Democrat Linda Healy of Aurora says she is against increasing the state income tax, but would favor doing that before having the state borrow any more money to pay its outstanding bills and pension obligations.
"I think a tax increase is going to have to happen, but not without looking at what we could be cutting, said Healy, who wants to be the next 50th state House representative, in an editorial board meeting with the Daily Herald. She said she favors increasing the tax before borrowing more money borrowing puts the burden on the working class to pay today's bills tomorrow, she believes.
Her opponent, Republican Rep. Kay Hatcher, seems less inclined to go for an increase.
"I don't think it would be fair to anyone in this state to think about modifying the tax structure until we do due diligence and audit how the state spends money, Hatcher said. She cited several examples that irk her, including that applicants for the All Kids state-run health insurance program are not asked to provide proof of residency. (They are asked for name and address, and for proof of income, employment and citizenship status.) She's handing out a state Republican Party "Budget Menu that calls for fiscal reforms large and small, from requiring zero-based budgeting to eliminating smart phones, cell phones and personal digital assistants for state workers unless they are needed for emergency use.
Healy believes the first place to go looking for money is in pension reform which might seem odd for a Democrat and a former teacher to say. But Healy said she believes union members can be "reasonable folk and some, such as teachers, are upset enough about program cuts that they would consider reductions in benefits, even for current employees. She supports higher employee contributions. "If you have 10 or more years to go (to retirement), you might have to take some hits, she said.
Hatcher also cites pension reform as necessary. With the public's outrage over what some see as generous public pensions, she said the "political will is there. The state has "hit bottom, and they (union members) know it has to shape up, she said.
Hatcher would also like to see a three-fifths majority required on any legislation that calls for spending money, and for the appropriations committee to meet monthly. She loves a new provision that a financial note, explaining a proposal's cost, must be attached to any bill that calls for spending money. She's a chief co-sponsor on pay-as-you-go legislation, requiring an another program to be cut when a new one is proposed, or new revenue to support the new program.
Healy, too, calls for an audit of state spending, with an emphasis then on reordering the state's priorities so that money is spent on schools, social services for families, senior citizens, veterans and victims of crimes like domestic violence. Healy is the retired director of the Mutual Ground agency in Aurora, which provides shelter for victims of domestic abuse and aid to victims of sexual assault. "My heart is in social service and education, she said.
They agree on at least one thing when it comes to the state's spending:
Legislators should get more than 24 hours to pore over a proposed budget that runs several thousand pages.
Hatcher is a co-sponsor of House Bill 6626, which would require the budget to be posted online seven days before the General Assembly's vote on it.
You can't have that budget for 24 hours _ you have to have it for weeks, Healy said.