With the election less than a month away, the major party candidates for governor are showing stark differences on whether the state needs to find cuts or spend more.

A recent AARP poll of 1,200 Illinois voters showed more people concerned with addressing the state’s poor finances than they cared about education or even crime and violence.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner said during the AARP Chicago Sun-Times debate Tuesday he is looking to cut $6 billion in state spending.

“Two billion dollars in pension reform. Half a billion dollars in government healthcare reform for state employees, so that’s two and a half [billion],” Rauner said.

The other $3.5 billion Rauner said would come from local governments being less reliant on state money by allowing local governments to find efficiencies through collective bargaining reform, procurement reform, consolidations, and reducing workers’ comp costs, among other recommendations.

Democratic opponent J.B. Pritzker wants more funding for schools through a progressive income tax. He also wants to increase spending on other things.

“We got to make sure we actually fund our higher education universities and community colleges, and expand our [tuition assistance] MAP grant program,” Pritzker said. “I’ve put out a plan for doing just that.”

Pritzker blamed Rauner for the historic two-and-a-half year budget impasse where state spending went unchecked, driving deficits higher. Rauner said it was Illinois House Democrats that failed to pass a budget for part of the historic two-and-a-half year budget impasse, even when they had a supermajority for part of that time.

While Rauner wanted spending cuts and reforms to grow the economy to get a balanced budget, “we got it through a tax hike that I vetoed because I thought it was wrong,” he said.

“And Mr. Pritzker and Mr. Madigan are proposing another income tax hike on top of the one we just got and $11 billion in new spending that Mr. Pritzker is advocating,” Rauner said.

Pritzker denies the $11 billion in new spending, but said he wants increased revenue for schools from a proposed progressive income tax. He still hasn’t disclosed what the rates would be, though he said it would cut taxes on the middle class. Pritzker was asked to pick what the middle class is from a range of $120,000 to $190,000 for a family of three in the Chicagoland area.

“It’s hard to pick one of those because I actually think a lot of people who make more and less than that that should be included in that,” Pritzker said.

One piece of legislation filed at the statehouse by state Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, included specific rates and income levels for a progressive tax. House Bill 3522 proposed changing the tax rates to: 4 percent for income up to $7,500, 5.84 percent for income up to $15,000, 6.27 percent for income up to $225,000 and 7.65 percent for income over $225,000. That measure was tabled. Pritzker has said he doesn't support Martwick's proposal.

The existing income rate is 4.95 percent, up from 3.75 percent after last summer's $5 billion income tax hike

The two candidates face off for a final televised debate tonight in Quincy on WGEM.

The other two men in the race for governor, Conservative Party candidate state Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview, and Libertarian candidate Kash Jackson weren't included in the debate because they haven’t gotten 15 percent in public opinion polls.

In separate phone interviews with Illinois News Network, McCann and Jackson shared their thoughts on cuts or spending.

“We should be legitimizing every single dime of taxpayer dollars that we spend and if we had to legitimize it then we might find out we don’t need as much, and thusly the tax rate wouldn't have to go up and hopefully could even be cut,” McCann said.

Jackson said the state has to address high property taxes by consolidating school districts and to change how schools are funded. He said he’d support taxing various services, but only if there’s a property tax cap with only two-thirds of local voters being able to increase property taxes.

“That would be a much more voter friendly taxing method than taxing people out of their homes,” Jackson said.

Watchdog.org Contributor

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for Illinois News Network and Watchdog.org. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.

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