Let’s look at what the men who would be Illinois governor are selling on TV and the campaign trail and compare it with some reality, shall we?
Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn wears a nice polo shirt and long pants to cut his grass with a rusty push mower. No gas guzzler for his grass. While he mows, Quinn says he’s cut state spending by $5 billion.
To continue the lawn metaphor, Quinn’s missed a few big spots. His staff literally missed accounting for 40 percent of the spending in the $54.5 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative launched just before the last election.
A state audit found, among other problems, that background checks on adult mentors of teens were not conducted and that none of the millions in funds ever made it to six of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods. The anti-violence program is under federal investigation and is sure to re-surface just before the election.
And then there’s the patronage hiring scandal at the Illinois Department of Transportation. Credit where it’s due: Quinn did cut 58 “staff assistants” hired at the department who got jobs, ironically, mowing grass and answering phones because of political connections. Many of them didn’t even have to interview for the jobs and some are paid more than their bosses.
Here’s the rub: Quinn fired 58 assistants, but reports found 255 assistants, with the political hiring increasing after Quinn became governor. So far, Quinn has dodged questions about the remaining staff assistants, but said he’s ordered another review.
How about just releasing all of the details and firing the rest of the assistants, ridding us of the salaries and pensions? That lawn-mowing ad ends with Quinn saying, “I’m working to fix the mess and I’m not finished.” No, you’re not. Keep cutting, governor.
What about his Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner? Never mind the absurdity of former Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka imploring Bruce to hit special interests “right in the mouth.” Rauner also has ads promising he will freeze property taxes. In one, Rauner says property taxes increased “30 percent under Pat Quinn.” Except governors don’t set or control property taxes.
Rauner’s self-described “simple” plan promises he’ll freeze property taxes and require voter approval to raise them. Clearly, Rauner is betting Illinois voters are simpletons.
It’s safe to say when voters are given the occasional vote on raising property taxes, they rarely grant it. Even if it were only up to Rauner, and it’s not, giving voters approval over every local property tax hike means few would pass and the operation of schools Rauner claims to care about would be paralyzed, not to mention police and fire protection and our garbage pickup.
Yes, my property taxes are too high, too, but trimming government isn’t as simple as promising to freeze property taxes.
Rauner has another ad featuring Manny Sanchez, the former co-chair of Latinos for Obama. Sanchez tells viewers, “We need to have a leader who’s honest, who’s fresh and who’s willing to tell the people, whether they want to hear it or not, the truth.”
The truth is that Rauner cannot single-handedly freeze property taxes. He’s also pledged to lower income taxes by the end of his four-year term and to raise taxes on services, but, by his own accounting, those tax hikes would generate only $603,000 in new revenue. Meanwhile, Rauner says he will increase school spending and told farmers he’d add to our debt and spend billions every year on public works rebuilding. The truth is that Rauner’s budget plans don’t add up yet.
Neither of our governor candidates is selling complete honesty. Buyer beware.
Madeleine Doubek is chief operating officer of Reboot Illinois.