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Quinn, Rauner trade jabs in separate talks with business leaders

SPRINGFIELD-Appearing before state business leaders, Gov. Pat Quinn zinged Republican Bruce Rauner Wednesday for not offering voters his own state budget proposal while Rauner needled the governor for treating businesses like a “piggy bank to be broken into whenever money’s needed.”

The two gubernatorial candidates put their business credentials on display during a gathering of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, with Rauner blaming Quinn for an anti-business economic climate that has severely crimped state services.

“If we don’t have a booming economy that’s pro-business and pro-growth, nothing else matters. We can’t afford education; we can’t afford healthcare; we can’t afford infrastructure; we can’t afford anything else. Our politicians in here don’t understand the business of government is to create a business environment that’s pro-job-creation,” Rauner told the group.

But Quinn defended his record on business after five years as governor, pointing to pension reform and $5 billion in budget cuts he pushed. The governor also pledged to pay government vendors within about 30 days of them providing goods or services to the state.

“We’re very close to that. If we can pass our budget this year, a very important budget, we’ll be able to get very … close to a 30-day cycle with respect to paying our bills. I think that’s an important responsibility,” Quinn said, drawing applause from the crowd.

The governor also made another pitch to extend the state’s soon-expiring income-tax increase, saying making the 2011 hike on individual and corporate income tax rates permanent would bring financial “stability” to Illinois.

Offering up one of the lines of the day, Quinn dug into Rauner for being silent on how he’d approach the state’s financial future.

“In a little while, you’re going to hear from someone whose plan for our budget can be summed up in three words: Mum’s the word,” said the governor, who was followed by Rauner about an hour later. “I don’t think that’s a good thing for our state.”

Quinn called for Rauner, who’s opposed to extending the 2011 income-tax increase, to lay out a concrete budget so that people could hear more than his “platitudes that are easy to say—sounds good when you say it fast—but they don’t get to the bottom of what we have to do in Illinois.”

In 2011, legislators decided to temporarily raise the personal income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent and the corporate income tax from 4.8 percent to 7 percent. Those are due to mostly sunset next January without legislative intervention.

The Winnetka Republican made the tax hike his focal point, saying he would let it lapse.

“I’m very much against keeping the tax hike permanent,” Rauner said. “They promised it would be temporary. We’re going to have a plan we’ll be coming out with soon on how to step that back down, all the way down.”

After his speech, Rauner was asked when he would offer his own budget specifics beyond just addressing the tax-increase question.

“We’ll definitely be coming out with a plan soon, and they’re going to know where we stand,” Rauner said. “But, you know, we became the nominee not too long ago, and we’re working through a lot of homework and a lot of detail. But it won’t be too long before we’ll have our plan.”

Asked to define how long is “too long,” Rauner laughed and answered, “Soon is another word for it.”

Pressed if it would be before the Legislature’s scheduled May 31 adjournment, Rauner said, “Well, it’ll be soon.”