Quinn, Rauner trade barbs on taxes, economy

  • Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, left, answers questions while debating Republican gubernatorial candidate businessman Bruce Rauner, right, Thursday in Peoria.

    Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, left, answers questions while debating Republican gubernatorial candidate businessman Bruce Rauner, right, Thursday in Peoria. Associated Press

Updated 10/10/2014 5:31 AM

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner continued their monthslong battle over taxes and the economy in their first televised debate, questioning each other's leadership skills and disagreeing sharply on the election's key issues.

The two candidates fought for the populist high ground as Rauner talked of lower taxes, Quinn pushed an increase in the minimum wage, and both argued he'd be the man that spends more money on public schools.


Quinn sought to contrast his plans to raise Illinois' minimum wage above $10 per hour against Rauner's personal wealth: "A person taking in $53 million a year, running around Illinois saying eliminate the minimum wage," Quinn said.

Rauner, meanwhile, pointed to Quinn's years in office with his party in the legislature and questioned why Democrats haven't raised the minimum wage already. Rauner says he could favor raising the minimum wage in a greater package of business reforms.

"If he was serious about this, he could have gotten it done," Rauner said.

And they disagreed over an advisory ballot question that asks voters about adding a 3 percent income tax on incomes over a million dollars to help pay for schools.

"Politicians use schools as an excuse to raise taxes," said Rauner, who opposes the idea.

Quinn, who favors it, shot back.

"My opponent, who's a billionaire, doesn't want to raise his income tax," he said.

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Both candidates largely dismissed a proposal intended to send more state money to poorer schools that would hit wealthier suburban districts with big cuts.

Rauner once again declined to provide specifics on how he would raise spending on schools and other areas while favoring an income-tax cut, saying he had to set goals and work toward them when in office.

"We need a competitive tax code. We'll get there," Rauner said. "We need to reduce the income tax. We'll get there."

Quinn defended signing a state budget this year that put off tough decisions until after the election and didn't match up with his plans to keep the state's 2011 income tax hike intact. He said lawmakers should take another look at it after the election.


"What I wanted to do is make sure our schools were open and everyone was receiving proper health care, so we had to start the budget year on July 1," he said.

When asked to pick an official from the other party he admired, both candidates looked to the suburbs.

Quinn named former state Sen. Kirk Dillard, the Hinsdale Republican who started as chairman of the RTA board after narrowly losing the March primary to Rauner.

Rauner pointed to state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat known in part for sometimes being a critic of his own party and trying to push reforms of the transit systems.

Asked about their biggest regrets, Rauner acknowledged the bankruptcies among some of the businesses his firm has invested in and said venture capital is a risky business. Quinn has worked to point out those failures as Rauner touts his business record.

Quinn pointed to his move in 2013 to take away lawmakers' pay over their delay in approving pension cuts and said he should have done it earlier. But courts eventually struck down the move, saying it Quinn wasn't allowed to do it.

The matchup in Peoria gave voters a live look at the two candidates months into massive TV ad efforts by both sides. They'll get their next chance Tuesday in a debate to be aired on CBS 2.

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