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: 24th District Senate
Family: Wife Faye, Son Connor (7), Daughters Olivia (4) and Allison (1)
Occupation: Employment attorney
Education: University of Chicago Law School, J.D. Dartmouth College (summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa) Fenwick High School Harry S. Truman Scholarship for Public Service
Civic involvement: Elmhurst Fire & Police Commission (2005-2007) DuPage County Zoning Board of Appeals (2003-2005) Ray Graham Association for People with Disabilities (Board Member) Immaculate Conception Parish (Capital Campaign Honorary Co-Chair) Knights of Columbus AYSO (Referee); Elmhurst Youth Baseball (Coach)
Elected offices held: State Representative, 41st District (2011-Present) Elmhurst Alderman (Vice Chair, Public Safety & Affairs, 2007-2010)
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
The lack of jobs is the most important problem facing Illinois families and businesses, including those in the 24th Senate District.
According to numerous studies, Illinois ranks nearly last among all states in job creation and retention over the last decade. Through its action and inaction, the General Assembly has created an environment hostile to business -- exorbitant taxes and fees, unstable and unpredictable state finances, too many rules and regulations for businesses to navigate, and crumbling infrastructure and transit systems.
Creating jobs and stemming the flow of jobs to other states must be our first priority. We must repeal the staggering number of fees on businesses imposed or increased since 2003, roll back new laws and regulations that make it more and more costly to do business here, increase access to capital, and give businesses greater incentive to keep and create jobs in this state.
Because of my commitment to job creation for Illinois, I focused my efforts on passing legislation that will assist us in creating and retaining quality employment.
One of the bills on which I spent a great deal of time as a new legislator -- and that now has become law -- was S.B. 107.
This new law will allow the State of Illinois to place a portion of its investment portfolio into venture capital funds that will boost start-up and growing technology companies, and it is a proven fact that most job growth comes from small -- not large -- companies.
These are the kinds of initiatives that our State needs to be pursuing.
Key Issue 2
Although I believe job creation is the number one priority, a close second is restoring our State's fiscal health.
These issues go hand-in-hand.
Our State's finances are currently a disaster.
Despite the constitutional requirement for a balanced budget, Springfield politicians for decades have spent billions more each year than revenue received and the state has accumulated long term debt up to $116 billion.
To hide the extent of their mismanagement, state leaders have engaged in excessive borrowing and unconscionable delays in paying service providers. And rather than addressing the underlying problems that put us in this situation, state leaders incessantly look to new taxes (such as the recent income tax increase), more irresponsible borrowing or extremely undesirable and unproductive options for new revenue, such as video poker and a massive expansion of gambling. Compounding the difficulty of understanding and repairing this mess is the lack of transparency in our state fiscal affairs. The budget process is opaque and confusing, and there is no state agency that provides regular, timely and comprehensive reviews and analysis of state fiscal issues.
Illinois needs to fundamentally change the way it manages its finances. We should create a strong, professionally-staffed, independent equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office, tasked with producing easily understood financial statements for the entire budget in a timely manner. We should then undergo a comprehensive review of all state spending to consolidate or eliminate duplicative, outdated, or ineffective state programs and remove ineffective or inefficient spending. And we need to curb all new state spending. New programs should only be adopted when existing programs can be eliminated to provide funding, and programs launched as part of stimulus funding must sunset when those funds are no longer available. Finally, we should make it harder for the politicians to tax their way out of their own problems by requiring a 3/5 supermajority vote on any legislation raising taxes or fees.
The one silver lining on this bleak outlook is that for the first time in over a decade, the General Assembly passed a balanced budget this year that actually spends less this fiscal year than last year.
It was the Illinois House -- not the Senate -- that took the lead in this effort, and I believe the impetus for this movement in large part came from the large class of new Representatives who were elected in 2010, including myself.
The new State Representatives understood that we can no longer tolerate 'business as usual' in Springfield, and they were quite willing to challenge the status quo, ask the hard questions, buck their leadership if necessary and make the tough decisions that need to be made.
We now need more of this in the Illinois Senate.
Key Issue 3
It is time for Illinois to impose reasonable term limits.
Serving in the General Assembly was never meant to be a 'lifetime career' but far too many of our legislators have made it exactly that.
Indeed, by the time a new four year term ends, my opponent in this race will have served a quarter century (nearly 25 years) in the State Senate should he win.
That is just wrong, and that is why the first bill I filed this year is to adopt meaningful, but reasonable term limits in Illinois -- 12 years (6 terms) for State Representatives, and 12 years (3 terms) for State Senators.
This is a sufficient amount of time for people to advocate for their districts before stepping aside and allowing for new energy, new ideas and new people to emerge.
As I go door-to-door throughout the district, this is the one issue for which folks have more frequently expressed their support.
We need to get this done, and get rid of "career politicians."
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?
The lack of jobs is the most important problem facing Illinois families and residents.
Although the 24th Senate District is home to some of our State's greatest businesses, Illinois' anti-business climate is exacerbating the high unemployment already caused by the poor economy.
There are three specific steps that Illinois lawmakers should take to enhance job creation, expand the economic base here and stem the flow of jobs to other states.
First, we must repeal the staggering number of new and increased fees on Illinois businesses imposed since 2003, such as the recent income tax increases.
Second, we must roll back new laws and regulations that make it more and more costly to do business here in Illinois.
For example, last year I co-sponsored the Illinois Enterprise Commission Act, which would require our State to review and repeal any fees, laws or regulations that were proven to have driven jobs away.
Finally, we need to continue workers' compensation reform that only began (not ended) with HB 1698.
Notwithstanding the criticism and pressure from those within my own caucus, I am proud to have been the only House Republican to support this measure that will help businesses save over $600 million on workers' compensation rates.
But we must continue the effort toward comprehensive reform, including establishing ?primary? cause as the standard for determining compensability, requiring objective findings of disability based on AMA guidelines, and more appropriately taking into account employee intoxication in awarding benefits.
Businesses in Illinois, like residents, need tax relief.
The best way to collect more tax revenue is to increase the amount of tax payers, not taxes.
Corporations and businesses need to see an economically stable environment with revenue neutral incentives that increase their desire to do business in Illinois.
But while I strongly support making (and keeping) Illinois a relatively low-tax state compared to our neighbors, the recent veto session focused on special tax breaks for Sears and CME revealed that there really is no such thing as 'business tax structure' in Illinois.
Instead of a coherent policy applicable to the entire business community, we have literally thousands of special exemptions, breaks, discounts, credits and the like for numerous businesses and industries that have accumulated over decades.
Our state desperately needs a more cogent, coherent and consistent policy in this area, and we should make it a priority to establish ourselves as an overall ?low tax? state for ALL businesses -- small and large.
That is the only way that we can achieve a regional advantage in business growth and job creation compared to our neighbors, who already seem to be far ahead of us in this effort.
As for the Sears plan, I abstained from voting because Sears is a client of the business that employs me.
Although Sears is not my client, and although it was not an actual conflict of interest as defined under law, I did not feel it was appropriate to vote on a matter that would have specifically benefitted a client of my employer.
Indeed, I think our entire State would be better served if legislators more frequently erred on the side of caution (as I did), rather than trying to 'split hairs' in situations like these.
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?
Campaign contribution limits are critically needed to clean up Illinois government, and the limits should apply to political parties and caucus leaders in general elections.
Moreover, I believe it is extremely important in today's political atmosphere to lead by example on this issue.
When I first ran for State Representative two years ago, I voluntarily agreed to abide by contribution limits before they became law.
In contrast, my opponent has been singled out as the legislator receiving the largest combined amount of donations from utility companies seeking passage of the ComEd bill.
He also took a quarter million dollars ($250,000) from teacher's unions in his race for Governor two years ago.
We need to end this kind of ?business as usual? in Springfield, where some legislators receive ridiculous amounts of campaign money from interest groups and are then asked to ?objectively? decide important issues like pension reform and utility regulation.
As for leaders in Springfield, I believe they wield too much power over policymaking and that we need more independence in Springfield.
I believe my record strongly reflects that I am willing to stand up for this belief.
On the final day of the Spring session I was the only House Republican to stand up to leadership and support last year's workers' compensation proposal saving businesses over $600 million on their rates.
Needless to say, it is extremely unusual for any legislator -- Republican or Democrat -- to stand up in such a manner, let alone a freshman.
But when it comes down to it, voters in the 41st District sent me to Springfield to help our State grow jobs and get our economy back on track.
This bill will improve our job climate, and my constituents overwhelmingly support it.
Quite frankly, Springfield needs more legislators who will not cower to leaders and lobbyists, and who will instead fight for what they believe in and be willing to take a tough stand if it is needed.
What's wrong with our state is that we have too many legislators who just want to ?go along to get along,? and we will not have more productive and principled policy in this State, until we have more productive and principled policymakers.
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?
The state can best reduce spending by focusing on three areas consuming large portions of the state budget.
The first spending cut should be in the area of pensions.
As currently structured, the pension system is unsustainable if left on its own, and the state's required pension contributions are becoming larger parts of our budget each of year.
Current employees must contribute more, and benefits need to be paid out at more reasonable levels.
Pension reform was one of the first bills I co-sponsored in the House (HB 149).
While these changes would not reduce costs immediately, they would save significant sums in the future.
The second spending cut should be moving Medicaid to a managed care program, rather than the current fee for service system, and reducing the salary eligibility from its current rate of 400% of poverty level to a more reasonable level.
The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago estimates that savings in the range of $2.6 billion could be achieved in these areas.
Another important area should be reining in the state's rapidly rising costs for employee pay. While focusing on this area is unlikely to be popular with public employee unions, no serious attempt to reign in Illinois's budget can ignore this issue. The state should undertake across-the-board pay and hiring freezes, including stopping any cost-of-living adjustments and renegotiating previously-approved union wage increases. Nearly $250 million could be saved through these measures.
One thing I would not consider as a solution to our budget problems is expanded gambling in our State.
Chicago-based or any other casinos will only displace the revenues of existing Illinois casinos, leading to a spiraling decline of all of them in a "race toward the bottom."
The only thing worse than having casinos in your state is having casinos becoming run-down.
The problem with the foolhardy plan of gambling expansion is that you're pegging new revenue expenditures to a declining revenue source of diminishing returns.
This has not worked anywhere in a sustainable way.
It's a band aid approach where a few people make a lot of money and society loses in more ways than just lost wagers.
More is not the answer.
Accordingly, I have always opposing gaming expansion, including voting against this year's "Casino Christmas Tree" bill and leading the effort to prohibit video poker in our community when I served on the Elmhurst City Council.
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?
The pension system in place for current employees is simply unsustainable.
It has resulted in over $80 billion in long-term debt for taxpayers, and -- left to its own -- would undoubtedly run out of money within a generation or two.
To ensure the solvency of the funds, protect the retirement of those whose livelihoods depend on it and protect taxpayers, we must restructure pension as follows: (1) current employees must contribute more, and (2) benefits need to be paid out at more reasonable levels.
A pension reform bill addressing this issue -- HB 149 -- was one of the first bills I co-sponsored as a new legislator, and I would support SB 512 even though I think the bill could be improved to better accomplish our priority objectives.
Not only do I support pension reform, one of the first actions I took as a new legislator was to create a Legislative Advisory Committee consisting of over 60 residents from my district, including a smaller group of current and retired teachers and other interested citizens to specifically look at the issue of pension reform.
As a result of our work together, I presented Speaker Madigan and Leader Cross with a set of reasonable suggestions for reforming our pension systems, including both increased contribution rates and reduced benefit levels.
In closing, the system as it currently trends is unsustainable and bound for inevitable insolvency if not addressed. Legislators have shirked their responsibility on this issue for far too long. This conversation should have occurred long before the dire situation we find ourselves in now. It's not a situation where 'something's got to give? It's a situation where ?everything and everyone is going to have to give? in order to restore viability and avoid chaos.
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?
I believe that marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman, and I do not support gay marriage.
As a lifelong Catholic and a father of three children, I am dedicated to instilling respect for the sanctity of human life. Protecting the unborn has always been a core belief for me. I am Pro Life with exceptions only for rape, incest and the life of the mother; I do not believe that Roe v. Wade was correctly decided; and I oppose all public abortion funding.
I support the Second Amendment, oppose unconstitutional attempts to infringe on the Amendment's protections, and voted to support concealed carry in Illinois (HB 148).
At a minimum, the death penalty should be reinstated for the ?worst of the worst? such as serial killers or those who murder children.