Candidates Discuss Ag Issues at Forum

Aug 28, 2014

Candidates for Governor and U.S. Senate in Illinois spent time talking about their priorities for agriculture Wednesday, as a part of an Illinois Farm Bureau forum.

GOVERNOR CANDIDATES

Gov. Pat Quinn says he plans to invest more in the state Department of Agriculture, if he's re-elected.

Quinn blasted Rauner's pledge to roll back the state's income tax, which is set to expire at the end of the year. He says the state must ensure the department has proper resource to perform important regulatory functions.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner stuck to generalities in his remarks. He says his top priority is education, but he's not saying exactly how to boost state support for learning.

"We are a wealthy state. Now, we're frittering our wealth away, but we still are a pretty wealthy state. And if we decide that education is our priority, the money is there to invest in education."

Rauner says Illinois' education funding formula is broken and includes too much favoritism without transparency. He also favors letting the income tax increase expire and freezing property taxes.

Rauner tells the farm audience he would change the ag department to eliminate cronyism he says is common in Government. He says farm interests need to have a greater say in how that department functions.

SENATE CANDIDATES

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin told the forum he has twice voted against labeling requirements for food products containing genetically engineered or GMO crops, and he'd do it again:

"I don't believe you go around labeling food, inferring there is something wrong with a product, unless there is evidence of it."
 
Durbin says he has taken some heat for his position from fellow Democratic lawmakers. But the Springfield Democrat stands by his choices.

"I have yet to see a credible, scientific report that GMO food is any hazard, any danger, to anybody."
 
Durbin also says labels can be misleading. Free range chickens, for instance, he says are kept in cages in fields with doors they tend not to use. And he said the term organic has at times been so ill-defined, it means nothing.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jim Oberweis says Durbin has presided over an era of rising poverty, falling employment, and bleeding budgets. When asked about the nation's crumbling infrastructure, Oberweis says he prefers user fees over taxes.

"I think one of the best ways to do it is with user fees, to the degree that it can be done."
 
But during a later session with reporters, Oberweis backed off the user fee stance and said those would have to follow changes in spending culture.

"The first thing to do is to look at reducing waste, fraud, and abuse - and that's very large in the state of Illinois. If we get rid of the corruption tax, we'll be way ahead of the game."
 
Oberweis says the gas tax needs to be looked at, though he has never met a tax he likes.

The 2014 General Election is November 4.