Republican incumbent Kay Hatcher of Yorkville and Democrat Linda Healy of Aurora are vying in the Nov. 2 general election for the State Representative 50th District seat. Here are their thoughts on issues selected from a Daily Herald questionnaire sent to each candidate.
Q. What should be done to solve the state's budget crisis? What specific measures should be cut for how much in savings? Would you support or oppose an income tax increase or a state sales tax increase? Lay out a specific plan of what needs to be done.
Kay Hatcher. Illinois has spent more than it should for many years, and our survival depends on turning that around. In an effort to demand fiscal responsibility, I sponsored HB1173, which specifically requires line by line approval of any appropriations. The PAYGO program is simple and one of my favorites. This Pay As You Go fiscal tool is just what it says: if you are going to implement a new program, remove a nonperforming program with the same funding requirements. It makes government more efficient at many levels and reflects what each of us is doing in our own families. Don't spend what you don't have.
As a freshman, I came to Springfield less than 2 years ago, bringing a lifetime of economic development experience working for large and small businesses, taxing bodies and not-for-profits. Essential to that experience is one single rule: raising taxes may have a small initial revenue increase, but ultimately will have a negative impact on the very entities paying those taxes.
Find the balance. Reform the state pension and Medicaid programs, freeze new programs and stick with a dedicated debt repayment program. Revenue increases absolutely must not even be considered unless there are significant and quantifiable reforms.
Linda Healy. As state representative, I will try to undo decades of fiscal mismanagement by better prioritizing spending so only the most important programs are funded. I will cut waste and demand that lawmakers pass a balanced budget so future generations are not footing the bill for today's expenditures. I would oppose a state sales tax increase. An income tax increase would be a last resort. However, with the amount of unpaid bills in Springfield to schools and social service agencies, borrowing seems a poor choice, which again leaves the burdens on the working class.
Q. What is your view on the pension legislation passed last year? Do you support or oppose lower benefits and higher employee contributions for current state workers? Specifically, how should state officials resolve underfunding problems?
Hatcher. While I'm a first-term legislator, I believe you have to understand where the state has gone previously to understand how to move forward. Pensions were constructed decades ago based on a life expectancy that recipients and potential recipients now far exceed. That also means, of course, that those folks outlive the available funds as well. Health care costs seem to double every year, and in order to remain solvent and continue to provide jobs, businesses long ago changed the way this benefit was funded. So should the state of Illinois.
We've started the process of restructuring pensions, but the job has just begun. Legislators started first on their own benefits, both to be fiscally prudent and set the standard for others. Retirement was raised to 67, cost of living slashed and "double dipping eliminated for future General Assembly members. A similar concept was applied to other pensions. Now that same common-sense attitude needs to be used to address existing employees.
Our state has some of the most generous health care benefits in the nation. My guess is most people would be shocked to know that a 20-year Illinois employee's retirement health care is totally state funded. Vesting needs to change and benefits modified, with a careful eye toward examining existing plans.
Our state's historical underfunding is the main cause of our problem, but we need to look at the bigger picture.
I am confident that both these issues will get close attention in the coming year, and we will continue to make the state smarter, leaner and more in tune with the structure of the today's economic realities.
Healy. The pension legislation passed last year was a good start. I do support higher employee contributions for current state workers.
Q. Do you oppose or support civil unions? Gay marriage? What abortion restrictions do you support? What about parental notification? Late-term abortion? Should there be controls on gun ownership? If so, what would you support?
Hatcher. Illinois law already prohibits marriage between members of the same sex. The federal government does not recognize any state gay marriage, so federal tax benefits are moot. Both gay marriage and civil union issues are being contested in the courts in the few states that have implemented them. I think it's appropriate to consider some form of carefully crafted legislation that protects the rights of couples to make medical decisions. This especially applies to many elderly men and women who share a committed household for years, but do not marry because of benefit or pension restrictions. Business initiatives often predate government, and you will find a number of national and international corporations that extend partner health benefits already.
Every elected official takes an oath of office to uphold the laws of the United States and the state of Illinois. We are a nation of laws, and Roe is the law. As a Republican who believes that less government is the best government, I think it is very important that we safeguard the rights of the individual over government intrusion into people's lives. Government has no business making a woman's reproductive decisions. As a mother and grandmother, I can imagine no harder decision for a woman to make. Safeguards must exist to protect a woman's ability to make that decision. I believe education is the key. I find it difficult to deny medical care to a woman who has been raped, who will die or whose health is threatened without access to the medical care she needs to protect her life and health.
I grew up on our family farm in central Illinois, and guns were a part of every day life. Often, whatever my dad shot that morning we ate that evening. Armaments are a tool, and should be treated with respect and used in appropriate circumstances. The Second Amendment protects that right. Chicago is a population base unto itself, and its rules should not overshadow the rest of the state. Illinois already has a strong FOID system for those who abide by the law. Significant penalties for gangbangers or crime-related activities protect the innocent and punish the guilty.
Healy. I support civil unions, not gay marriage. I am pro-choice. The only controls on gun ownership should be penalties for unregistered guns.
Q. Where do you stand on campaign finance caps for legislative leaders and parties? Will you vote for your current caucus leader? Do you support an amendment for a different political map system? Why or why not?
Hatcher. I strongly favor campaign contribution limits and sponsored legislation (HB5008) to enforce that perspective. The system will only be truly transparent and truly work if the rules also stringently apply to political parties and leaders. Unlimited money equals unlimited power. That's why the state is in the shape it is today; four people pick the winners and losers, both legislatively and politically.
The House of Representatives has strong and responsible Republican members, each of whom brings unique skills and each of whom represents a unique demographic and geography. The structure today includes a Republican Minority Leader, chosen by the other legislators, to drive important issues and reach consensus. That leader is aided by a leadership team dedicated to learning what other House members favor. Each individual House Republican makes an individual vote, and does not have his or her hands tied by a political mandate. Leader Tom Cross has done a phenomenal job of finding common ground between members of both parties, and that's a rare quality I support.
Having watched our political process for many years, I recognized the importance of boundaries: one of the first pieces of legislation I filed set criteria for redistricting. I believe a nonpartisan redistricting process is pivotal to bringing balanced representation to Illinois. District boundary control is the ultimate control. I supported and carried petitions for the citizen-driven Illinois Fair Map Amendment, which creates a nonpartisan map that still recognizes Voting Rights Act requirements. Open, independent and cleanly structured, the process involves both public and legislative support.
Healy. There needs to be a cap on campaign finance for legislative leaders and parties. We need to level the playing field so that money is not the determining factor in any race. Yes, I support an amendment for a different political map system. I like the Iowa model.