This was the only downstate debate on the docket and it was our only chance to ask these candidates about the way their policies would impact central Illinois.
This debate had a bit more energy to it because of this crowd…
Early on they were into it. Anchor Bobby Oler had a chance to ask two questions specific to the Heart of Illinois.
“A teacher in Peoria, my city, makes an average of $51,481. Under your plan, how much would this teacher pay to the state of Illinois in income tax?” asked Oler.
“That teacher oughta get a tax break…in fact, people in the middle class and those striving to get there…should get a tax break. And those at the very top….4.59 percent is where this governor has spent by the way, and we oughta ask people like Governor Rauner and me and the wealthiest people in the state to pay more,” replied Pritzker.
Pritzker eventually said that he thinks teachers should pay less than they currently do which is just under 5 percent, but would not give an actual number.
He also said that he would raise the minimum wage in Illinois to $15 per hour, but again was short on specifics.
“We need to have a fair, a fair minimum wage in this state. Remember governor Rauner actually proposed lowering the minimum wage when he was running. I don’t think that’s right. I want to raise wages across the state,” said Pritzker.
“15 dollars an hour by when? You said gradually,” interjected moderator Gene Kennedy of WGEM.
“Over a number of years. Again, you seen the proposed that are out there. The proposals that are out there have been five and six years proposals for raising the minimum wage,” said Pritzker.
The governor would not commit to raising the minimum wage with a state law. Saying instead he would grow business and it would raise naturally.
Unfortunately, something that is on the rise in the Heart of Illinois is gun violence. More people murdered with a gun through July than any previous year since 2006 in Peoria. Here’s how each candidate would fix it.
“the largest driver of violence in our neighborhoods is unemployment,” said Rauner.” There is lack of economic opportunity…and this has been true for decades. The violence in Chicago was just as bad. It goes in cycles because of massive unemployment.”
“When you don’t pass a budget, guess what happens. When you’re unwilling to compromise and pass a budget, mental health services are cut. Substance abuse treatment, jobs programs for our youth are cut,” said Pritzker.
After the debate both candidates came into a news conference. Mr. Pritzker seemed energized, while Gov. Rauner’s opening statement was 4 minutes long and seemed tired.
But these candidates are not anywhere near the home stretch. Election Day is still almost a month away, on November 6. Governor Rauner has that long to close a gap with Pritzker that some polls say is 20 points or more.