Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner sparred over economic issues and played up many of their key campaign talking points during their first televised debate Thursday evening in Peoria.
Rauner, who touted his accomplishments as a business leader, characterized Quinn as inept, claiming “Illinois has been one of the worst-run states in America” under the governor’s leadership.
“We have rampant misspending of taxpayer money, massive waste in the system,” Rauner said.
Quinn painted Rauner as an out-of-touch billionaire and criticized the venture capitalist’s business background.
“He’s been involved with 12 different bankruptcies,” Quinn said. “It seems to me those aren’t terrific results.”
Quinn, also took aim at Rauner for his proposed tax policies, which include rolling back the state’s income tax and broadening the sales tax on services.
“The folks who are millionaires or billionaires always want to shift taxes onto everyday people,” the governor said, adding that he thinks “taxes should be based on ability to pay.”
Quinn reiterated his support for extending the temporary 2011 income tax hike and a ‘millionaire tax,” the latter of which Illinois voters will have a opportunity weigh in on in the forum of a non-binding referendum on the November ballot.
Rauner, meanwhile, said the state’s unemployment rate is still high and job growth is not where it needs to be.
“We have got to grow our economy,” Rauner said. “What we can’t solve our problems by doing is just raising taxes on families like our current governor has done.”
The governor stressed that Illinois’ economy has made a comeback under his watch.
“Jobs are up and unemployment is down,” he said.
The two candidates also traded barbs over the minimum wage issue.
Quinn, who backs a minimum wage increase in Illinois to at least $10 an hour, blasted Rauner for previously stating his support for eliminating or lowering the state’s minimum wage.
“My opponent, all across Illinois, went across this state, saying eliminate the minimum wage. A person taking in $53 million a year running around Illinois saying eliminate the minimum wage,” the governor said. “He’s adamantly against the minimum wage. Well, I’m adamantly for raising the minimum wage.”
In response, Rauner called Quinn out for his inability to raise the state’s base hourly wage thus far.
“Pat Quinn has been governor for six years, and he’s had a super majority of his party in the General Assembly,” Rauner said. “And he has not increased the minimum wage in that time. If he was serious about this, he could have gotten it done.”
“He’s playing political football with people’s lives and with our economy.”
The League of Women Voters and Illinois Public Broadcasters co-sponsored Thursday’s debate, moderated by WSIU-TV senior producer Jak Tichenor.