EDITOR'S NOTE: The Daily Herald asked the two major-party candidates for Illinois governor to provide essays outlining their economic proposals for the next four years. The columns ran side by side in print editions of the newspaper on Thursday, Aug. 28. Here is the essay provided by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn:
"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going." -- Helen Keller
From growing up in Hinsdale to my days running cross country at Fenwick High School to launching a grass-roots organization -- the Coalition for Political Honesty -- to achieve important reforms and consumer protections for the people of Illinois, this principle has always been close to my heart. And it's served me well as your governor these past five years.
When I took the oath of office, Illinois was in a state of emergency. We had two corrupt governors in a row, a fiscal crisis caused by decades of mismanagement and the worst recession since the Great Depression. We all knew that repairing damage that had been done over decades would not happen overnight. It would require tough, unpopular decisions and it would take time.
But I didn't hide from those challenges -- I tackled them. And we've been getting the job done to turn Illinois around.
I cut state spending by $5 billion, attacked waste and fraud in Medicaid, suspended legislators' paychecks and refused my own to push through pension reform and reduce the backlog of unpaid bills. I enacted workers' compensation reform and unemployment insurance reform to achieve cost-savings and improve our business climate. I did the hard things to stabilize our finances that my predecessors ignored.
But this wasn't just about government getting its fiscal house in order. This was about creating the conditions that encourage businesses to come and thrive. Supporting job growth has been my top priority. It's about jobs -- and we've made progress on this front.
Earlier in August, we received encouraging news that our state's unemployment rate had fallen to 6.8 percent, the lowest in six years. In the last 12 months, our unemployment rate has experienced its steepest decline in 30 years.
According to Site Selection Magazine, Illinois ranks third in the country for corporate expansions and locations (up two spots from 2012), and we lead the Midwest in new businesses created -- more than 32,000 more businesses are registered in Illinois today than in 2009. Based on the facts, Illinois' business climate has improved since I took office and our economy continues to improve every day. More than 263,000 private sector jobs have come to Illinois since our economic recovery began -- and we have more work to do.
Entrepreneurship and innovation are growth industries in Illinois. As your governor, I have invested heavily in job training to keep our workers' skills at a top-notch level, and I directed the largest road construction program in the country to improve commutes and ensure efficiency in shipping.
We've been especially active helping companies expand in the suburbs. I've had the honor to work with such companies as Weber Grill in Huntley and FER-PAL Construction in Elgin, where our partnership has been vital to their hiring. My administration has provided responsible, targeted incentives to bring quality jobs to Schaumburg, Bartlett, Downers Grove and Naperville, to cite just a few of our growth investments from recent months.
But job creation is about more than cutting ribbons or celebrating a particular company's success. It is about making the tough decisions to get Illinois back on track, and that's exactly what I've done.
Today Illinois has a lower individual income tax rate than most states and our overall business tax burden is lower than about half the country. If elected, I will hold the line on taxes exactly where the current rates are today. This will allow us to not only provide property tax relief to homeowners but also properly fund our schools, which is critical to ensuring Illinois' economic competitiveness.
You wouldn't know that from my opponent's ads, of course, but most of what he says is in conflict with basic facts. He talks about cutting taxes, yet he wants to make people pay a whole new tax on services that have never been taxed before. He says he's against corporate welfare, yet he's profited from corporate welfare throughout his entire career. He purports to want excellent schools, yet he proposed a tax plan that would slash education by $4 billion.
For all of his millions of dollars he's poured into the campaign, he hasn't bought a dime's worth of good ideas.
With your support, I hope to continue our progress. I have proposed a 90 percent reduction in the filing fee for businesses as part of my commitment to help innovators set up shop here. I support measures that will give small business greater access to job training funds and to tax incentives that will help them provide more jobs.
If I am honored to serve another term as your governor, I will finish what we've started, creating more jobs, delivering stronger education for our children and building an economy that works for everyone -- not just the elite.
There is much more work to do but it can be done. It's what you demand and what our children deserve.
Pat Quinn, who became governor of Illinois in 2009, is seeking re-election to his second full term.