Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Brady unveils recovery plan

By Jamey Dunn

State Sen. Bill Brady, the Republican candidate for governor, laid out his plan for economic recovery today. He and Gov. Pat Quinn agree that job creation is the biggest issue of the campaign and even back some similar proposals. But their disagreements center on what may be the second biggest issue of the race: taxes.

Brady’s plan has four goals. The first is to create a “stable tax environment.”

As he has said before, he wants to repeal the sales tax on gasoline and the estate tax. He also wants to make permanent a research and development tax credit that the General Assembly extended this year.

He estimates that cutting the sales and estate taxes would cost the state $650 million to $1 billion. He says the economic growth those two cuts would spur means they would pay for themselves in a “year or two.” In the meantime, he would have to cut that amount if he wants to uphold his pledge of presenting a plan for a balanced budget to legislators next year.

Brady said discussion of an income tax increase, such as Quinn’s proposed 1-percentage-point hike, creates uncertainty for businesses and may encourage them to leave the state.

Besides pledging not to raise taxes, he wants to offer business a tax credit for hiring new workers. Quinn pitched a similar plan for small businesses, which is currently in effect. Any business with fewer than 50 employees that hires a new employee between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011 is eligible for a $2,500 tax credit. The total number of credits that can be doled out is capped at $50 million, enough for 20,000 new jobs.

Brady would offer $3,750 tax credit to all businesses for each new hire; $2,500 in the first year and $1,250 in the second year.

He would also create several panels to help him “engage in long-term strategic planning.” This second part of Brady’s plan includes naming a council of economic advisers and a task force to investigate the economic challenges facing communities on the state’s borders, which would be headed by Jason Plummer, Brady’s running mate.

Brady’s third goal is to make Illinois more competitive with other states. He says he wants to do that by making “significant changes” to the worker’s compensation system in Illinois and capping damages awarded for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases at $500,000. Although the Illinois Supreme Court has struck down similar caps three times, Brady said he doesn’t think Democrats made a “sincere effort” to draft a bill that would hold up to a constitutional challenge. However, he could not describe what aspects of former bills he would change.

Finally, Brady says he wants to bring “transparency and accountability” to the budgeting process. He has said he cannot provide a detailed budget until after he is governor and can audit the state’s finances. Brady blamed his absence of details on a lack of transparency from the Quinn administration. He said he would appoint a jobs ombudsman to help businesses navigate state regulations. He also wants to prohibit new spending or programs without dedicated funding sources and “measurable” outcomes.

But Quinn said later that there is no money for Brady’s cuts. He said that businesses looking to set up shop in Illinois are most concerned with the quality of the state’s infrastructure and workforce. “I think he’s not being honest with the people running around the state saying he’s going to cut all these taxes. Well, how’s he going to pay for education, health care, public safety and helping our veterans?” Quinn has proposed property tax cuts if his plan for an income tax increases is approved.

Brady said that as a small business owner, he knows what businesses are looking for in Illinois. “I understand the importance of education. I understand the importance of infrastructure. I understand the importance of deregulation.”

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