Phelan emphasizes education in announcement



SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP)—Cook County Board President Richard Phelan promised Tuesday to bring new ideas for Illinois schools and businesses if he is elected governor.

In announcing his run for the Democratic nomination for governor, Phelan called Republican Gov. Jim Edgar ‘‘a steward, a custodian’‘ who offers no ideas for improving Illinois.

‘‘The difference is that I am willing to shake things up. The difference is that I can see the possibilities,’‘ Phelan said.

Phelan becomes the third Democrat to announce a run for governor, following Attorney General Roland Burris and Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch. Edgar has not announced his plans, but shows every sign of running.

Phelan promised to audit all of Illinois government to find ways to save money and to get more tax money from businesses. If state government still needs revenue after those steps, Phelan said he would consider raising taxes.

‘‘I will do what I am constitutionally bound to do, which is to balance the budget,’‘ he said at a news conference at the Springfield airport.

Phelan raised Cook County property taxes after campaigning on a promise not to. He said county finances were much worse than he had realized, leaving him no choice but to raise taxes or cut vital services.

He portrayed the decision as an example of leadership under difficult circumstances. Phelan contrasted his action with Edgar’s decision to largely eschew tax increases despite precarious state finances.

Sen. Karen Hasara, a Springfield Republican speaking on behalf of Edgar, said the governor’s record shows he can be trusted to keep promises.

Phelan also said businesses should be more involved in creating state programs to improve the business climate and attract new jobs. Schools must be geared to prepare students for the business world, he added.

And he ‘‘absolutely’‘ would support legislation to have the state pay for poor women’s abortions. Cook County Hospital last year began performing abortions at Phelan’s order after a long hiatus.

Phelan, a millionaire trial lawyer from Winnetka, served as special counsel in the ethics investigation that brought down U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, in 1989.