Next Tuesday's gubernatorial election is critically important to the state of Illinois. GOP nominee Bill Brady is the wrong man to choose.
Throughout the summer and fall, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady has deflected many questions about how he proposes to address Illinois' many challenges, essentially asking voters to send him to the governor's mansion on faith alone. Particularly in regards to the state's budget problems, Brady has been a black box -- no information about his proposals are allowed to seep out.
But it's not quite accurate to say we don't know what Brady would do as governor should he be elected to the post next week either. The portrait that has emerged of Brady is one of a profoundly conservative politician whose positions on a host of issues put him far outside the norm of most Illinois voters.
With Election Day literally around the corner, we offer this Brady Reader to clarify the Bloomington senator's take on the critical issues. To put it simply, Brady is the wrong candidate to lead Illinois.
Illinois is dealing with a crippling fiscal crisis that's impairing state government's ability to finance core social services. It's the most important issue in this campaign. If elected governor, Brady would likely make the problem worse.
Since he won his party's primary, Brady has been consistently vague about how he would fill the state's multi-billion dollar deficit. From what we do know, he wants to implement a 10 percent cut to the General Revenue Fund, which could devastate stressed agencies and will only save roughly $2.5 billion. Conducting a forensic audit of state government spending, which he has voiced support for, would cost millions and may not net large savings. He's taken a no-tax pledge, taking comprehensive tax reform (and the benefits it would bring) off the table. He's even called for $1 billion in additional tax cuts, most of which will flow into the pockets of big businesses and wealthy estates. In short, Bill Brady will make it literally impossible to pay the state's annual appropriations, pension payments, and its backlog of bills anytime soon. Here's Gov. Pat Quinn's take on the Brady budget roadmap:
One way the next governor can ease the state's budget problems is by promoting policies to create jobs. (It was the major focus of the first gubernatorial debate last month.) On the campaign trail in August, the Bloomington Republican outlined a 14-page jobs plan he wants to implement if elected this fall. There are several big problems with it. And the tax cuts he supports -- particularly a "jumpstart tax credit" for businesses of any size -- aren't guaranteed to draw in any new revenue in the long-term.
What about Illinois' public pension system, which is woefully underfunded? Brady is open to the idea of issuing a $50 billion pension obligation bond to cover the state's existing liability. (Yet he's committed to "stop the borrowing and upgrade our [bond] rating," which is a tough circle to square.) For future state employees, the GOP nominee wants to do away with pensions and offer 401Ks instead (with no employer contribution). That plan, according to Ralph Martire at the Center for Budget and Tax Accountability, is "idiotic on every level."
Terry Cosgrove, President and CEO of Personal PAC, summed up Bill Brady's social stances best. "He's the most right-wing gubernatorial candidate ever nominated by a major party [here]," he told us earlier this month. Brady is so conservative that his own staff scrubbed his Wikipedia entry to hide factual policy positions most Illinois voters find abhorrent.
Where to begin? Brady opposes virtually all abortion rights (even in the case of rape or incest), stem cell research, civil unions and gay marriage, and most any gun controls. He voted against a state law banning discrimination against gays and lesbians in matters of housing and employment. He wants to remove the moratorium on Illinois' troubled death penalty system. He thinks schools should be allowed to teach creationism. He previously sponsored legislation giving veterinarians authority to mass euthanize pets.
Early in the campaign, Planned Parenthood's Beth Kanter said that she "literally shuddered at the notion of him in the governor's office." Watch:
A Brady administration promises to be anti-worker generally and anti-union specifically. It appears that Brady will lay much of the blame for the state's budget problems and pension funding issues at the feet of organized labor, for example. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Brady claimed that public sector unions were "bankrupting the state." Nevermind that after adjusting for information like education and training, multiple studies show that state employees actually make less than their private sector counterparts. And Illinois' current level of benefits for its workforce is modest and in line with other states in the region.
Or take the minimum wage. As a state senator, Brady repeatedly voted against raising Illinois' wage floor. On the campaign trail, he initially told the media that he favored slashing Illinois' minimum wage of $8.25 per hour to the federal level of $7.25 per hour before Gov. Quinn criticized him for proposing a big wage cut for the state's working poor. Brady then backtracked slightly.
Other Brady ideas, if deployed here, would hit workers in their pocketbooks. Earlier this year, a spokeswoman for the Bloomington state senator said Brady thinks turning the Land of Lincoln into a right-to-work state is an "intriguing concept." Right-to-work laws, on the books in 22 states, drive down wages. In 2009, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that wages for all workers were roughly 11 percent higher in union-friendly states.
Another critical policy area the next governor will confront is paying for capital improvement projects -- repairs to roads and bridges, water infrastructure and the like -- across the state. Brady voted in favor of the 2009 capital bill appropriation, but not for the revenue stream funding it, and it's not clear now how he'll find those dollars given his anti-tax outlook. Raising the a motor fuel surcharge to build a modern transportation system in Illinois is likely off the table if Brady is elected. The senator seems to be taking, after all, many of his cues from conservative New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who recently canceled what would have been the biggest public works project in the nation.
A Brady administration in Springfield would also seek to gut the federal health care law by adding Illinois' name to a lawsuit seeking to overturn the landmark legislation. His support for private managed
care for Illinois' Medicaid program, meanwhile, would eviscerate two public programs that employ
"managed care" principles, Illinois Health Connect and Your Healthcare
Plus, and saved roughly $440 million last year. And he's not made clear
how his administration would better protect Illinois patients who
previously suffered from abuses by private managed care organizations here.
Unlike his right-wing ideas on labor and health policy, Brady's been vague about his ideas for reforming Illinois crowded prison system. He made political hay about Gov. Quinn's handling of the early release program called Meritorious Good Time Push, but offered no substantive plan for handling the Department of Corrections. Even the stalwart Republican Chicago Tribune editorial page lambasted his lack of plans for prisons. "[W]hen is Brady going to stop thundering about Quinn's ideas and share some of his own?" the paper asked earlier this year.
And what of MGT Push? A new report differs decidedly from the conventional wisdom about MGT Push -- "[N]early all of the charges against the program are false," the report says -- while suggesting the Quinn's administration handling of it was not nearly as careless as his critics contend. The program's suspension, a move likely to stay in place if Brady is elected, has ballooned the state's already-immense prison population.
In terms of environmental policy, Brady is decidedly the anti-green nominee in the gubernatorial race. Brady does not believe that global warming is caused by human activities, an alarming vision for Illinois residents who want to move the state's energy economy into the 21st century. In 2007, Brady cast one of just 13 votes against the creation of Illinois' Renewable Energy Standard, a law that stipulates that 25 percent of the electricity sold in Illinois by 2025 must be generated by renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
And recall that Brady's pledge to cut at least 10 percent from the state budget could require deep reductions for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which maintains Illinois' state parks and open spaces.
Brady also has vague positions on immigration. In a speech before Latino leaders late this summer, Brady contended that Illinois' natural-born birth rate is too low to spur long-term economic growth.
But the state senator has refused to outline any contributions he could make to improve what he calls a "serious crisis" in immigration policy, only delivering a general statement about the federal government's need to come up with a reform package. He wouldn't even voice support for the DREAM Act, a fairly uncontroversial bill and one any friend of immigrants would back.
Brady, like other Illinois Republicans, has an abiding admiration of the Hoosier state. Unmentioned by the candidate however is that state levies higher taxes than we do. According to estimates from the state's non-partisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), if Illinois mimicked Indiana's tax code in three key areas, the Land of Lincoln would bring in an additional $5.6 billion more than it does presently.
The Company You Keep
While Brady's been vague about many of his plans, those funding his campaign are, in poker terms, a tell.
First and foremost is the Republican Governor's Association (RGA), which has dumped more than $7.5 million into Brady's campaign. The group is raking in gargantuan amounts of money from super-rich, right-wing activists like Bob Perry of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth fame ($4 million), News Corp. Rupert Murdoch ($1.25 million), casino magnate Sheldon Adelson ($1 million), and 600 wealthy conservatives who have tossed $25,000 each into the RGA. Undoubtedly, some of that money has funneled into the Illinois gubernatorial race.
Other Brady funds? For the candidate who would add Illinois to a lawsuit seeking to gut the landmark health care reform bill, $588,000 of support came from insurance companies since July 1. Brady took $25,000 from a payday loan industry organization, $25,000 from cigarette maker Altria, and $50,000 from low-wage retailer Walmart. He's even gotten cozy with some of impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich's fundraisers.
Brady has been less than specific, meanwhile, about his relationship with the Tea Party movement. Brady's "Clean Break Express tour" made its final stop in suburban Homer Glen to attend the Crunch Time 2010 rally, an event sponsored by the Will County Tea Party Alliance, probably the most active tea party chapter in the entire state. A release from the Brady campaign failed to mention the tea party's involvement in the rally. But here a clip from the event:
The ideology many tea partiers share isn't exactly what most voters in Illinois would consider mainstream. Among the laws some prominent tea partiers have argued are unconstitutional: Social Security, Medicare, the minimum wage, and the U.S. Civil Rights Act. Bill Brady is wrong for Illinois.