Democratic Debate Times Two
Quinn was sworn in as governor on January 29 of this year, but has a long resume in Illinois politics, serving previously as Lieutenant Governor, Treasurer, and also as a Commissioner on the Cook County Board of Tax Appeals, and as the City of Chicago's revenue director. He acknowledged at the outset that he assumed office under "unusual" circumstances, but has since presided over a "year of reform" that includes a commitment to "strong, touch ethics laws," "grass roots democracy," and to "strengthen the integrity of Illinois state government." He touted his previous service as state treasurer during similarly tough economic times, and his work across the aisle with former Republican Governor Jim Edgar.
Hynes is in the midst of his third term as State Comptroller. He has worked on consumer and taxpayer advocacy, government accountability, and long-term budget reform. The state's Rainy Day Fund is the most prominent example of the former. Hynes admitted up front that he is neither electrifying, charismatic, nor dynamic, yet labeled this election not a coronation, but a choice. Neither man was elected to the position, and he said the state's budget crisis demands immediate solutions that will not harm the middle class.
Quinn and Hynes on the issues (in the order they addressed the audience):
- Hynes: Highlighted the need to raise more revenue immediately. In the short term, he would raise cigarette taxes and close corporate income tax loopholes. Down the road, he would move toward a progressive income tax (Illinois is one of seven states with a flat tax), but nix tax increases on families that make less than $200,000 annually.
- Quinn: Echoes each of Hynes on each of these points, but criticized him for being a late comer to progressive taxation, citing his opposition as recently as 2004.
- Quinn: Claims to have made more budget cuts than any governor in Illinois history.
- Hynes: Suggests that Quinn's cuts are laden with gimmicks, including delayed spending and borrowing.
- Hynes: Open to means testing seniors for free fares; laments the annual Chicago Transit Authority funding crisis and touts the need for a comprehensive solution to this broader problem.
- Quinn: Free rides should stay; negotiated a short-term solution to this year's installment of the transit crisis last week.
- Quinn: Implemented 12 days of layoffs for state employees this year as a means of avoiding layoffs. Turned to public pensions, and suggested a "two-tier" plan for incoming employees, presumptively at less lucrative levels of compensation.
- Hynes: Promised to fund pensions properly; highlighted that fact that it was done via borrowing this year.
- Hynes: Scolded its underfunding by billions and the fact that doctors are fleeing the state as a result.
- Quinn: Providers have been reimbursed since he was elevated to governor, and as a sign of his commitment to universal health care, he walked the state a decade ago in support of legislation sponsored by former State Senator Barack Obama.
- Hynes: Supports Obama's efforts to close Guantanamo, and open to the use of the Thomson facility, a maximum security facility.
- Quinn: Also supportive, but acknowledges public safety concerns and urges that terrorists be punished for their actions.
- Quinn: Proper funding with accountability; jobs with follow brainpower; the state income tax should fund our schools and simultaneously provide property tax relief.
- Hynes: Echoes the excessive reliance on property taxes; cements the notion that we invest in schools for pre-K through college.
- Hynes: Open to the process, but emphasizes the need to create a comprehensive solution through consultation with local leaders.
- Quinn: Need more consolidation: too many inefficiencies given the large number of single-school districts.
- Quinn: Lifelong commitment to issue; will soon sign historic bill that will continue this mission.
- Hynes: Began movement to end pay-to-play through state contracts four years ago.
- Hynes: His ads are about the central issue of this campaign--the budget, and the taxes to close the operating deficit.
- Quinn: 85% of Hynes' ads are negative attack ads, and Quinn has a duty to defend himself, for he "can't have folks on the sideline sniping."
- Quinn: Testified against gross receipts tax and trumpeted the recall amendment, both Blagojevich prerogatives.
- Hynes: Quinn refused to take on his two-time running mate until they were re-elected; Hynes stood up to Blagojevich during his first term for reckless spending ("Some stood silent, others stood up").
- Hynes: Need to build consensus, but take on tough fights when necessary; any idea with merit can make it through the General Assembly, but credibility and consistent leadership is pivotal.
- Quinn: Need to get along; Quinn has a record of productivity with the legislature.
- Quinn: Keep for heinous crimes; need for reform and to measure its impact; lift moratorium later.
- Hynes: Essentially an identical position.
Eleven weeks remain until the February 2nd primary, and Quinn and Hynes will likely ring in the holiday season with continued broadsides and head-on collisions like yesterday's standoff. It is clear from this casual observer that there is no love lost between the two. Perhaps a Christmas truce will soon be in order.