If State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) ultimately prevails in the GOP gubernatorial primary, what can voters expect from him this election season? He's telegenic, quick on his feet, and deeply conservative.
State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) flew a bit under the radar this primary season. He didn't raise the most money or garner the most noteworthy endorsements in the crowded Republican gubernatorial field. But as the only candidate who lives south of I-80, he used his name recognition in central and southern Illinois to take the lead. While the final ballots are still being counted, he is poised to win his party's nomination.
If Brady ultimately prevails, what can voters expect from him this election season? He's telegenic, quick on his feet, and deeply conservative. He made his first statewide splash yesterday, announcing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and civil unions. That will be just one of many issues on which Brady and Gov. Pat Quinn would disagree. Here's a quick recap on Brady's voting history and platform:
Budget and taxes: Brady has taken the no-tax pledge, promising not to support any increase in the state's income tax or sales tax and introducing legislation that would require a two-thirds majority to pass any state tax hike. He doesn't support applying taxes to services and wants to see the state eliminate the estate tax (at a cost of $300 million) and implement a new 10 percent tax credit (up to $2,100) for businesses that create new jobs in Illinois, as well. If no new revenue is coming in, how does he think the state can pay off its $12.8 billion deficit and cut additional taxes? On that question, his solutions leave a lot to be desired. Brady contends Democrats are inflating the size of the deficit by combining delayed bill payments and dropping tax receipts from this year and with next year's spending. Technically, that's true, but the government still needs to make those payments. To do so, he wants to move all Illinois Medicaid users into a private managed care system (which he falsely claims will save $1.2 billion annually), move the state pension system away from a defined-benefit plan (which might net modest savings, but only in 25 to 30 years), and implement four to 14-percent across-the-board spending cuts to the state's already-thin general revenue fund. And to pay off the state's pension debt, it's all about borrowing.
Social conservatism: Brady's economic conservatism is dwarfed by his social conservatism. The state legislator has denied that humans are contributing to global warming. He only supports abortion in cases where the mother's life is at stake, not in instances of rape or incest. He opposes gay rights across the board, even voting against a 2005 state law banning discrimination against gays and lesbians in matters of housing and employment. He opposes any use of taxpayer funds for embryonic stem cell research. And he's supported anti-immigrant legislation that would bar the undocumented from receiving health care, homeownership assistance, college aid, and more.
Education: Encouragingly, Brady has spoken out on the need to invest more state money in the education system as a way to decrease school district's reliance on property taxes, even proposing the state devote "10 percent of natural growth in state tax revenues each year" to the cause. But he also wants to eliminate the State Board of Education, the independent governing board the directs state education spending, in favor of consolidating the agency's power in the governor's office. And he would allow local school boards to teach the theory of creationism in the classroom.
Criminal justice: Brady thinks the Corrections Department budget is bloated, but not because the state is locking up too many non-violent criminals. He wants to fire the "high-paid" DoC appointees who were tapped under the Blagojevich and Quinn administrations, even though there are only about 1,600 employees in the entire state government who earn more than $70,000 in income. Eliminating half those jobs would save about $100 million dollars. Brady opposes the early release of non-violent offenders nearing the end of their terms and wants to pull back the moratorium on the death penalty. He's also a strong support of gun rights, having pushed for repeals to state law banning conceal and carry.
Transportation: While he professes a desire to fund investments in surface transit projects, including high-speed rail, paying for those projects is another story entirely. Brady was one of just 12 senators to vote against the state's capital construction plan this past summer. He's also called for the elimination of the 6.25 sales tax on gasoline, 5 percent of which flows into state coffers.
Brady didn't generate much support from the nascent Tea Party movement in Illinois, even though his resume reads like a Tea Party manifesto. He's certainly going to need to find innovative ways to reach out to independent voters this fall.