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updated: 9/13/2012 11:57 PM

Candidates in four state races square off

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From throwing out all incumbents to stronger commitment to bipartisan cooperation, a variety of approaches was suggested to improving the state of the state at a candidates forum Thursday night.

The event at Schaumburg's Prairie Center for the Arts featured the Republican and Democratic candidates in the 44th and 56th District state House and 22nd and 28th District state Senate races. It was hosted by the Schaumburg Business Association,

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Democratic state Rep. Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates touted pension reform no later than January and a state House willing to work together to make it happen as necessary ingredients for Illinois to have a future worth planning for.

His Republican rival in the 44th District, Ramiro Juarez of Streamwood, said the state simply needs the discipline to get back to basics and spend only money it has without further borrowing.

Democratic state Rep. Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg agreed that Illinois has to begin methodically paying down its debts and eliminate the unnecessary addition of interest to the costs it's already incurred.

Schaumburg Township Assessor John Lawson of Schaumburg, the Republican candidate challenging Mussman in the 56th District, said the state needs to follow the example of Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle in demanding a budget reduction from every one of its departments. A Roselle police officer, Lawson said he would lead by example by refusing a legislative pension.

Democratic state Sen. Michael Noland of Elgin said he's consistently voted against borrowing and favors a graduated income tax to significantly build up revenues for the state without strongly affecting most people.

Former Hoffman Estates trustee Cary Collins, who's running against Noland in the 22nd District, said Democrats have always favored raising taxes as the solution to every problem, but one he finds regressive. Collins argued that no self-stated achievement by any incumbent can justify their re-election with the state's finances in their current condition.

Democratic state Sen. Dan Kotowski of Park Ridge said there's a difference between making statements and getting things done. He said his own bipartisan cooperation in stamping out waste, mismanagement and corruption has made a positive difference, though he too supports the movement for term limits.

Kotowski's Republican challenger in the 28th District, Jim O'Donnell of Park Ridge, is the chief financial officer of a small company that made it through survival mode in the 2008 economic downturn and is thriving today by cutting back on its expenses. However, he believes the state can't just cut its way back to prosperity, but must make itself attractive to businesses by offering a level playing field -- not financial incentives.

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