Governor’s race is heating up

Five Democratic gubernatorial candidates discuss taxes, Gov. Bruce Rauner and education during a recent Oct. 17 forum at Aurora University. Photo courtesy of Aurora University

Bernie Biernacki
Special to the Fox Valley Labor News
Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017

“I wasn’t thinking I was going to discuss climate change, but talking to educators — I should have known better,” joked Sen. Daniel Biss.

AURORA — Both Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan equally shared criticism at the Oct. 17 Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Forum, held at Aurora University.

Candidates Chris Kennedy, JB Pritzker, State Sen. Daniel Biss, Tio Hardiman and Bob Daiber fielded questions from Rick Piarson, a political reporter for both the Chicago Tribune and WGN Radio, which broadcast the event live.

All agreed Rauner’s past, current and future actions will most certainly be detrimental to the state and it’s residents — both union members and non-union.


Kennedy was concerned the influx of big money is not the way to run any political campaign. Biss added, saying people must come out and vote down big spending.

State taxes were a big part of the evening. The current state flat tax rate is 4.95 percent. Candidates were asked about a graduated income tax, which would require a re-writing of the state’s constitution. Biss said he is worried the poor and middle class pay more, based on their income or lack thereof, than the rich.

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Kennedy worried a simple answer on restricting the tax rate can’t be done today if one doesn’t know what the needs will be for the next budget. “Remember, Rauner is a Libertarian,” Kennedy said. “We don’t know if we will even have a budget next year. It is unfair to ask [what the rate will be] now.”

Pritzker said before any decision on what the rate will be, “I have to view what the expenditure will be, what revenue will be available and what future growth will be. There is no one answer. What I can say is [Rauner] is the biggest wasteful spender we have ever had.”

While not saying what the average family’s tax rate should be, Hardiman said the rich of Illinois are not paying their fair share and should be paying a rate of between 7 percent and 10 percent. Daiber was the only candidate to say exactly what the rate should be — if a graduated tax is approved.

“For those making up to $160,000 the rate should be 1 percent,” Daiber said. “And those making more than $160,000, the rate should be 6 percent.”

Pritzker said Rauner doesn’t understand the necessity of investing, particularly with regards to education. “Spending for education is in reality a good investment for all in the state,” he explained. Pritzker said he would focus on universal preschool, building up all education from kindergarten through grade 12 and re-building the state’s public colleges and universities.

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Hardiman said one way to improve the lives of many in the state would be to educating state prisons, so when they are release they have a real chance of success.

Biss said Rauner’s actions (or lack of) has hurt both public and private higher education. “He helped the University of Wisconsin,” Biss said, referring to the increase of Illinois students going to that institution.

Prtzker said putting money into Illinois higher education keeps students here, not in other states.

Kennedy said rebuilding the state’s high education system and particularly research, will bring on a renaissance.

Both Kennedy and Biss believe combining units of government — local, county and statewide — would be a good financial growth measure.

As for Madigan, all agreed he has wielded much power and while working with him, they wouldn’t work for him. Kennedy said Madigan’s career as a property tax attorney, while not illegal, is has been a problem, as it hurt schools by leaving schools less in taxes. Biss added Madigan has been in power too long. Pritzker said he would seek indecently drawn legislative maps and leadership term limits.

Daiber said Madigan has accomplished a lot for the state. “He has kept it together, particularly with the current governor’s actions. “I take my hat off to him for that.”