On The Record
Why are you the best candidate for Illinois governor?
After inheriting a mess, I’ve been getting the job done and making the tough decisions to move Illinois in the right direction. My record of taking on the establishment early in my career prepared me to take on significant challenges as Governor. I began my career in the 1970s when I founded the nonpartisan, all-volunteer Coalition for Political Honesty. We launched the largest petition drive in Illinois history to end a century-old practice that allowed Illinois legislators to collect their entire two years’ pay in advance on their first day in office. And in the 1980s I helped create the Citizens Utility Board, which has since saved consumers more than $10 billion by blocking rate hikes and winning refunds. When I took the oath of office in 2009, Illinois was in a state of emergency: two corrupt governors in a row; the worst recession since the Great Depression; and decades of financial mismanagement. Repairing that kind of damage doesn’t happen overnight. But since then, we've been rebuilding Illinois one hard step at a time. We restored integrity to state government, passing a strong new ethics code, campaign finance reform and a new constitutional amendment to give voters the power of recall with respect to the Governor’s Office.
A recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling on a part of the pension reform bill passed last year does not bode well for a favorable ruling upholding the rest of it. What is your plan should it be tossed out as unconstitutional?
I expect the landmark law I signed to be upheld as constitutional. I worked with legislators in both parties to get the job done on pension reform last year and it is important that the Supreme Court now be heard. We will take the feedback of the court and respond swiftly and appropriately to ensure the state’s finances are secured and protected. I will not support a move to a risky 401(k)-style plan that will privatize pensions, which would cost billions more dollars and wreck employee’s retirement security.
Elaborate on your plan regarding the 5 percent state income tax, whether you support its reduction or keeping it.
We have dramatically improved the state’s finances and economic standing by taking tough, responsible steps to restore stability to Illinois, including cutting spending by more than $5 billion; enacting pension reform for Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees to save hundreds of billions of dollars for the state; overhauling the Medicaid program and cutting Medicaid spending by more than $3 billion; enacting worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance reforms; implementing numerous efficiencies and consolidations such as reducing office space by 2.4 million square feet, selling state planes and cutting state employee parking spaces; and raising revenue in 2011. These steps have allowed us to pay down the backlog of bills by $6 billion and today we are closer than ever to a timely 30-day bill cycle. Unemployment is at its lowest point in more than six years. Properly funding public schools is critical to our economic competitiveness, and that’s why I’ve proposed a balanced budget plan that includes the largest investment in the classroom in Illinois history. This honest, responsible plan will continue paying down our bills; avoid radical cuts to education, public safety and human services; prevent property tax increases while providing historic property tax relief to homeowners; and maintain the state’s income tax rates where they are today.
Illinois' reputation for corruption is well documented. What more must be done to end corruption in Illinois state government?
I began my career in the 1970s when I founded the nonpartisan, all-volunteer Coalition for Political Honesty. We launched the largest petition drive in Illinois history, collecting 635,158 signatures on the Political Honesty Initiative to end a century-old practice that allowed Illinois legislators to collect their entire two years’ pay in advance on their first day in office. And in the 1980s I helped create the Citizens Utility Board, which has since saved consumers more than $10 billion by blocking rate hikes and winning refunds. When I took office, confidence in state government was at an all-time low from decades of corruption and closed-door dealings. But since then, I have worked tirelessly to restore ethics and accountability to state government by creating a strong new ethics code, expanding the power of the Inspector General, implementing new campaign contribution limits and transparency measures, leading the passage of legislation to give Illinois voters the power to recall a corrupt governor and fighting for legislation that makes Illinois a national leader in grant accountability. I am a strong supporter of term limits and we must get this done to ensure more accountable government in Illinois. We’ve been reforming Illinois since I took the oath of office and our work is not done.
Do you support reforming the process by which legislative boundaries are drawn every decade? Explain.
I support redistricting reform that improves competition and openness. It is important that districts be drawn in a way that protects against any discrimination of minority voters.
Illinois continues to spend more money than it takes in. How will you turn that around? Be specific about how you would raise more revenue, and what cuts you would make.
After inheriting a budget crisis from decades of mismanagement and the worst recession since the Great Depression, I have taken hard but important steps to stabilize the state’s finances. I fought for and enacted a mix of needed budget reductions, reform, and revenue. I cut state spending by more than $5 billion, enacting efficiencies and making tough choices, including closing facilities. I overhauled the Medicaid program and rooted out waste, fraud and abuse, reducing Medicaid spending by more than $3 billion. I signed into law pension reform for new employees, and – after a long, hard fight – I enacted comprehensive pension reform that Moody’s credit rating agency said could be the most significant pension reform in the nation. I signed worker’s compensation reform and unemployment insurance reform to make our business climate more attractive, and strengthen our recovery with more growth. I also aggressively pursued new economic opportunities, leading trade missions and successfully recruiting new businesses to Illinois. Today Illinois is making a comeback. Unemployment is at its lowest point in more than six years and more people are working today when I took office. Jobs have been and will continue to be my top priority.
What can Illinois do to be more business-friendly?
Over the past five years, I have fought hard to stabilize the state's economy and repair the damage that was done by the Great Recession and decades of financial mismanagement. This often required hard decisions on issues that my predecessors put off. We have dramatically improved the state’s finances and economic standing by taking tough, responsible steps to secure our financial future, including cutting spending by more than $5 billion; enacting landmark pension reform; overhauling the Medicaid program and cutting Medicaid spending by more than $3 billion; enacting worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance reforms; implementing numerous efficiencies and consolidations such as reducing office space by 2.4 million square feet, selling state planes and cutting state employee parking spaces; and raising revenue in 2011. These steps have allowed us to pay down the backlog of bills by $6 billion and today we are closer than ever to a timely 30-day bill cycle. Based on the facts, Illinois’ business climate has improved since I took office and our economy continues to improve every day. Today’s unemployment rate is lower than when I took office – it is at its lowest point in more than six years.
Illinois in recent years has topped the nation in out-migration of residents, and a shocking poll revealed that half the state would leave if it could. Name three reasons why you think this is, and briefly explain how you would reverse these trends.
In terms of the state’s population and people leaving the state, the reality is that our population growth is on par with neighboring states. Illinois is the 19th largest economy in the world and a great place to do business – but we have more work to do. During my time in office I’ve enacted tough reforms to improve our economy and move us in the right direction. We cut spending by more than $5 billion. We enacted major reforms to pensions and Medicaid. I suspended legislators’ paychecks including my own until the job was done on pension reform. Our workers compensation and unemployment insurance reforms – reforms I fought for - have already saved hundreds of millions of dollars. We paid down the bills by $6 billion dollars. And we are in a much stronger financial position than we were five years ago. Many Republicans, including my opponent Bruce Rauner, are rooting for the state, our workers and our economy to fail because it helps their cynical political narrative. However, the facts tell a very different story. The main economic indicators show Illinois is making a comeback: unemployment is down and jobs are up.