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
Family: Married to Andy Bush, One adult son Chris Willen
Occupation: Lake County Board Member, Lake County Forest Preserve Commissioner
Education: Candidate did not respond.
Civic involvement: Grayslake Historical Society, Grayslake Exchange Club
Elected offices held: Trustee, Village of Grayslake, 1990-1994 Member, Lake County Board, 2008 - present Commissioner, Lake County Forest Preserve, 2008 - present
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Creating Good-Paying Jobs in Illinois I come from a background of modest means, and at a young age learned the importance of having a good job with a competitive wage. As a small-business owner, I also learned the challenges of providing those jobs. With a proven record of bringing hundreds of jobs to Lake County, I will continue to fight to create jobs and elevate the quality of life for the residents of the 31st Senate District.
Key Issue 2
Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability As a member of the Lake County Board, I have experience balancing a government budget ? voting against budgets I felt could have been reduced further to respect these tough economic times and lower our residents? real estate tax burden. Each year since being elected in 2008, I have given back my raise. Springfield needs proven leaders we can trust to fund programs that help Lake County and cut programs that do not work. Leaders we can trust to pay our bills on time, and end the culture of procrastination we have created by borrowing money from the pension fund and spending it.
Key Issue 3
Fighting for Ethics Reform in Springfield Faced with cronyism and corruption at the Lake County and Forest Preserve Boards, I was the first commissioner to stand up and cry foul. I called for, and won, substantial ethics reform that resulted in real changes to County ethics ordinances. I will take that same sense of right and wrong with me to Springfield, where I will work to end pension double- and triple-dipping, pay-for-play politics and political cronyism.
How would you fix the state's pension gap? Should pension costs be shifted to suburban school districts? Why or why not? Should this issue be voted on in a lame-duck session? Why or why not? How can partisan gridlock be eased to solve the crisis?
It is incredibly important that legislators in Springfield reach real, sustainable pension reform this session ? before we risk a credit downgrade in the State of Illinois. The solutions are out there. It is time everyone comes to the table and negotiates fairly and in good faith, regardless of the date of the upcoming elections. Going forward, we have to be willing to look at capping Cost of Living Increases, re-visiting the amount that employees pay into their pensions, and ending the process of double- and triple-dipping. However, I do not support any un-negotiated changes in benefits to current retirees. These promises were made as part of good-faith negotiations, and for years people have paid their hard-earned money into these ?guaranteed? pension programs. This is deferred compensation and needs to be treated as such. Although I understand the logic of shifting costs locally, given the economic climate, I do not know how we can shift any more of the burden to already high real estate taxes. I talk with voters in the 31st District every day in situations where they may lose their homes due to their real estate tax bills. Families are hurting and we simply cannot burden them any further. The only way partisan gridlock can be solved is if a few courageous legislators stand up and lead by example. People who are serious about solving the problem on both sides of the aisle need to get together, form their own voting bloc on a particular issue, and put pressure on both caucuses to come to a solution.
How, specifically, would you cut the budget? What does Illinois need to do to fix its status as a "deadbeat state?" How will you vote on future gambling bills? What is your view of slots at racetracks? Casino expansion?
First of all, it is incredibly important that legislators in Springfield reach real, sustainable pension reform this session ? before we risk a credit downgrade in the State of Illinois. The first cuts I would look at are a reduction in wages, benefits and pensions for elected officials ? including leadership. I also believe we need to make serious cuts to redundant governments in the State of Illinois. Illinois has the largest number of governments in the United States, and there are benefits that can be gained by economies of scale. Many of these antiquated governments can be consolidated. If we want to have a serious conversation about cutting spending, we need to look at each program and agency, its relevancy, effectiveness and budget. I believe the most effective way to evaluate these programs is by phasing in what is referred to as ?zero-based budgeting.? This allows us to scrutinize and re-build a program?s budget, starting at zero and justifying its existence and spending at regular intervals. We also could dramatically reduce spending by developing a practical, performance-based evaluation process for state programs that will allow us to better target where to eliminate waste. Regarding gambling, I do not believe expanding casinos is the best way to address our revenue problem. Casinos have historically been built in lower socio-economic areas, and they have not been shown to benefit these areas socially or economically ? in fact, the cost created by them far exceeds the tax benefits.
What can you do specifically to help the economy in your district? How can you help create jobs in your district and statewide? What is your view of the tax breaks granted to companies like Motorola Mobility, Navistar and Sears?
I have practical experience creating jobs in my District, and I can tell you with certainty that there is no silver bullet to attracting and retaining business in Lake County. It comes down to private and public entities working together, and putting their own personal interests aside to do what is best for the region. A prime example of the right way to create and retain jobs is the way we on the Lake County Board utilized incentives to bring the North Chicago Fed-Ex Distribution Center to Grayslake. Everyone had a seat at the table to help create these jobs. The state, the county, the municipality, and the private sector (Lake County Partners and the local business community) all worked together to produce positive job growth without negative impact on local taxing districts. I have spoken to several job creators in the area who have intimated that what one of the most unattractive parts of Lake County to business is our poor infrastructure and traffic gridlock. If we are to retain and attract business, we must position ourselves for the future by making it cost-effective for businesses to transport their employees, raw materials and product throughout the County. This involves expanding roads like Route 53, Route 83 and Route 120. Another major issue, according to these job creators, is the high cost of energy ? electricity in particular ? in Lake County. Aggregation has occurred in many areas of the State of Illinois, allowing villages to opt their residents in to a competitive electricity supply plan. We need to encourage aggregation for all small and large businesses. In addition to infrastructure improvements, I believe we should consider expanding the program through the Illinois Tollway System that gives bid credits to companies that hire the underemployed and minorities ? those that are most devastated by a poor economy. In addition to bringing relief to the most vulnerable people on our unemployment rolls, this program also encourages businesses to keep their efforts within the state thanks to the bid credits. While I would support certain kinds of tax relief for businesses, many of our largest businesses do not pay Illinois? Corporate Income Taxes via breaks they have already received, and it has not stopped them from picking up and moving. I would support other incentives that make it more cost-effective for businesses to hire and manufacture in our state. It is important that access to these incentives be performance-based ? things like demonstrated job growth, disclosed business plans, etc. In addition, a condition of these incentives must be that companies commit to staying in our state, with the possibility of incurring penalties if they do not meet their obligations. Revenue streams for high-priority spending, like that which involves job creation, must be generated to offset the budget increase. But in many cases, too much consideration is given to increasing taxes. For example, revenue could be generated by serious pension reform ? i.e. ending double- and triple-dipping and pension abuse.
Do you favor limiting how much money party leaders can give candidates during an election? If elected, do you plan to vote for the current leader of your caucus? Why or why not? Do you support or oppose campaign contribution limits? Please explain.
I am very supportive of limiting the amount of money all political actors can give to a campaign or candidate in an election cycle. In fact, I would be very supportive of public financing of campaigns. Another issue that desperately needs addressing is that of term limits for leadership positions. Regardless of party, I believe we should limit the number of years a member of our State Legislature can hold a key leadership position. That being said, I do plan on voting to re-elect Senator John Cullerton as President of the Senate Democratic Caucus. In his three years as leader of the Senate, I believe Cullerton has demonstrated a level of respect for individual Senators? opinions. He appears to hold a regard for autonomy and the area an individual Senator represents. For these reasons, I feel confident I will best represent the 31st Senate District under his leadership.
Should gay marriage be legalized in Illinois? Should it be voted on in a lame-duck session as civil unions were? Should Illinois define life as beginning at conception? How would you vote on a concealed carry plan? Should the death penalty return?
I will support the Marriage Equality Act. It is a civil rights Issue, and equal rights are afforded to all citizens via the Constitution of the United States of America. As this is a civil rights issue, and not a political issue, the vote should not need to be take place in a lame duck session under political cover. I do not believe Illinois should define life as beginning at conception. Regarding concealed carry, I would need to see a detailed plan that includes required training, licensing, and limitations on where those guns can be carried (i.e. not in bars, schools and churches) and provisions for recertification. As we require people to have a license and training to drive a car, at MINIMUM those requirements should be applied to carrying a firearm. I do not support the death penalty.