Where Governor Candidates Stand on Local Issues

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By Fanna Haile-Selassie
By Jared Roberts

MURPHYSBORO -- One of the republican candidates for governor is pledging to reopen Tamms Prison. Kirk Dillard's running mate was in Murphysboro Thursday to talk about that idea. We were there to ask a few more questions of Lieutenant Governor candidate Jil Tracy. She had plenty to say, not only on the state facility closures, but also on minimum wage and repealing the state's gas tax. 

 
"We are committed to opening, reopening the Tamms Correctional Facility."
 
It's a position that won't prompt much objection in southern Illinois. For nearly a year, union workers rallied to save the Tamms Supermax prison, along with the Murphysboro Youth Center. The wounds are still felt today, something Dillard and Tracy know well.
 
"We're housing 49,000 inmates, our systems are designed for 33,000. It's a powder keg of problems there. And so we're closing facilities and under-staffing for cost savings that really isn't being realized," Tracy explains.
 
Candidate Dan Rutherford also knows the impact the closures have had on downstate Illinois, but is quick to say if the facilities are re-opened, it has to be done the right way.
 
"I'm absolutely going to look at ways to open them. Now, it's got to be done within a process and a place and a way that's going to be appropriate. But that is mission that I have," Rutherford explains by phone.
 
Another campaign issue where they both agree is raising the minimum wage. They don't want to see it happen at the state level.
 
"I visit with small businesses every day that tell me that would be the one last thing that would make them close their business," says Tracy.
 
Rutherford explains, "I also want to have as many people have a job as we possibly can, and at this time, I don't see how raising the minimum wage is going to help increase the employment across the state of Illinois."
 
The two diverge when it comes to taxes. Dillard and Tracy are proposing to do away with the state's gas tax. But Rutherford would rather see a reduction in income taxes, claiming it will help more people.
     
We also reached out to the two other Republican candidates: Bruce Rauner and Bill Brady. Rauner's spokesperson Mike Schrimpf eventually got back to us after our deadline. He says Rauner would create a strategic assessment to see how best to use the shuttered Tamms prison and the other closed facilities. As for minimum wage, Rauner would rather see the national minimum wage raised to make sure Illinois stays competitive. Schrimpf says Rauner would also be willing to raise the wage if other business reforms were put in place, like workmans' comp reform. He also wants to see a reformed tax code with overall lower taxes.
 
Brady did not get back to us. Representative Jil Tracy will be campaigning in southern Illinois through the weekend.
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