With Election Day rapidly approaching, the campaign for Illinois governor has been contentious, to say the least - with ad after ad saturating the state and each of the candidates firing off countless attacks on their opponents at every turn.
To help cut through the noise, we asked all four candidates 11 of the most important questions to help inform voters on who they are and where they stand on certain issues facing Illinois.
Below are incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's answers as they were submitted —
1. What are the three biggest issues you see facing the state and what are your plans to address them?
I’m the only candidate in this race – in either party - who is fighting for good-paying jobs, lower taxes, and ridding our state of corruption.
Illinois has tremendous potential, and we need to take advantage of that by making our state a good place to raise a family and build a business. With the tax and regulatory burden in our state, families are fleeing and businesses are reluctant to come and grow jobs. But I am fighting to change that, and I have traveled the country and the globe to bring new jobs and companies to Illinois.
Mike Madigan forced through a 32 percent tax hike on Illinois families, and I have put forth a plan to roll it back. Politicians for decades have used accounting gimmicks to hide the cost of their mismanagement and pass the cost to our children and grandchildren. I am fighting to put Illinois on the path to fiscal security.
Lastly, I am working for an ethical and accountable government. For too long, Illinois has been subject to the whims of a few political insiders. We must pass commonsense reforms like term limits and independently drawn legislative maps.
2. Should you be elected governor, what are your immediate priorities for 2019?
First things first, we need to create more good-paying jobs here in Illinois. We do that by reducing the tax and regulatory burden that families and businesses face in Illinois. Job creators are worried about the tax burden in Illinois so we need to begin rolling back the Madigan tax hike, so that we can bring those job creators here.
We also need to implement term limits. Decades of entrenched power in the Capitol has created the problems that Illinois is facing today. We can end this corrupt system by enacting term limits on all elected officials, ensuring that those who run for office run to serve the people of Illinois instead of themselves.
Lastly, Illinois is in need of more competitive elections. I have advocated for putting in place independently drawn maps and it is crucial to have an advocate for fair districting with a re-map coming in 2020. I will not sign maps that continue the pattern of gerrymandering that has taken place in Illinois for decades. This is not a partisan issue, it is a good government issue.
3. How do you plan to work with President Donald Trump's administration?
I will work with the Trump administration when it benefits Illinois families just as I did with the Obama administration. I've worked closely with Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to secure funding to help rebuild infrastructure in Illinois, including a $2.2 billion dollar plan for this year as well as a recently started $474 million dollar project to benefit Chicago's rail networks. We've also been able to secure a Medicaid waiver from the federal government, freeing up billions of dollars to treat mental health and substance abuse. These funds put Illinois on the forefront of treatment and access to quality healthcare.
4. Where do you stand on the implementation of a graduated income tax? If you support it, how do you plan to implement it?
Illinois has had enough tax hikes. That’s a big part of the reason we face the challenges that we do.
We need to lower the tax burden facing middle class families and businesses. To do that, we must fix our broken property tax system so it doesn’t benefit wealthy real estate owners at the expense of middle class families. We also need to give local communities more control over their property taxes so they can meet their own specific needs and attract new businesses.
I do not support a graduated income tax. It will not fix our budget deficit, but it will make job creation more difficult, which in turn pushes tax revenues even lower.
5. Do you believe Illinois should legalize recreational marijuana? If so, how would you make this happen?
I do not support the legalization of recreational marijuana. There are too many unknowns – let’s let other states conduct this particular experiment so we can fully understand the consequences before we make this decision in Illinois.
6. Do you support term limits for elected officials? If so, how would you make this happen?
We must make certain crucial changes to our electoral system, most notably enacting term limits and fair maps.
I have advocated since day one to enact term limits on all elected officials. Illinois politicians like Mike Madigan have made careers from cultivating and consolidating power through decades in office. It is critical to enact term limits to prevent this cycle of corruption from continuing.
I have also fought for independently drawn maps, ensuring that every Illinoisan has a voice in the legislative process and no one is silenced simply because of where they live.
7. What is your plan to address Illinois' unfunded pension liability?
Our pension problems are hurting our economy and our budget. I’ve been able to implement reforms through executive actions like bringing in more sophisticated asset managers and reduced fees and costs. Altogether we’ve saved $60 million while increasing investment returns by a full percentage point. I’ve also been the first executive in recent memory to actually represent taxpayers at the bargaining table with state employees. Too many governors in the past gave away unaffordable benefits in exchange for campaign support. It’s a corrupt, closed-loop system that we need to end once and for all. This year's budget took a large step, capping pension spiking at 3 percent which will save taxpayers more than $20 million this year alone.
But long-term pension reform also requires the cooperation of the general assembly. Unfortunately, leaders like House Speaker Mike Madigan have been more interested in currying political favor with the special interests than passing real reforms. That’s one reason why we need to change the makeup of the general assembly in this year's elections – and that's something I'm committed to achieving.
8. What do you believe can or should be done on the state level to address rising property taxes?
I believe we need to put in place a true property tax freeze across the state so Illinois families don't have to worry about rising taxes. We need to allow for local referendums providing communities with the power to allocate their property taxes, and find ways to lower them at the local level.
9. What do you believe can or should be done on the state level to curb violence in Chicago?
The best solution to gun violence is creating more economic opportunity for every single Illinoisan. That's why I firmly believe that we must reduce the tax and regulatory burden on families and job creators so that our economy can grow, creating more jobs, and reducing violence through economic opportunity.
We've also taken steps to address our criminal justice system, signing bipartisan legilslation to crack down on illegal gun trafficking and creating programs to reduce recidivism. We have also increased the number of state troopers in Illinois, ensuring that we are able to keep families safe
10. What experiences in your life have most shaped your politics?
11. What accomplishment or achievement of yours are you most proud of?