Ill. governor: Education is solution to deficit
Monday, October 4, 2010; 7:07 PM
CHICAGO -- While Gov. Pat Quinn has accused his opponent of telling voters fairy tales about balancing the budget, he provided only a hazy picture Monday of how he would close the $13 billion deficit and then move Illinois forward.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Quinn said he would solve the state's budget crisis by spending more on education. He hopes "investing in people" will help the Illinois economy grow and fill the budget hole when coupled with unspecified spending cuts and the possibility of more federal aid.
The Chicago Democrat had little to say about what he'd like to accomplish once the budget is balanced, listing ideas like expanded college scholarships and better Internet access.
"We have to have a governor who understands these basics," he said.
Quinn, 61, has aspired to lead the state for much of the past two decades. He got his chance 19 months ago, when federal agents arrested former Gov. Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges, and Quinn, then the lieutenant governor, was thrust into the top job.
He's now locked in a tight race for a full term with Republican state Sen. Bill Brady. The campaign has largely focused on who can repair the budget and put Illinois' economy back on track.
Quinn also has had to deal with criticism over an early-release prison program intended to save the state money. He halted the program last year after the AP reported some violent offenders had been set free. In the AP interview, he said he has no interest in reviving the program and instead would focus on alternative sentencing programs to reduce the prison population.
Quinn inherited a government many Illinois residents considered dishonest and crippled by the worst budget crisis in state history. He worked with lawmakers to pass major ethics laws, although not everything that reformers had wanted.
But he failed to get the budget under control, with lawmakers rejecting his calls for a tax increase and refusing to make major spending cuts.
Brady, 49, has made Quinn's call for a tax hike a major part of his campaign. He says raising taxes would be unfair to struggling families and hurt Illinois businesses. He also has accused Quinn of favoring big government when spending should be cut dramatically.
Most recent polls have found the two candidates virtually tied. A poll released Monday by Suffolk University shows Quinn with a small lead - 43 percent to Brady's 37 percent. But the poll, conducted by telephone Sept. 30-Oct. 3, has a 4.4 point margin of error. That means the race is too close to call.
Quinn accused Brady of misleading voters about the budget because he lacks the courage to make tough choices. He also predicted Brady, if elected, would wind up trying to raise taxes.