Kent Gaffney: Candidate Profile
52nd District Representative
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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.
City: Lake Barrington
Office sought: 52nd District Representative
Family: Married to Elizabeth, two sons
Occupation: State Representative
Education: Graduate of Purdue University, Political Science
Civic involvement: Local Chamber of Commerce
Elected offices held: State Representative - 52nd District (2011-present)
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Job Creation and Retention.
Key Issue 2
Tax relief for working families.
Key Issue 3
Cutting wasteful government spending and reforming Illinois' budget process.
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?
In order to attract businesses and create private sector jobs, Illinois must first get its fiscal house in order. The State cannot continue to over-tax, over-borrow and over-spend. More than anything, businesses want stability from state government. Illinois needs to truly balance its budget, pass pension reform, and reduce its long-term debt. A balanced budget will provide economic stability and encourage businesses that were once skeptical to reconsider Illinois as a good place to do business.
Illinois has a wealth of resources that can be put to use to create jobs and improve our economy. The way to increase revenues in Illinois is to make our economy more competitive with neighboring states as well as with foreign countries.
Unfortunately, there are some serious obstacles that stand in the way of progress in creating jobs for Illinoisans. Our tort liability laws are anti-business and anti-growth. Workers' compensation insurance costs cause many businesses to look to neighboring states for friendlier business climates. And our regulatory agencies are slow to respond to businesses' needs.
As State Representative, I will work tirelessly to improve our business climate to attract employers and good-paying jobs to Illinois. I support passage of real workers' compensation reform that includes a causation (primary cause) requirement. I support economic incentives for job creation and retention, such as those tax incentives passed in SB 397. And I want to put an end to the over-taxing and over-regulating of our small businesses.
As the Budget Director for the House Republican Caucus, I strongly opposed the Democrats' $7 billion income tax increase. I worked to unite Republican legislators against the 67% tax increase that is crippling our economy and hurting our working families.
I am a co-sponsor of House Bill 175, which would repeal the income tax increase. I also support the repeal/rollback of the corporate income tax increase passed last year. I would vote for House Bill 3917 and/or House Bill 3918 to accomplish this goal.
For too many years businesses have been the target for increasing state revenues. Even prior to the tax increase last January, businesses were relocating out of Illinois and choosing other states for expansions. After the tax increase, unemployment in Illinois went up, not down. We need to be a pro-business state in order to keep businesses here and lure businesses from elsewhere. Private sector growth equates to lower unemployment, which leads to increases in personal income and sales tax revenue without rate increases.
In an effort to protect Illinois jobs and provide tax relief to our businesses and working families, I voted to pass a jobs/tax relief package during the fall Veto Session.
As a member of the House Revenue and Finance Committee, I helped negotiate an agreement between Sears and Community Unit School District 300 that will keep Sears' headquarters in Hoffman Estates while increasing local tax dollar support for D300.
We all wanted Sears to stay in Illinois and we also wanted more funding for our local schools. We could not afford to lose the more than 6,000 local jobs that Sears provides. I worked to ensure that District 300's concerns were addressed in the final package approved by the General Assembly.
The package agreed to by District 300, Sears and Hoffman Estates will provide D300 and other local governments double the amount of property tax revenue they get from the current Sears Economic Development Area (EDA), while extending the EDA for up to 15 years. D300 also received a guarantee that Hoffman Estates would not use money from the EDA to pay for the operation or bonds for the Sears Centre Arena.
Senate Bill 397 (P.A. 97-636), the omnibus jobs/tax relief package, passed the House on a vote of 81-28-7. It included the following provisions: -- Extends the Sears EDA and provides Sears with EDGE tax credits -- Alters the way the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and other exchanges can source their revenue in Illinois -- Extends the Research and Development tax credit for five years, with an additional five year carry forward; the R & D tax credit is a critical component for Illinois manufacturers -- Reinstates the Net Operating Loss Deduction, which allows businesses the ability to carry their losses forward in a tough economy; this provision will help an estimated 36,000 small businesses -- Increases the estate tax exemption from $2 million to $4 million over a two-year period, lessening the tax burden on family farmers and small business owners -- Extends for five years the sales tax exemptions, credits, and deductions granted to agri-fuels -- Extends numerous jobs tax credits, including the Veterans Jobs Credit.
Senate Bill 397 was a broad-based approach designed to help Illinois compete in the national and global marketplaces. The legislation was supported by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Illinois Farm Bureau, the Taxpayers' Federation of Illinois and many other groups.
I also voted to provide working families with tax relief. Senate Bill 400 contains language that will increase Illinois' Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from the current 5% to 7.5% in 2012 and 10% in 2013. It also increases the state's personal income tax exemption from $2,000 to $2,050 and provides an annual cost-of-living adjustment. These provisions will eventually provide more than $150 million in annual tax savings to Illinois working families.
Last year, Illinois Democrats hit our working families and small businesses with a 67% income tax increase. I strongly support repealing the Democrats' tax hike, but unfortunately, that was not an option presented to the House. Therefore, I voted to provide our working families and businesses with meaningful tax relief. The bottom line is simple -- either you are for tax relief or you are against it. I chose to put more money in the hands of hard-working taxpayers, rather than giving it to an over-taxing and over-spending state government.
In response to rising property tax bills in the collar counties, I co-sponsored and voted for House Bill 3793, legislation that would offer relief to hard-pressed homeowners who are facing declining home values.
Since taking office, I have received many phone calls from homeowners upset that their property tax bills increased despite the fact that their home values decreased. Some of my constituents had their property tax bills go up as much as 15 or 20%. To me, it is completely unfair for people to be paying higher property taxes when their property values are declining.
The Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) limits local taxing bodies' property tax extensions to the lesser of 5% or the rate of inflation.
However, in 2008 when the housing market crashed and assessments went down, taxing bodies began increasing their levies at the rate of inflation, increasing most homeowners' overall tax bill. House Bill 3793 would prohibit taxing bodies from increasing their levies in years that property assessments decrease.
House Bill 3793 failed in the Illinois House on a vote of 34-73-5. I was very disappointed in the bill's failure. This was a common-sense measure to provide real property tax relief to Illinois homeowners. With the housing market struggling and many homeowners seeing their largest asset decline in value, we need to update Illinois' tax code to reflect economic reality. I will continue to push for property tax relief for our homeowners.
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?
Yes. To reduce the influence of money in politics, I believe campaign contribution limits should be imposed on political parties and funds controlled by House and Senate leadership.
These regulations should apply in both the Primary and General Election so that the playing field is level for all candidates.
SB 1466 (P.A. 96-832) regulates the influence of all parties interested in campaign finance except for legislative leaders and political parties. The legislation was sold as a ?campaign finance reform? bill, but the truth is the legislation was more of an incumbent protection tool for Speaker Madigan, who serves both as the leader of the House Democratic Caucus and as the Chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois.
If elected, I will vote for Tom Cross to remain as the Leader of the House Republican Caucus. I served eight years as the Director of Appropriations for Leader Cross and our caucus. I worked closely with Leader Cross as we fought for fiscal responsibility in Springfield. Tom Cross and I opposed the over-taxing, over-borrowing, and over-spending of the Blagojevich/Quinn Administrations. As State Representative, I will continue to work with Leader Cross to reform our broken pension system and implement further reforms of Medicaid and other budgetary pressures.
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?
One of my top priorities as State Representative is to reform our budget process and put a stop to the over-taxing and over-spending in Springfield. Illinois is facing serious fiscal challenges and we cannot continue to borrow and spend our way into virtual bankruptcy.
I have the experience and dedication needed to get Illinois back on track. Prior to my appointment as State Representative, I served as the Director of Appropriations for the Illinois House Republican Caucus. I led the fight for fiscal responsibility in Springfield. I opposed the Blagojevich/Quinn borrowing, the pension raids, the state fund raids (like the Road Fund), and the constant use of one-time gimmicks that that led to Illinois' massive debt crisis. And I worked to unite Republican legislators against the Democrats' 67% income tax increase that is crippling our economy and hurting our working families.
I am running for State Representative to bring accountability back to Illinois. I am a fiscal conservative who will work to make state government efficient and accountable to the taxpayers. As a member of the Budgeting for Results Commission (the only Republican House member), I am working with private and public sector leaders to reform Illinois' budget process. Politics needs to be taken out of the budget process and instead be transformed into a process that is based upon real goals and how to get the biggest return for each taxpayer dollar.
Medicaid is one of the fastest-growing segments of the State budget. Both Medicaid enrollments and spending have more than doubled over the last decade and Medicaid now takes up one-third of the State's general funds budget.
It is imperative that Illinois slows the growth in Medicaid. Last year, House Republicans advanced a Medicaid reform package that would save Illinois taxpayers $800 million. We then formed a Medicaid working group that went through the Human Services budget line by line and advanced a plan that will save taxpayers an additional $215 million through reform measures such as: -- Capping eligibility for Family Care, -- Authorizing a small co-payment for Medicaid clients using emergency rooms for non-emergency purposes, and -- Adjusting payment rates for hospitals that re-admit patients an excessive number of times for preventable causes.
Unfortunately, some of the key Medicaid reforms passed last year were rejected by the Obama Administration. These reforms include verifying the income eligibility and residency of Medicaid recipients. Illinois must be allowed to implement these reforms. We must focus on reducing the fraud in the Medicaid system. Altogether, these Medicaid reforms would save taxpayers over $1 billion.
The General Assembly needs to pass real welfare reform, such as requiring photo IDs on LINK cards (food stamps).
By eliminating the fraud in our welfare system, Illinois could potentially save several hundred million dollars.
I support pension reform such as Senate Bill 512, which would reduce pension benefits not yet earned and offer state workers three options for earning future pension benefits. This legislation continues to be negotiated by legislative leaders. Illinois has the worst funded pension system in the nation with an unfunded liability of $83 billion. For two of the last three years, the State has borrowed funds in order to make the pension payment. The cost is simply not sustainable. We must continue to work to reduce the pension liability and shore up the system. This is an issue that is not going away. Without changes to the current system, there will need to be deep spending cuts to education and human services in order to make the annual payments. If SB 512 were to become law, the $83 billion liability will be reduced by billions due to higher employee contributions and by changes to the benefit structure
Another area that should be prioritized for savings is the State's collective bargaining agreement with state employees. Later this year, the Quinn Administration and the state employees' unions will be negotiating new collective bargaining agreements. The General Assembly should insist that Governor Quinn not make any more politically-motivated promises to the unions, such as promises to maintain headcount and not close aging and/or outdated state facilities. We must keep every option open that will save taxpayer dollars.
For FY12, the union pay increase totaled nearly $100 million.
This funding was not included in the budget.
For FY11, union salary increases cost over $330 million to annualize FY10 increases and to pay for FY11 increases.
At a time when we have the worst funded pension system and the worst bond rating in the country, we have to freeze state employees' wages.
During the 2010 campaign, when Governor Quinn gave a sweetheart deal to AFSCME to not downsize state employee positions for two years, it became clear that more safeguards were needed. Contracts should not be the purview of only the Governor's Office, especially when the general perception is that some of these decisions are made for political gain, rather than in the taxpayers' interest. Furthermore, as the General Assembly must approve appropriations to pay for these contracts, we have a responsibility to ensure that state labor contracts do not put a huge hole in the budget.
Illinois should also continue to explore the possibility of asking retired state workers to pay more for their health insurance coverage. Many retired state employees pay no premium, as workers who retire with 20 years or more in the system receive free health insurance. According to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, only 6,900 of the 84,000 retirees in the system pay a premium. Contributions from those retirees brought in $11.9 million for Fiscal Year 2010 - well short of the $473 million in costs the State paid that year.
Let me add that I am opposed to more state borrowing to pay for an over-taxing and over-spending state government. Last January, the House rejected Governor Quinn's borrowing plan by voting it down twice. My concern is that if some level of borrowing were to occur, spending would simply continue to go up. For example, after the largest tax increase in Illinois' history was passed, the Governor introduced a new budget that included nearly $9 billion in borrowing and $1.5 billion of it was to pay for increased spending. A massive tax increase followed by more massive borrowing and increased spending? This is the mindset that makes it difficult to support any level of borrowing.
As mentioned, the House rejected the Governor's plan last session and instead passed a budget that reduced spending from the prior year and is estimated to spend $1 billion less than the State will take in. The additional billion dollars will go to pay down bills. We must continue to work to reduce spending, and as revenues increase we can apply those revenues to reduce the unpaid bills.
In summary, I believe it is important to focus on how programs are being implemented.
For two years House Republicans pushed for reforms before tax increases.
Eventually, the tax increase was passed along party lines without changing the way Illinois does business.
We need to make sure that programs are run as efficiently and fraud free as possible before we cut services.
The problem with the current gaming package is that it's too big, and that is why I voted against it. At some point there is saturation and revenues will not increase but simply be distributed differently. I don't believe gaming is the answer to the current budget problems. As we have seen in recent years with the downturn of the economy, the revenue generated is not consistent.
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?
Yes. As previously stated, I support pension reform such as Senate Bill 512 (Leader Cross's three-tier pension plan), which would reduce pension benefits not yet earned and offer state workers three options for earning future pension benefits. This legislation continues to be negotiated by legislative leaders. Illinois has the worst funded pension system in the nation with an unfunded liability of $83 billion. For two of the last three years, the State has borrowed funds in order to make the pension payment. The cost is simply not sustainable. We must continue to work to reduce the pension liability and shore up the system. This is an issue that is not going away. Without changes to the current system, there will need to be deep spending cuts to education and human services in order to make the annual payments. If SB 512 were to become law, the $83 billion liability will be reduced by billions of dollars due to higher employee contributions and by changes to the benefit structure.
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 should be between one man and one woman.
Regarding the definition of life, these discussions should be had in our homes, communities and churches and not by politicians in Springfield. This issue divides political parties and even households.
In this time of financial hardship and partisan bickering I will be focused on bringing people together to find solutions to our State's many challenges.
As a co-sponsor of House Bill 148 (concealed carry), yes, I would vote for it. For the first time in more than a decade, the Illinois House of Representatives voted on concealed carry legislation last year. HB 148 would create the Family and Personal Protection Act and establish statewide standards for the issuance of licenses to carry concealed firearms in Illinois. Unfortunately, HB 148 failed on a vote of 65-52-1, due to the ruling by Speaker Madigan's parliamentarian that the bill needed a three-fifths majority (71 votes) to pass.
With Wisconsin's passage of concealed carry, Illinois is now the only state in the nation that has no procedures in place for law-abiding citizens to apply for concealed carry permits. Illinois citizens should have the right to defend their families and property from violent criminals. As a proud member of the National Rifle Association, I will always support the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.
I support reinstatement of the death penalty as punishment for the most heinous crimes.
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