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updated: 2/8/2011 3:51 PM

Gambling, taxes and economy focus of candidates forum

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During a candidate forum on Wednesday, the Democrat running for the 62nd State House seat in central Lake County announced he wants to raise income taxes on wealthy people and expand video gambling as ways to boost revenue.

Rich Voltair, a first-time candidate from Round Lake Beach, said the state should eliminate the option that lets local communities ban video gambling. He also called for more government intervention to boost employment and resuscitate the economy.

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"When private companies aren't hiring, the government can," said Voltair, who is challenging two-term Republican incumbent Sandy Cole for the seat.

Voltair and Cole were among six candidate for state office who attended a forum at the Annunciation of Our Lady Episcopal Church. The event was organized by the Lake County Center for Independent Living, a Mundelein-based group that supports people with disabilities.

The other candidates were: Republican state Rep. JoAnn Osmond and Democrat Scott Pollak, who are running for the 61st House District seat; and Democratic state Sen. Michael Bond and Republican Suzi Schmidt, who are running for the 31st state Senate seat.

About 60 people attended the forum. Organizers asked questions about the state budget, the quality of education, transportation and housing.

For the most part, each question was asked to a specific pair of candidates. In his answers, Voltair regularly said the state needs to raise more revenue and endorsed expanding video gambling as an option.

He also said the state should adopt a graduated income tax plan that would gather more tax dollars from wealthy people and less from poorer people.

Pollak appeared to be the least knowledgeable candidate of the bunch. He didn't field several questions, saying he wasn't a "career politician" and didn't know about the particular issues, such as the state Circuit Breaker program, which helps seniors and people with disabilities pay property taxes and medication bills.

Osmond, of Antioch, called the Circuit Breaker program beneficial and pledged to always vote to support it.

When answering a question about the state budget, Schmidt, of Lake Villa, said the legislature should do away with the lieutenant governor's post, and eliminate either the treasurer's or comptroller's job to save money. She also said the state should reduce its airplane fleet.

"We don't need all these state planes flying around," she said.

When answering the same question, Bond, of Grayslake, said the state shouldn't raise taxes as a way to generate new revenue, "especially on small businesses."

Cole, of Grayslake, called for a reform of workers' compensation laws as a way to promote employment growth. She called jobs the No. 1 issue in the district and said she was shocked by the number of local families in which the woman is the primary earner.

When answering a question about the state budget, Osmond, of Antioch, took the program's lone swipe at the opposing political party, saying Democratic leaders don't let House Republicans participate in the budget planning process.

"We are not allowed in there," she said.

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