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Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner discusses issues separately from his opponent, Gov. Pat Quinn at the Metropolitan Planning Commission's Annual Luncheon, moderated by WBBM Newsradio 780's Craig Dellimore. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

Quinn and Rauner lob debate-style grenades — from a distance

They weren’t side by side, but in a span of an afternoon, Democratic incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner graced the same stage and traded debate-style barbs, with Quinn comparing Rauner to King Midas, and Rauner charging Quinn with presiding over a corrupt administration. 

In a forum before the Metropolitan Planning Council, Rauner was asked how he would find $6 billion to fill an anticipated budget hole next year. 

Rauner spoke of overhauling the tax system with a plan that includes less reliance on income taxes and property taxes and a new tax on services.  

“It’s painful, I hate to put new taxes in place but it’s an important, pro-growth, investment policy,” Rauner said. “We shouldn’t tax investment and income, we should tax consumption.” 

After his own appearance about an hour later, Quinn  pounced on the remark, accusing Rauner of seeking to tax working people while protecting the investment industry, charging that’s how Rauner created his own fortune. 

“I hope everyone heard today that a billionaire running as a Republican for governor in Illinois said we should tax consumption of everyday people and not have to pay a tax burden that’s appropriate on investment income,” Quinn said. “We’ve been hearing that all over America over the last decade or so. This crowd that has more money than King Midas wants to shift more of the tax burden onto the everyday people. We can’t have that in Illinois.”

Quinn shifted his remarks to Rauner’s tax ideas just as reporters pressed him on a patronage scandal within the Illinois Department of Transportation that Rauner has seized upon. 

Rauner charged that while Quinn said he cleaned house of political hires who were improperly placed into non-political state positions  many still remain on the state payroll. Quinn wouldn’t directly answer the question, saying he had hired a transportation secretary who was reviewing all the positions in question.

 “This already looks like another broken promise from Pat Quinn,” Rauner said in a news availability after his formal remarks. “You’ve got to wonder if this is just another charade.”

Each candidate sought to bolster the narrative he is building of his competitor. Rauner has worked to chip away at Quinn’s longtime image as a reformer, while Quinn has repeatedly tapped the income inequality theme, saying a multi-millionaire such as Rauner doesn’t understand the everyday worker.

Separately on Thursday, Rauner for the first time personally responded to reports in the Chicago Sun-Times that private investigators were armed with guns while working for the Republican effort to remove the Libertarians from the November ballot. 

Rauner personally contributed $6,500 to the Palos Township Republican organization  — which is led by Morrison Security owner Sean Morrison. It was Morrison’s firm that carried out the petition validating. 

“I’m appalled by the behavior I read about. I absolutely reject it and would never condone it,” Rauner said. “It’s terrible. I don’t know if it’s true, but I would never accept it.”