Illinois politicians might need to make budgetary decisions between "bad or worse, or worse and horrible" options, says Greg Brownfield, a Democratic candidate for the 23rd state Senate seat.
Brownfield and his two Democratic opponents in the March 20 primary all say they're prepared to make those decisions -- but in different ways.
Brownfield, a 51-year-old Bartlett attorney, said he would handle tough budget choices by giving constituents the facts and prioritizing spending according to need.
"You may be making a choice that's for the greater good, but that doesn't change the fact that's going to bring harm to certain people," Brownfield said.
He said he supports the work of Gov. Pat Quinn's Budgeting for Results Commission as it works to eliminate duplicate efforts, and he believes a tax overhaul including progressive income tax rates will be necessary to balance the state's budget in the future.
Brownfield is running against Addison marketing executive Kevin Allen and Villa Park Village President Tom Cullerton in the Democratic primary to represent the 23rd District, which includes parts of Bartlett, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Itasca and Villa Park.
Allen, 47, said he thinks politicians propose too many insignificant budget cuts that don't add up to the state's entire deficit. He says changes to the tax structure to bring more revenue will be necessary along with broad spending cuts.
"It comes from a combination of cuts and new revenues. You've got to have some kind of a balanced approach," Allen said.
Cullerton, 42, said he's more of a "nickel and dime guy as far as where we can save money." He said he favors making budget cuts by examining each department's spending and asking employees who do the day-to-day work for their money-saving ideas.
"If you start with a budgeting process where your bills are actually allocated for prior to any spending, you'll have to look at programs and realistic solutions as to what will need to be cut," he said.
As Brownfield, Allen and Cullerton compete for the Democratic nomination in the 23rd District, state Sen. Carole Pankau and state Rep. Randy Ramey are running in the Republican primary for the same district.
Pankau, 64, of Itasca, said she favors an approach called "zero-based budgeting," in which department heads have to start their funding requests at zero and justify every expense.
"You're starting to shrink the size and scope of state government but the work's getting done," Pankau said. "We have to basically have a performance audit of state government."
Ramey, 49, said a few reforms he is pushing could help the state budget by saving $5 billion. In a candidate questionnaire submitted to the Daily Herald, Ramey said he is working on Medicaid reform and he plans to introduce a bill this spring that would require proof of residency to receive benefits supported by taxpayers.
He also is one of several House sponsors of a bill to require photos on food stamp user identification cards and said he supports decreasing state spending to 2007 levels.
"These measures would more than make up the deficit gap we faced even prior to the tax increase," Ramey wrote in the questionnaire.
The winners of the Democratic and Republican primaries will square off in the Nov. 6 general election.