Tags: US | Illinois | Governor's | Race

Ill. GOP Gov Hopefuls Stake out Budget Positions

Tuesday, 05 Jan 2010 10:56 AM


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Another Republican running for Illinois governor signed a no-tax pledge Monday, while a fellow candidate said leasing the state tollway could be a way out of Illinois' fiscal mess.

But neither Andy McKenna nor Jim Ryan is offering specifics that add up to a balanced budget in a state limping through the fiscal year by borrowing money and failing to pay bills. Instead, they're sticking to general promises to cut spending, overhaul government pensions and reform the Medicaid system.

McKenna became the fifth GOP candidate to sign a pledge advocated by the Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Tax Reform. He promises to "oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes."

McKenna, former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, also has proposed dramatically cutting the state budget without detailing the impact on programs and services.

Former attorney general Jim Ryan said Monday that while he doesn't plan to sign the no-tax pledge, he's committed to not raising taxes.

"I think it would be criminal to raise taxes," he said.

Instead, the former attorney general outlined other options to cut spending and raise revenue, including a long-term lease of the Illinois tollway in a deal similar to Indiana's. He said he also would look at selling or leasing the state lottery. He didn't put dollar figures on those deals.

The idea of leasing the tollway has been floated before but never gone anywhere.

Fellow Republicans Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady criticized Ryan's tollway proposal. Brady said Ryan was "opening the door to a very dangerous practice." Dillard said he would only consider it after talking to experts and if proceeds were guaranteed to be used for infrastructure. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has been heavily criticized since leasing away the city's parking meters because of rate increases and service problems.

Ryan insisted Monday that the state can fix its budget problems through cuts, consolidations and other streamlining. He listed dozens of recommendations by groups that have studied the issue, but they alone wouldn't eliminate the deficit and Ryan didn't promise to adopt them.

If he's elected, Ryan said, he would appoint a panel to quickly recommend specifics.

Both of the Democrats running for Illinois governor have proposed raising income taxes to reduce a deficit that is likely to top $11 billion in the coming year.

According to Americans for Tax Reform, McKenna joined fellow Republican candidates Brady, Adam Andrzejewski, Dan Proft and Bob Schillerstrom in signing the pledge. Dillard has signed the pledge as a state senator, but not as a gubernatorial candidate. Dillard said a tax increase would make the Illinois economy worse.

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