From budgetary solutions to term limits, two candidates for Illinois governor told members of the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce on Thursday what they'd do to improve conditions in the Land of Lincoln.
Tio Hardiman, who sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014 against incumbent Pat Quinn, and Bob Daiber, the Madison County regional superintendent of schools, talked up progressive-oriented visions of Illinois during a Democratic candidates' forum.
Hardiman, who is also the former director of CeaseFire, said he would seek to impose a business transaction tax on institutions like the Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Board Options Exchange, bringing in about $3 billion in new revenue to help stabilize state finances.
Daiber said he would issue bonds to pay down the entirety of the state's unpaid bill backlog, which as of Thursday afternoon amounted to $14.2 billion, and shift to a progressive income tax with all citizens paying a minimum of 1 percent on earnings and topping out at 6 percent.
On education reform and seeking a better-equipped work force of graduates, Daiber said that it's crucial that teachers focus on ensuring that "every kid that's leaving high school should have a skill set. It's not what you know, it's what you can do."
He said mentoring programs, especially in areas of underemployment, are vital.
Hardiman talked up work he's done with a training program for ex-felons and also said that learning a trade is crucial for students so they always have career options.
Near the close of the hourlong forum — which had been advertised as lasting 90 minutes before starting 34 minutes behind schedule — the duo split slightly on the issue of term limits. Daiber favors term limits for legislative leaders but believes individuals need to self-police themselves on when to step down — or lose re-election — to determine when to leave office. Hardiman said he supported term limits because without them, "cronyism kicks in."
Both spoke about the importance of building relationships and seeking compromise to avoid impasses like those that have been common the last two and a half years in Illinois government.
Daiber has raised about $63,000 and spent about $53,000 in the increasingly expensive governor's race, while Hardiman has yet to raise or spend enough to re-establish a campaign committee.
Both are considered long shots for the nomination, though they were the only two candidates out of the eight declared who appeared at the forum. J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy, state Sen. Daniel Biss, state Rep. Scott Drury, Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar and Alex Paterakis were no-shows.
Earlier in the day, Gov. Bruce Rauner spoke to the organization, re-emphasizing something he'd told members in similar appearances in 2015 and 2016: "Your success is the success of the people of Illinois. ... I judge myself as governor by how well you're doing."
He ran through a laundry list of accomplishments he said had helped minority business owners and entrepreneurs so far during his term, including two he had directly addressed at last year's convention in East Peoria.
The Advancing the Development of Minority Entrepreneurships program, a pilot effort to grow minority businesses, started off in Peoria, Rockford and Chicago, and Rauner said it's set to expand into other cities.
Meanwhile, the state's first sheltered market program that allowed minority-owned businesses an exclusive opportunity to bid on a wide-ranging IT contract — something Rauner announced at last year's convention — was a success, he said, with an African-American firm winning that contract.
"We're going to close that disparity," he said of minority contracting, noting that for the state's new Medicaid managed-care contract he wants to see minority firms get first crack at Cook County business under the program.
Chris Kaergard covers politics and government. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.