Candidates for the state's top offices faced off in Bloomington Wednesday over farm issues, trying to win support from Illinois agriculture leaders.

The Illinois Agricultural Legislative Roundtable gave each candidate time to field questions under an outdoor tent on a Bloomington farm.

Democratic state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk spoke about their plans if they were elected to the U.S. Senate. Republican state Sen. Bill Brady and Democratic Gov. Quinn fielded questions about their hopes for the governor's office.

Senate

Kirk said Wednesday he wants to eliminate the federal estate tax, or adopt it at the lowest rate possible.

Kirk and Giannoulias split over the issue that's an important one to farmers worried that a death in the family could result in heavy taxes because of the value of the land the family owns.

Giannoulias said he'd like to see the estate tax extended next year. Now, there's no estate tax -a tax on the wealth of someone who has died -as federal officials try to decide to do with the issue for next year.

But, Giannoulias said the family farms with values less than $10 million should be exempted from the tax.

"I am for the permanent extension of the estate tax," Giannoulias said.

Kirk wants to eliminate the estate tax completely.

"My preferred rate is zero," Kirk said.

Both candidates agreed, though, that 15 percent ethanol blends should be allowed. Now, 10 percent is the highest amount of ethanol found in gasoline.

Giannoulias also criticized Kirk for vocally opposing legislation intended to combat global warming even though Kirk already voted for it in Congress.

Giannoulias supports the so-called "cap and trade" legislation, and Kirk said he changed his mind because he'd be representing the whole state in the Senate, as opposed to his Chicago-area Congressional district.

Governor

On Brady's home turf in Bloomington, Quinn criticized his opponent's intentions to cut the state budget, saying taking state money from schools will only lead to higher property taxes locally.

That could include higher property taxes for farmers, Quinn said.

"I'm the one that wants to cut property taxes and invest in education," Quinn told the crowd.

Quinn has proposed 33 percent income tax hike to help pay for schools. But Wednesday for the first time, he suggested he'd want to force local schools to lower what they take in from property taxes as a result.

Brady has sharply criticized Quinn for his tax-increase plans, and Wednesday was no different.

Brady said he'd want to set up a fund to give local homeowners property tax relief. Under Brady's plan, state money would be put into a fund, sent to local officials, and used to lower property tax rates.

"That fund would build on itself each and every year," Brady said.

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