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posted: 7/20/2014 5:01 AM

Editorial: Our take on Rauner's plan to get Illinois moving

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

One month ago, we used this space to call on governor candidate Bruce Rauner to present more details in his "blueprint" for fiscal reform.

Thursday in Schaumburg, he added considerable texture to his plan, a multitiered approach designed, he says, to generate job and business growth while reforming taxes.

We welcome his proposal. In many ways, it signals the real start to the 2014 race between Rauner and Gov. Pat Quinn.

Illinois' dire fiscal condition and the state's deteriorating environment for job creation and business growth are two of the most important issues facing the voters.

How we respond on both fronts will greatly affect the state's vibrancy for decades to come. Will Illinois be a place of prosperity and opportunity, or will it fritter away its advantages to deteriorate into a state characterized by hardship and inequity?

When it comes down to it, this is the central question of the 2014 election.

Rauner's proposal, combined with the cost-cutting he recommended last month, falls short of addressing that question in a way that is anywhere near complete, but it should serve as a meaningful start to what we hope will be a thoughtful debate.

We sympathize with many of the incentives he proposes for business growth. Expanding the export market, reforming workers' compensation, strengthening vocational and technology training, cutting business registration fees, reforming the Economic Development for a Growing Economy program -- the details of these things may need to be debated further, but the general concepts all merit consideration.

We're open to a discussion of his proposal to roll back the income tax increase rather than a more immediate retraction.

We accept the notion that Illinois' fiscal challenges are so great that some revenue enhancement must be combined with spending cuts to reach a real solution.

All that said, let's be clear: We have reservations about key points in his plan.

A service tax may be worth discussing, but we question the depth of the taxes Rauner proposes.

Most importantly, the idea of a property tax freeze might make for an appealing campaign sound bite, but the reality is that it simply is impractical.

We doubt Rauner could get the measure passed in the legislature. But if he succeeded, it would so handcuff local governments already burdened with plentiful state expense mandates that it could severely cut the services they provide.

Restraint in property taxation is a worthwhile idea to discuss. However, an out-and-out freeze simply goes too far, at least without some sort of tax shift to allow local governments to tap into other revenue sources.

All in all, the battle has been joined. Let a serious and thoughtful debate begin.

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