter petitions “must affect both the structure and procedures of the Legislature.”

Now, however, while Quinn’s spokesman says he is open to the concept of term limits, he opposes Rauner’s because he does not think the House should be expanded by five seats. Quinn has been in elected office or campaigning for elected office almost continually since 1990.


GOP gubernatorial candidates differ on Right to Work 

By Rod Thomson - November 25, 2013

Has the recent evolution of both Indiana and Michigan to Right-to-Work states under Republican gubernatorial administrations affected the views of the men running in the GOP primary to be Illinois’ next governor?

The answer: it’s unclear. An Illinois News Network survey of candidates finds that most seem to prefer not engaging on the issue of whether a worker can be compelled to join a union as a condition of taking or keeping a job.

Republican businessman Bruce Rauner takes the most defined stance, saying he supports the concept of Right to Work, but not a statewide change in law.

“What I’m a proponent of is allowing local governments in the state of Illinois — counties and municipalities — to decide for themselves whether to be Right to Work,” Rauner said. “For counties and municipalities that don’t want employee freedom, they can do that.”

Rauner said he does not think that his method, which could result in a patchwork of laws across the state, would create a problem for companies looking to expand in Illinois.

His opponents largely avoid the issue.

Illinois state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, said the reality is that the Democrats control the General Assembly and therefore Right-to-Work proposals are irrelevant. He told an Illinois News Network reporter he was “wasting his breath” to pursue the questioning.

“The reality is that the Democrats aren’t likely to allow anything,” he said. Therefore, he said, his campaign “is not focused” on the issue right now.

Brady said if it were up to him, he would leave it up to individual shops, letting employees opt in or out.

Illinois State Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, declined to be interviewed for this story, but did issue the following statement:

“While job creation is our top priority, the political realities of Illinois make Right-to-Work legislation counter-productive. There are other ways to create jobs and get the state’s economy moving, and that’s what we’re focused on.”

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford was also adamant about not committing on the issue.

“I’m just not going to make that an issue,” he said. “The makeup of the General Assembly is not going to allow it to happen.”

Does he favor Right to Work in concept?

“I’m not going down any conceptual stuff because the point is it is not going to be any part of my term in office,” he said.

When pressed by the Illinois News Network on whether the moves of neighboring states to Right-to-Work status could be a problem for Illinois, Rutherford’s response was: “Illinois is not Michigan. Illinois is not Wisconsin. Illinois is not Indiana.”

Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is opposed to any changes in the state’s union laws and criticized Indiana’s new law in a January 2012 interview with CBS Chicago. He called it a “bad bill” and said he was not concerned about companies leaving Illinois.

“That ain’t gonna happen, I’ll tell you that,” Quinn said, regarding companies leaving for Indiana.

In the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, unions contributed $14.5 million to candidates — $14.1 million of which went to Democrats.

Regardless of where the Illinois candidates stand on Right-to-Work legislation, it is clear Midwestern states are increasingly open to the concept.

Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin are instructive.

All three in recent years have adopted types of Right-to-Work legislation. Wisconsin’s law affects some government workers. The Indiana and Michigan measures encompass both public and private workforces.

Competitive pressure had a lot to do with the passage of labor reforms.

In addition to high taxes, one of the major knocks against Michigan was the sometimes crippling costs of companies that had to pay above-average union wages. Their workers had no choice in a unionized shop but to join the union and pay dues to remain employed. That damaged the state’s ability to compete with other states when attracting companies looking to expand.

In 2010, when the fight began for Right to Work in Michigan, the state was the only one in the nation losing population, and by a three-to-one margin people were leaving for Right-to-Work states, according to U.S. Census figures.

Republicans gaining majorities in both houses of the Michigan Legislature, as well as having a GOP office-holder in the governor’s mansion, cleared the way for Right-to-Work legislation to be considered in what was once perhaps the premier unionized state.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was not originally seeking the law, because he thought the debate would be too divisive, said Vince Vernuccio, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center. “He said he would sign a bill, but he did not really want the debate,” Vernuccio said.

But the unions created that debate on their own when they tried to put Proposal 2 on the ballot, which would have banned Right-to-Work laws from being passed. That proposal was defeated decisively and then Snyder decided it was time.

“Once the bills were introduced, he came out very strongly for it,” Vernuccio said. The governor’s strong support was critical to passage, but the momentum started in the Legislature, he said.

Iowa already is a Right-to-Work state and it now appears Missouri, with a Republican-controlled legislature, will put a Right-to-Work measure on the ballot for voters in 2014. Kentucky has Right-to-Work legislation introduced in its Legislature.

The changing dynamics of the Midwest toward Right-to-Work status may cause competitive problems for a state such as Illinois that is already struggling to compete for jobs.

Right-to-Work laws essentially make union participation and dues voluntary, and prohibit joining a union being a condition of employment. The laws make wages more competitive and unions less politically powerful. 23 states now have Right-to-Work laws on the books.

Robert Bruno, a professor in the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois, is an opponent of Right-to-Work laws because he says they decrease unionization, which decreases pay and benefits for workers.

“It shifts the value of the employer-employee relationship to the employers,” said Bruno, who is also the director of the Labor Education Program in Chicago.

But proponents of Right-to-Work laws say the laws make states more economically competitive in a national and global environment.

“Businesses will continue to cold-shoulder Illinois, and especially if it keeps going the opposite direction with higher taxes and regulations,” said George Leef, director of research at the Pope Center, a North Carolina-based public policy think tank.

Leef, author of “Free Choice for Workers: A History of the Right to Work Movement,” explained that businesses consider a range of issues when deciding where to expand, and compulsory unionization is one of them. “If Illinois were to adopt a Right-to-Work statute, it would remove one of the negative assessments for establishing a business,” he said.

While Illinois remains a Democrat-dominated state with its unions wielding enormous political power, it also faces financially unsustainable public pension programs, continually rising debt loads and higher taxes — all elements leading up to labor law changes in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Bruno says he does not see Illinois becoming a Right-to-Work state in the near future. But he added that there are economic pressures on the state and “I never thought we would see it in Michigan.”


Tax extension not popular with candidates

By Rod Thomson - February 10, 2014

Illinoisans have never rewarded politicians for tax hikes, one major reason why extending the temporary income tax increase is facing political headwinds.

Three out of four Republicans vying for the gubernatorial nomination say they are opposed to the extension and would veto it as governor. The fourth says he is opposed to it but that it should be on the table for negotiations. And perhaps most tellingly, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is being coy on the issue, preferring to talk about other issues instead.

But the issue of extending the temporary tax hike, due to sunset Jan. 1, 2015, will work its will on state politics throughout 2014.

“It will be the issue of next year,” said long-time political analyst Thom Serafin, of Chicago-based Serafin & Associates. “I’m surprised Democrats have let that happen.”

Because of internal politics, Democrats did not move to extend the issue in 2013, leaving it to be decided during an election year. And it’s a whopper for the state’s budget and political futures.

In 2011, Democrat lawmakers approved the tax increase in an effort to augment a state budget that was sagging under weak revenues from economic stagnation and the rising costs of government, such as massive pension liabilities. Personal income tax rates were jacked up from three percent to five percent, and the corporate tax was raised from 4.8 percent to seven percent.

Three out of four Republican gubernatorial candidates oppose any extension outright and say they will veto it if they become governor. Those candidates are state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, businessman Bruce Rauner and state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington.

“I’d veto it so fast it would make your head spin,” Rauner said. “We have got to reduce the tax burden on our economy, on homeowners, we’ve got to reduce the spending.”

Dillard and Brady are as adamant. Dillard said the Republicans are laying out a plan to roll back the tax “and get our economy rolling again.” And Brady points out that “states that do not have an income tax are the states that are most fiscally sound and solvent.”

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford leaves the door ajar.

“I’m not going to be a governor who promises you I won’t look at revenue if they continue to drive this car off the cliff,” Rutherford said, pointing out that “several billion dollars” will no longer be flowing into the state coffers if it is eliminated. But he seems to be open to it for negotiating purposes.

“I don’t want it. I don’t want it. I don’t want it,” he said. “But it may need to be on the table for negotiation of some form or another.”

The elimination of the tax would put a hole in the state budget, at least temporarily, of $3.75 billion annually.

Of course, part of the problem is that the Legislature has ramped up state spending in advance of the tax ending, making the apparent spending hole caused by losing the tax look larger.

Gov. Quinn just won’t talk about it right now, even when asked directly, preferring to discuss the pension fund crisis. The tax hike’s unpopularity during an election year makes it difficult for a Democrat running for re-election to outwardly support. But Democrats approved it originally, and powerful Democrat interests such as government unions favor it. That makes it difficult for a Democrat to oppose.

However, Quinn campaigned on raising incomes taxes by 33 percent but then signed the bill hiking them 67 percent, making him potentially vulnerable on the issue in the general election.

The temporary nature of the tax was politically necessary. Illinois politicians remember their history. Republican Richard Ogilvie was elected governor of Illinois in 1968 and instituted the state’s first income tax with the bipartisan help of then-Lt. Gov. Paul Simon. Simon ran against Dan Walker for the Democrat gubernatorial nomination and lost. Walker then went on to defeat Ogilvie in the 1972 general election. Both victories were secured on the strength of the income tax’s unpopularity.

So the 2011 law made the income tax hike temporary, setting its elimination for 2015. However, that sunset clause in the law does not put the rate all the way back to its original amount but to a 3.75 percent income tax rate on individuals and a 5.25 percent rate on businesses.

By the end of 2014, the tax hike will have drained an extra $25.7 billion from Illinois taxpayers, according to the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. Unfortunately, the promise of the hike to pay down Illinois’ bills and stabilize the pension funds has gone unrealized. All of the money has been spent, but pension debt and the state’s overall debt have continued to grow.

In December, the state had a backlog of $7.6 billion in unpaid bills. The state’s unfunded pension liabilities have grown to nearly $100 billion, an increase of $17 billion since the tax was enacted.


Corporate incentives and the candidates

By Jes Greene - February 25, 2014 

With Illinois ranked third in the nation for unemployment and companies fleeing to lower-tax states, corporate incentives will be an issue for whoever is elected governor in November.

And most of the gubernatorial candidates have track records supportive of tax breaks for select businesses.

The state has tried to stem this migration of jobs from the Land of Lincoln by offering some companies special tax breaks.

But critics say the practice unfairly benefits some businesses while leaving competitors at a disadvantage. They contend ordinary taxpayers are often left paying for a disproportionate share of government services.

Illinois has an unemployment rate of 8.6 percent, higher than all but Nevada and Rhode Island. That’s despite the enticements in a tax credit program in place since 1999 called EDGE, or Economic Development for a Growing Economy.

To qualify, businesses must invest in the state, create jobs and increase current operations or expand to a new location. Businesses must also prove they have competitive offers to move across state lines.

The gubernatorial candidates vary in their stances on these incentives.

After the House adjourned in December without voting on a special incentive for Archer Daniels Midland, state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, called on Gov. Pat Quinn to reconvene the House to pass the deal.

But no vote was taken. ADM announced it is moving its corporate headquarters from downstate Decatur to Chicago. The future of other ADM office jobs in Decatur remain a question mark.

“Incentives have to be a win-win proposition. We have to make sure they’re a win for the state of Illinois as taxpayers and a win for the communities and workers,” Brady said.

In 2013, state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, co-sponsored a bill to grant EDGE incentives for Univar, a $10 billion chemical distribution company, to move to Illinois.

Dillard says he hopes incentives will soon be unnecessary.

“While we may need to continue to offer some incentives in the very short term, I want to make sure that small businesses have the same opportunity as the big guy for the kinds of advantages they need to become entrepreneurs,” Dillard told Illinois News Network.

Bruce Rauner has called for lowering taxes, reducing regulatory burdens and reforming workers compensation, the tort system, the cost of insurance, environmental restrictions and labor regulations.

“We are a regulation heavy, restrictive, heavy bureaucracy state,” Rauner said in a gubernatorial debate held in late February in Springfield. “We need to become pro-free enterprise and pro-growth again so we are stealing businesses back from Indiana rather than the other way around.”

Rauner’s campaign did not respond to repeated inquiries from Illinois News Network on where he stands on corporate incentives.

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford is the only GOP hopeful to stand against the incentives.

“My contention is I want all of these marquee companies to stay here in the state of Illinois, but we don’t need to have special legislation drafted for just one company,” he said. “If you’re going to change the law because it’s good for one company, change the law so that it’s all applicable for those of that same type of company.”

Despite passing tax incentives for Sears Holdings Corp., CME, Motorola, Navistar and others since assuming office in 2009, Quinn says it may be time for a change in direction.

“I really think this is, the coming year, a good opportunity to take a step back and examine the tax code and the incentives in Illinois, and I’ve spoken to Speaker Mike Madigan and other leaders as well, and I think the coming year is a good time to take a look,” Quinn said in a December interview reported by CBS St. Louis.

Quinn did not elaborate on specific plans.

According to a FOIA obtained by INN, between 2001 and 2012 over $527 million in EDGE credits have been awarded to almost 250 companies in Illinois.


Gubernatorial candidates and the progressive tax

By Jackson Adams - February 28, 2014

The four Republicans competing for their party’s nomination for governor all say they oppose amending Illinois’ constitution to allow for a graduated income tax, a concept that Gov. Pat Quinn supports.

The graduated, or progressive, income tax, has tax rates stair-stepping ever higher based on a person’s income.

So the more money someone earns, the bigger portion of their income they give to the state.

Quinn, a Democrat seeking re-election, is for this change.

“Taxes are never popular, but they should be based on ability to pay,” he told the Associated Press in an interview. “I have always favored a system for those who are extremely wealthy, they should not have the same tax rate as a minimum-wage worker.”

But opponents say middle-class as well as upper-income Illinois workers would end up paying more under a progressive income tax.

The Illinois Constitution states that its income tax must be applied with the same rate paid by all taxpayers.

To change to a progressive tax system, Illinois would have to amend its constitution, a process that requires lawmakers to place the matter on the ballot and 60 percent of voters to support it.

All four candidates seeking the GOP nomination for governor say they oppose the progressive income tax.

“Illinois has a spending problem. We don’t have a revenue problem,” said state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale. “In the states that have a progressive income tax we’re not talking about taxing just the rich. … If you make $55,000 or more in the states that have a progressive income tax, that would be a tax increase over the Illinois income tax rate which is supposed to be in effect next year.”

He added that, as a state senator, he voted against the current “temporary” income tax increase, which is set to partially sunset in January 2015.

“One advantage Illinois has always had is a low, flat income tax,” he said.

State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, concurred, adding that it would be another nail in Illinois’ economic coffin were it to pass.

“There’s probably nothing more important right now than delivering on that tax cut,” he said at the Republican gubernatorial debate held in February in Springfield’s Hoogland Center. “It’s the only way we’re going to rebuild our economy.”

He confirmed that he would veto any attempts to pass the progressive tax if elected governor.

Businessman Bruce Rauner said he opposed the progressive tax as well.

Senate President John Cullerton “is advocating for a progressive income tax and trying to make the case that we need to go to that,” he said during a debate in Springfield in late February. “We do not. It would be damaging to the economy.”

Instead, Rauner advocated for making tough decisions that would bring down the state’s overall spending dramatically.

Treasurer Dan Rutherford said while he would like to see a reduction to the income tax, it needs to be part of a comprehensive discussion about tax restructuring in Illinois.

“I don’t support the progressive income tax proposal,” he said during the Springfield debate, according to the Kankakee Daily-Journal. “I would like to see the income tax rolled back.”

Rutherford continued: “I’m not going to pander or throw bombshells for political reasons. I don’t want this income tax increase to stay. … But let’s be honest, there may need to be some form of revenue on the table for negotiation. … You got to take this out of the hot searing spotlight and sit down, put everything on the table and negotiate what’s best for the long term of the state of Illinois.”


Gubernatorial candidates talk school choice

By Brady Cremeens, Jes Greene, Scott Reeder - March 4, 2014

All four of the candidates for the GOP gubernatorial nomination have voted or expressed support for broadening parent’s choices of where they can send their children to school.

State Sens. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, and Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, as well as then-state Sen. Dan Rutherford voted “yes” on a Senate bill in 2010 that would have created a voucher system for the city of Chicago.

That bill was ultimately voted down.

All three also voted for a 1999 bill allowing a $500 education expense tax credit for parents who send their children to private schools.

Rutherford, the state treasurer, declined to comment for this story. But the two state senators shared explanations about their positions.

“I have actually introduced a bill that would have given school choice to students and parents of schools that close in Chicago,” Brady noted.

When asked if he supported expanding the school choice pilot programs into other regions besides Chicago, Brady said, “Right now, I’m for those [in Chicago]. But I’m an advocate of school choice, yes.”

He added, “I’ve always been a sponsor for big tuition tax credits for those who choose to send their children to private schools, and I’ve always been for and supported no caps on charter schools.”

Businessman Bruce Rauner, the only GOP candidate not to have held elected office, has led several public charter school organizations.

“I’m a big believer that we need to empower parents with choice,” said Rauner. “Too many children are trapped in failing schools, and if their parents don’t have sufficient income to choose a different school or move or fund private school, then they’re stuck.”

Rauner said he wanted to evaluate other states’ programs and bring a combination of best practices to Illinois.

“Milwaukee has had a longstanding voucher program, and Indiana has put in place, I think, a very good voucher program,” he said.


Marianne Scoggin March 06, 2014 at 02:22 PM
I am against increasing House seats. Their interests are often as small as their districts. Senators have a wider group of interests to represent. They should be seeing the bigger picture. As for term limits, we used to have people known as statesmen. They were long-term senators, experts in their complex area of choice - e,g., Edward Kennedy and Social Security, Medicare, other Social Networks and Social Safety Nets and so on. We still need that career approach for proponents of education, finance, and so on. I don't want our run of the mill group rewriting the Illinois Constitution!
Herc March 06, 2014 at 02:31 PM
Marianne, nice word statesman, that stopped in the 70's. Today's career politician could care less about you or me. It's all about lining their pockets with the taxpayers money! They'd sell their soul's to the devil if they had to. Chivalry is long gone!
Ex Jolietian March 06, 2014 at 04:26 PM
Hey.. Teddy is a hero. He dove back into the murky waters that infamous evening.. to put Mary Jo's panties back on. Google "Waitress Sandwich" sometimes... and enjoy!
Citizen Sane March 16, 2014 at 09:48 PM
Please do not think that my preference leans toward this thread. The direction of my preference may be very much on the proverbial fence, but the sway of it can be garnered by use of preference.

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