Joe Neal: Candidate Profile
31st District Senate
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Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
Office sought: 31st District Senate
Occupation: Civil and Transportation Engineer Navy Civil Engineering Corp Officer
Education: Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering Masters of Transportation Engineering
Civic involvement: Wadsworth Lions Club Shriner Navy League
Elected offices held: None
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Job Creation & Economic Growth
Springfield politicians are chasing jobs out of this state and making it too costly for companies to expand or open shop in Illinois.
There's a reason why Wisconsin has an unemployment rate almost 3 percent lower than Illinois. Living in a district that borders Wisconsin, our jobs are uniquely at risk when Illinois adopts policies hostile to job creators.
One such policy is the massive 67% income tax hike on individuals and 46% income tax hike on corporations that the ruling Majority in Springfield passed in the dead of night. This was a short sighted, temporary fix that did nothing to address our long-term deficit spending or poorly run state programs. We must repeal this tax hike immediately and set to work on a uniform tax policy that provides a level playing field for all businesses regardless of their size.
If I am fortunate enough to serve as our district's next State Senator, then I will fight to create jobs and a more business friendly climate through support for:
-- Repealing the individual and corporate tax increase immediately -- Implementing a tax credit for each new job created and added to our tax base -- Eliminating the unpredictability of healthcare mandates
Key Issue 2
Balancing our State Budget
Our state is racing off a budget cliff.
Illinois received $33 billion in revenue last year and the Governor's budget spent $34.5 billion, adding even more debt to our structural deficit.
And, this comes after the 67% income tax increase that was supposed to fix our fiscal mess.
In the past 10 years, the cost and size of Illinois government has grown 26% while the population growth has only grown at 6%.
At the current rate of spending, we will accumulate a deficit of more than $22 billion in 5 years.
It's time to stop relying on short-term budget gimmicks, irresponsible borrowing, and massive tax hikes. We must engage in long-term planning.
The answer to solving our debt problem is not to increase our tax burden, which hurts families and businesses, but to create an employer friendly environment competitive with Wisconsin and the rest of the country and to cut spending on wasteful programs.
Key Issue 3
Meaningful reforms to our state pension system are absolutely necessary in order to maintain a solvent pension fund and keep the promise made to thousands of state employees.
We are in this pension mess in large part because Illinois failed to live up to its obligation to make timely payments into the state's pension funds. Self-serving politicians used money intended for pension payments to expand government programs and services. This was wrong and Illinois must commit in the strictest sense to making its full pension payment.
I support 3-tier pension reform similar to the plan proposed in SB 512 because I believe it is the best solution currently on the table to meet our future pension obligations and ensure that retired workers are not left with a bankrupt pension system.
What can you do specifically to help the economy in your district? What is your view of the tax breaks granted to companies like Motorola Mobility, Navistar and Sears? For incumbents, how did you vote on the Sears plan in this fall's veto session?
I am running in a district that borders Wisconsin and, as such, I believe our communities are uniquely at risk when Illinois' economy falters or our business environment deteriorates. Businesses on the Wisconsin border have easy access to a more competitive and business-friendly environment. The first step in sending a message that Illinois is open for business is to repeal the individual and corporate tax increase. I would also supporting eliminating business start up fees for a duration up to 5 years and implementing additional worker's compensation and unemployment insurance law reforms. These steps will help make Illinois competitive again, bring jobs and families back to the district and increase our tax base.
It's unfortunate and short sighted for our leaders in Springfield to pursue a tax policy that results in big businesses lining up to request tax breaks. While big businesses can afford armies of lobbyists to argue on their behalf, our small businesses that employ a much larger percentage of Illinoisans are left in the cold. My goal is to create a uniform tax incentive policy that provides a level playing field for all employers to grow or start a business in Illinois.
Do you favor limiting how much money party leaders can give candidates during a general election? If elected, do you plan to vote for the current leader of your caucus' Why or why not?
The campaign finance reform legislation passed last year empowered the legislative leaders by allowing them to contribute unlimited amounts of money to their preferred candidates while, at the same time, restricting individuals and associations to $5,000 and $10,000, respectively.
Rather than return power to voters, the finance reform legislation further consolidated power among the legislative leaders. If contribution limits must exist, then I would favor uniform restrictions for individuals and legislative leaders.
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno is an outstanding individual and contentious legislator. While I am not inclined to vote against her, I must withhold pledging my vote until I can evaluate the merits of other candidates who step forward to lead. I am not aware of any other candidates at this time.
How, specifically, would you cut the budget? What does Illinois need to do to fix its status as a "deadbeat state?" How have you or will you vote on future gambling bills' What is your view of slots at racetracks' Casino expansion?
Illinois needs reduce spending by 6 to 7% over the next 5 years in order to avoid racing off the budget cliff. There are a number of credible proposals that will help us toward that end.
-- I support the Medicaid Recapture Audit, which has huge potential to save taxpayer dollars through identification of fraudulent or inappropriate Medicaid payments. Some estimates have suggested that as much as 10% of Medicaid payments contain fraud or are inappropriate.
-- I support moving eligibility levels in some Medicaid programs to the national average so that those truly in need have access to a solvent Medicaid program.
-- Despite our deficit and unpaid bills, new programs are still proposed and supported in Springfield. I support a moratorium on government expansion until our financial crisis is solved.
We cannot keep digging a bigger hole.
-- There is a bill in Springfield to combine the Treasurer and Comptroller's offices saving the taxpayers $12 million. This is an easy decision and one that I would support.
-- I would support an audit of programs and agency departments to root out services that are redundant with other agencies or are already provided by local government.
-- I support reducing the number of government appointments and commissions. We should reduce the salaries of State Board Commissions by 50%.
On the subject of gaming, I will oppose further expansion of gambling in Illinois.
While I recognize that gambling is here to stay, I do not believe it is the best way to fund our state budget.
To rely on income from gambling puts the state in the position of betting against its citizens.
What do you specifically support to deal with the state's pension gap? Would you vote for House Republican Leader Tom Cross's three-tier pension plan? Why or why not?
As I said above, I believe meaningful pension reforms are absolutely necessary in order to maintain a solvent pension fund and keep the promise made to thousands of state employees.
I recognize that the state has failed to live up to its obligation to make timely payments into the state's pension funds. Self-serving politicians used money intended for pension payments to expand government programs and services. This was wrong and Illinois must commit in the strictest sense to making its full pension payment.
I would vote for SB 512 (the three-tier pension plan proposed by Cross and others) because I believe it is the best solution currently on the table to meet our future pension obligations and ensure that retired workers are not left with a bankrupt pension system.
Should gay marriage be legalized? Should Illinois define life as beginning at conception as others have? How would you vote on a concealed carry firearm plan? Should the death penalty be reinstated?
Illinois recently enacted bi-partisan civil union legislation. I do not favor going beyond the law as it stands today to re-define marriage.
While I share the conviction that life begins at conception, I believe the energy and focus of legislative leaders must remain on solving our state's financial crisis.
Illinois is the only state in the nation that entirely prohibits concealed carry by law-abiding citizens. I would consider a change to this policy if the legislative proposal included the appropriate safeguards and satisfied the concerns of law enforcement officials.
I believe there are crimes so terrible that they warrant the death penalty. However, I would not vote to reinstate the death penalty until I was completely convinced that it would be administered without bias and only when the scientific evidence was overwhelmingly conclusive.
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