Effingham Daily News
Attendees young and old listened as Illinois State Treasurer and Republican Gubernatorial candidate Dan Rutherford outlined his stance on pension, the Second Amendment and economic growth within the state of Illinois at Joe Sippers Cafe Friday morning.
Seventeen-year-old Mattoon High School Senior Kaleb Pollum came away with more than Rutherford's political views Friday. The self-described political activist, who will reach voting age by the 2014 General Election, received some posing advice during a photo take with Rutherford. The politician directed Pollum to button his suit jacket and stand with arms at his sides, rather than crossed, to project confidence — the same advice Rutherford received when he met George W. Bush during Rutherford's time as a state senator.
Making his way through a full room, Rutherford directed attendees to “just call me Dan."
“I am very confident Dan can fix what ails Springfield,” said Pollum, who attended the meet and greet with his father, a retired Mattoon Police captain and current Villa Grove patrolman. Both liked that someone outside the Chicago political system is running for governor.
Rutherford shared his ability to win the race as a downstate Republican.
“A lot of people looked at me like 'Are you nuts? How are you going to win this thing?'” he said.
"I got 66,000 more votes running for treasurer’s office than Pat Quinn got running for governor, and there were less people voting for me,” said Rutherford of his 2010 election.
Rutherford said he feels confident he will have overall support from throughout the state.
“If you don't get 20 percent (of the vote) of the city of Chicago, you won't win a statewide race. Period. I got 22 percent," he said, referring to his successful bid for treasurer.
Rutherford noted despite several parties running for treasurer, he received half of the votes throughout the race.
“I'm telling these numbers, because it's relevant to how I'm going to be governor of this state” he said.
When asked by members of the audience about his approach to fixing the looming pension crisis facing the state, Rutherford voiced his disdain for the inaction of others. He contends that even though Quinn raised income taxes in January 2011, he hasn't used the added revenue toward pension funds.
“I don’t want it (continued income tax increases), but it may have to be on the table in part of a financial solution to the situation we are in,” admitted Rutherford. “I know that's not a popular thing to say, but it is a realistic thing to say.”
Rutherford is against changing the state constitution to take away any pension funding, saying “pensions to teachers, university employees and state employees is a covenant. They deserve what they have coming.
“Everybody now has skin in the game, and we are all going to have to take a little of the hurt,” he added.
Rutherford attributed the pension problem to past governors who didn't put enough aside for the pension fund, inflated portfolio rates set by the Retired Teachers Board, and people living longer.
“The pension system had to start selling its assets to make payments for retires,” said Rutherford. “That is a death spiral. We have to fairly and substantively address this.”
Another issue as a former businessman Rutherford is passionate about is the lack of economic development within the state. He believes several issues on the state political level are leading businesses to look outside Illinois. Among them are log jams of government intervention in small business.
“Right now, there is too much holding our head down to avoid eye contact,” he said. “I want to change that.”
If elected governor, Rutherford said he plans to approach all new business with open arms, highlighting Illinois' various transportation systems, schools, and workforce as a reason for people to bring business into the state.
In turning to concealed carry, Rutherford assured folks he would fight to keep the new law in place.
“I am a proponent and advocate of the Second Amendment.” he said. “That being said, I support background checks, training and licensing for concealed carry.”
Tony Huffman can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.