By Doug Wilson
Bill Brady, the Republican nominee for Illinois governor, prefers to see challenges as opportunities.
By that measure, he said Illinois has "the greatest opportunity of any state in the nation."
With more than $70 billion in unfunded pension obligations, another $20 billion in bonded debt and about $5 billion in unpaid bills, Brady said it is no wonder Illinois has the worst bond rating in the nation.
The first step in recovering fiscal health is to "stop the bleeding."
"We can't afford to let Illinois keep spending beyond its means," Brady said during a campaign stop Monday in Quincy.
A state senator and business owner from Bloomington, Brady said he would run the state like a business, trimming expenses that have built up during the past eight years. He has pledged to cut 10 percent of state spending and balance the budget in his first year, but offered no specifics on how plans to achieve those goals and work to eliminate a $13 billion state budget deficit.
When challenged on whether 10 percent funding cuts would cripple schools, Brady would only say putting professionals in leadership will help. He suggested that employees who agree to forgo pay raises could help school districts. He did not say how that would help school districts recoup money they are owed by the state -- $5.8 million for Quincy Public Schools alone -- or offset earlier education cuts, including a 42 percent reduction in transportation funding announced last week by Gov. Pat Quinn.
During a later stop, Brady pledged to eliminate the Illinois State Board of Education, trimming about half of the $80 million that currently goes to that agency.
Earlier this year, former GOP Gov. Jim Edgar called Brady's budget plan "simplistic" and "naive." Edgar has said the state must cut spending and then increase taxes. A disastrous fiscal situation in the early 1990s forced the Republican governor to make drastic cuts and make permanent a temporary income tax increase.
"If we root out corruption and fraud and abuse ... we can have better government, with 90 cents on the dollar, than we have now," Brady said.
Cost-cutting moves will occupy the first year if Brady is elected, he said. But to restore Illinois to fiscal health, he said a lot of business-friendly reforms will also be needed. Workers compensation needs to be fixed, because it currently costs twice as much as some surrounding states, Brady said. He also wants to see medical malpractice claims reduce, wants to eliminate Illinois estate taxes and would cut the regulations that make it hard to create ethanol and biodiesel facilities or coal mines.
Brady said each of those things will reduce some of the disincentives to job creation in Illinois. Brady said the next step will be to provide incentives such a $2,100 tax credit for each new job created by a business.
"That's half of the $4,200 that gets paid in to the state in new revenue the first year a job is created. That's part of what it's going to take to bring back the 700,000 jobs the state has lost in the past 10 years," Brady said.
Brady said Democratic nominee Quinn's plan for an income tax hike would be "a job killer."
Quinn's campaign spokesman could not immediately be reached for a comment but has previously said that Brady's 10 percent budget cuts would be harmful to Illinois and its citizens.
Brady's first local campaign stop of the day was at Industrial Support Services, where company president Nick Lansing is working to rebuild the jobs that were lost in recent years. At one time ISS had nearly 400 employees, but now has 42 workers on payroll. Lansing showed Brady how some new product lines hold promise for the company.
Kim Maisch, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, also announced the NFIB's political action committee's endorsement of Brady.
"He has a 96 percent lifetime voting record of supporting business" and 93 percent of the NFIB's Illinois members urged support for Brady, Maisch said.
During a luncheon meeting at Knapheide Manufacturing, Brady spoke to local business leaders.
He got his loudest applause of the day while promising to end the atmosphere of corruption in Springfield.
"Yes I will live in the governor's mansion if you so choose to put me there. But I promise you that will be the only form of government housing I will accept. I'll refuse to go anywhere they have bars," Brady said.