By Jamey Dunn
During last night’s gubernatorial debate, Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican candidate for governor Sen. Bill Brady took shots at each other, while Green Party candidate Rich Whitney advocated for free higher education.
Much of what Quinn and Brady focused on was a rehash of their talking points from previous debates and campaign events.
Quinn criticized Brady for wanting to eliminate the Put Illinois to Work program. Meanwhile, Quinn said that he has “taken on the crisis of state government with a heart.”
Brady, who was leading the race in a recent poll, called the program a cynical election ploy and characterized the work it has created for residents as “temporary tax jobs.” He said as governor, he would grow the public sector by being “business friendly” and create more permanent jobs.
Whitney took a swipe at Brady’s economic plan calling it “warmed over Reaganomics.” He added: “It didn’t work then. It doesn’t work now.”
Whitney's plan for recovery involved free public higher education for all. Whitney said it would create jobs at universities, which are, “well-distributed geographically around the state.” Whitney said the money students and parents would save by not paying tuition could provide economic stimulus and not having to take out loans to get an education would help residents avoid debt.
Brady took the opportunity to again slam Quinn’s deal with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which guarantees no layoffs until 2012 in exchange for $50 million in savings. The union endorsed Quinn shortly before the deal was signed, and Brady accused Quinn of making a trade to get the organization’s support. “Gov. Quinn has an endorsement. The union has a deal that will tie the hands of the next governor.”
However Quinn played up the fact that the union plans to make cutbacks under a contract that has already been negotiated. “I’ve been able to get concession from the unions … under the existing union contracts.” He also touted cost-saving pension reforms that he signed last spring.
Quinn and Brady both focused on the economic state of the state. Quinn highlighted manufacturing jobs that are new to Illinois in recent months. However, Brady said Illinois’ unfriendly business policies are running jobs out of the state. “Gov. Quinn’s the job governor all right, but it just happens to be for Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky and other states.”
Whitney said that until state government can pay its bills and “perform its most basic functions,” Illinois does not look like a good bet to the business sector. “What business wants to come to or stay in a state whose public sector is falling apart, whose schools are falling apart — the cost of higher education going through the roof. … Where the infrastructure is falling apart where health care vendors aren’t being paid on time. Where people dependent on social services aren’t being paid on time. Social services are crumbling. What business wants to stay in a state like that?”
The debate, held on Southern Illinois University’s Carbondale campus, was Whitney’s chance for exposure before three upcoming debates in which he will likely not participate. Sponsors in those debates did not extend an invitation to the Green Party candidate, citing his low numbers in recent polls.