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Our view: Public benefits when candidates visit

Illinois’ gubernatorial election will be an expensive, hard-fought campaign between a vulnerable incumbent and a newcomer challenger.

We hope that Wednesday’s visit by Republican challenger Bruce Rauner will not be the last time that DeKalb County voters have the opportunity to see and hear from the candidates.

In his visit to DeKalb, Rauner pledged to rebuild the Republican Party in Illinois and talked of how he hopes to transform the state’s government and business climate.

Rauner has the easier case to make. Illinois is in financial trouble. Its public pension system is underfunded by about $100 billion. The state’s unemployment rate was measured at 7.1 percent in June, still higher than most other states, although it is down a full percentage point in the past two months.

Rauner can truthfully say that Democrats have presided over this mess for more than a decade, including the past six years under Gov. Pat Quinn. Their solutions have been a personal income tax increase that costs the typical taxpayer $1,000 more a year, a pension reform bill that appears in jeopardy of being ruled unconstitutional, and spending plans that never seem to shrink enough.

There is waste in government, particularly in the state’s department of Central Management Services, Rauner said, and he will tear it out by the roots. He claims that he can cut $1 billion from the state budget, although he hasn’t fully laid out how he will do that.

Although Quinn is the one with the spotty record, Rauner faces questions too, including about his income tax returns.

His occupation as a venture capitalist makes for a very complex return, and he has released the basic returns for 2010, 2011 and 2012. The documents show he made $53 million in 2012. He said he has paid all taxes owed and if he is elected he will place his assets in a blind trust.

The attack ads on Rauner’s income taxes already have begun. Funded by a political action committee affiliated with unions that represent public employees and the Democratic Governors’ Association, they seize on a Chicago Tribune analysis that showed Rauner did not pay Medicaid or Social Security payroll taxes in 2010 and ’11, despite earning a combined $55 million in those years. Quinn has called for Rauner to release more details about his income sources.

While Rauner is attacked for being rich, he hits Quinn hard for his management of government and the ongoing investigation into the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, a $55 million program that he started in the weeks before the 2010 election and that now is the subject of federal and state investigations.

We would welcome a return visit by Quinn to DeKalb as well. What is his message? Why should voters give him another term? Where did these millions go, and why?  

Illinois’ governorship is a powerful office, and our state faces serious obstacles.

The election remains months away, and voters can only benefit when those who seek to lead them actually visit – to see where they live, answer their questions and talk about the issues that affect their communities.

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