For Quinn & Brady Every Issue a Sticky Point

From capital punishment to education funding, gubernatorial candidates are running fast and hard with little agreement on the issues.

Here we go  . . .

Newspapers and televised ads are once again replete with mudslinging and pointed remarks on candidates’ opposing views. Democrats and Republicans grin and greet, parry the tough questions and echo the words of their party leaders. In the end, voters pick their favorites, place their bets and hope the winner really is the best man (or woman) for the job. All’s fair in love, war and politics. And the game—though wearisome—never seems to grow old for members of the party faithful who stand in line for a chance to cast their ballots and have a final say in who’s really “right” and “wrong” on the issues.

“Typical Washington  Games”

More goodies from Washington! And this time it’s funding for education and Medicaid. Any takers? State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) berated Congress for its approbation of funds, arguing that the $26 billion federal bill President Obama signed last month in order to prevent 300,000 police, firefighters and teachers from losing their jobs will add to the nation’s $1.4 trillion dollar deficit, although Democrats argue the legislation will decrease the deficit by $1.4 billion.

Illinois will receive nearly $1 billion for teachers and health care: about $500 million in additional Medicaid funding coupled with $415 million for teachers’ salaries. Democratic officials say the money will prevent more than 5,000 teachers from layoffs.

Brady believes the bailout will prove to be a shot in the arm for Illinois once federal funds have been spent and the state is left to fill an even bigger budget hole. Brady told reporters the legislation amounted to nothing but “typical Washington games.”

Spokesperson for Brady, Patty Schuh, says if Quinn is defeated the new fiscal year will be “dramatically different.” “Brady has proposed cutting 10 percent on every dollar for state spending. If elected, he plans to improve the state’s finances not by raising income taxes—as Quinn has done—but by increasing jobs in the state. Brady also plans to perform an open book audit so the state can see what’s working and what’s not.”

But Quinn contends his record for bringing jobs to Illinois is strong. “In the 21 months that Senator Brady has campaigned without a plan for the state’s budget deficit, I have helped Illinois transform into the strongest business competitor in the Midwest, gaining 60,000 jobs in 2010.” The governor says he also implemented the first comprehensive jobs plan in ten years, creating more than 400,000 jobs.

His leadership, he claims, is evident in the fact that he has “successfully secured investment packages that lured Ford, Astellas Pharma, UPS and many other companies to stay in Illinois, expand in Illinois or come to Illinois. My Administration has helped start 432 new businesses and aided the expansion of 273 existing businesses, increasing Illinois exports by more than $400 million.”

Schuh dismissed the governor’s claims, arguing his massive income tax increase demonstrates he has “lost touch” with the concerns of Illinois families who believe that federal and state governments must learn to live within their means without depending upon bailouts from Washington. On the same token, Brady says Illinois should receive its fair share of the bailout because Congress has given approval.

Constituents First

Governor Quinn admonished Brady for initially rejecting the funds, claiming the funding will prove benefical for Illinois education and health care. The governor says turning away money to keep constituents employed in a tenebrous economy is “just plain wrong.” Although not averse to the fiscal condition of the state, Quinn insists that constituents should always be a priority. “Accepting the bailout is putting constituents and their jobs first.”

Illinois will receive nearly $1 billion for teachers and health care: about $500 million in additional Medicaid funding coupled with $415 million for teachers’ salaries. Democratic officials say the money will prevent more than 5,000 teachers from layoffs.

“(Brady’s rejection of the bailout) is exhibit A for why he is one of the worst people for education in Illinois,” Quinn says, citing that federal funding was apportioned to the states at the request of both Democratic and Republican governors soliciting aid in February of this year due to declining state revenues.

Quinn says he has worked with the General Assembly to help mitigate the effects of egregious state spending. “I’ve cut the budget more than any other governor in the history of Illinois. I’ve cut $2.5 million from the Office of the Governor this year—cutting over 35 percent—more than any other constitutional office. We found savings in things like subscriptions, overtime pay and travel expenses.”

Cutting the budget involved minimizing the headcount in the governor’s office, which caused some of his staff to accrue more responsibility with increased salaries. “Illinois has the lowest headcount of state employees per capita in the nation, and furlough days have already saved taxpayers over $25 million dollars. This budget crisis has been years and years in the making.”

Advocating the importance of “striking a balance,” the governor says the state’s focus must be on “cutting spending where we can while maintaining funding for education, health care and public safety. We will continue to look for areas where we can cut back while initiating the least impact on the most essential state services.”

Illinois will announce in the near future how it will spend federal dollars. According to the State Board of Education, the money will be distributed through general state aid formula that provides school districts with state assistance.

Heinous Crimes

The imbroglio over federal spending isn’t the only issue heating up the gubernatorial election. Brady has often criticized Quinn for allowing his agencies to give optional raises to state employees, citing that if he becomes governor he would only give raises required by union contract.

Capital punishment has also been up for debate. Schuhs says Brady does support the death penalty for the “most heinous” crimes but also believes in enforcing the proper safeguards, such as new technology that will help ensure innocent people are not put to death. “Not long ago, DNA technology was not available,” says Schuhs, citing its use in helping to track down criminals.

The governor says he has no immediate plans to lift the state’s moratorium on the death penalty. Although he says he supports capital punishment “when applied carefully and fairly,” he is “deeply concerned by the possibility of an innocent man or woman being executed. “I believe the current moratorium gives the state an opportunity to reflect on the issue and create safeguards to make sure that the death penalty is not being imposed improperly in Illinois. It is not conscionable that an innocent person could be put to death in Illinois.”

The death penalty may be “an appropriate punishment” for heinous crimes, such as murder and terrorism, according to Quinn. “Even under the moratorium, prosecutors have continued to seek death sentences for convicted murderers, and juries have unanimously agreed that the death penalty was appropriate in many of those cases. Although I believe the moratorium serves a useful purpose in giving the state of Illinois time to review all aspects of capital punishment, I believe the death penalty underscores our shared belief as a society that some crimes deserve the most severe punishment when meted out fairly and justly.”

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