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Ryan, Obama pitch Senate campaigns

November 22, 2010
Dealers not in cross hairs in state's proposed budget

With the state's General Assembly session winding down, no major dealer-related bills confronted dealers when they gathered in Springfield May 5 for the annual IADA Spring Legislative Conference. The atmospherepermitted CATAdealers to thank the lawmakers they met for defeating controversial measures. The conference, hosted by the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association, also gave dealers a glimpse of the Democratic and Republican candidates vying for the vacant U.S. Senate seat, when Barack Obama and Jack Ryan spoke at a luncheon. Ryan, a first-time candidate for political office, defined his campaign theme for a "freer, fairer and safer" America, a goal that would be achieved through less taxation, less litigation and less legislation. "Government needs to keep taxes low so there's a reason to be in business," Ryan said. "And just when you think you're taxed to death-and you're right- there's a death tax."  Ryan noted that a neurosurgeon's medical malpractice premiums exceed $250,000 a year, and he suggested that dealers' vehicle liability premiums are too high because of people who sue for emotional distress as part of a lawsuit. Recent polls give a near 20-point edge to Obama but Ryan discounted that, reminding listeners that the GOP occupied the state's governor's mansion for 26 straight years until 2003. He said, "Republicans can win in Illinois." Obama's state senatorial district stretches from Chicago's Gold Coast south along the lakefront. He represents some of the state's wealthiest and poorest ZIP codes and his district is 85 percent Democratic, but he told the dealer audience not to assume he is anti-business. "My philosophy," he said, "has been that I'm only going to be successful providing help to workers and to business in the context of providing jobs. I want to encourage economic development and growth." Obama also advocates tax fairness, and he said workers who can earn a living wage are better able to buy cars. He said federal tax code incentives that prompted Maytag to relocate production to Mexico from Galesburg, Ill., has left any dealers in Galesburg hardpressed to sell cars. Obama acknowledged a need for tort reform-"Anyone who denies there's a crisis with medical malpractice insurance is probably a trial lawyer"-but said he advocates reforms to the estate tax, not outright repeal. "The exemption should be set at a level to capture the majority of family businesses versus people who've earned enormous wealth," he said. Obama recognized his audience of dealers was largely Republican. "I don't know what to tell you, but I'm probably going to win this race, so you're going to have to deal with me."