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: Park Ridge
Office sought: 28th District Senate
Family: Wife-Anne Dempsey Son-Nate Son-Cooper
Occupation: State Senator Business Development, Waterville Advisors
Education: Bachelors of Arts, University of Illinois, Urbana, English/Communication Masters Degree, Professional Writing, DePaul
Civic involvement: Member, Chambers of Commerce, Youth Basketball and Little League Baseball Coach
Elected offices held: State Senator
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Ending business as usual in Springfield
Key Issue 2
Punishing political corruption
Key Issue 3
Realization of my spending reform law so we can fix our state and invest in programs that jump-start the economy
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?
The first thing we have to remember is that the quickest way out of a hole is to stop digging. Our pension obligations are a fixed-cost that need to be met. For decades in our state, politicians from both political parties failed to recognize that fact and that led to the financial crisis we now face in our state. I sponsored the spending reform law to end this reckless practice. I realize, however, the need to eliminate abuses in the system and the importance of meaningful, pension reform. That is why I led the charge in passing legislation to confiscate the campaign funds and pensions of politicians who are convicted of fraud or corruption, and fought to close loopholes exploited and abused by union officials. I also sponsored the recent law to eliminate the free healthcare for life benefit for retired politicians and state employees. In addition, I supported the law banning inappropriate gifts to pension board members and strengthening protections against their potential conflicts of interests. I have supported additional reforms to confront the state?s financial crisis and lessen the burden on Illinois taxpayers. In 2010, I supported the creation of a two-tier pension system for new public employees in our state. This law and its reforms are projected to save taxpayers billions. More recently, I publicly urged Speaker Madigan to call HB 1447 for a vote so we can move forward in finalizing critical reforms to the system. This bill, which passed the Senate, reduces benefits of politicians, prevents future pension abuse and protects the retirement of state employees. It establishes a fair and reasonable framework that will satisfy constitutional questions, and is estimated to save taxpayers $31 billion over the coming decades. I will continue to support meaningful and fair pension reform while fighting to stop pension abuse and prevent pension double-dipping by politicians. I will also push to stop people from receiving a public pension from a previous job when they are working at another full-time tax payer funded job.
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?
Middle Class families throughout Illinois make tough decisions every day about what they need to spend money on and what they can do without. State government should do the same. That is why I sponsored and passed spending reform legislation that fundamentally changes the way Springfield budgets and spends taxpayer dollars. My law has the goal of ending the practice of automatic funding of state programs. From now on, if a program works and provides real value and results, it will be kept. If it does not, it will be cut or eliminated. The wasteful spending and business as usual practiced by both political parties for decades are at the core of our fiscal woes. That is what brought this state to its knees financially. We have to change 'business as usual' in Springfield. The critical first step to getting Illinois back on track financially is changing business as usual and my law does just that. I have passed into law several spending reform measures that have led and will lead to cuts in state spending. One law that opens up state contracts over $250 thousand to competitive bidding. This targets an estimated $8 billion in state businesses and should go a long way toward weeding out the wasteful, corrupted political deals of the past. In addition, I passed a law that terminated billions in grants issued by the state at the end of the budget year. This law stopped the automatic renewal of these grants and compelled grant distributors and recipients to make their case for future funding based on the impact of these grants on the people and organizations they were serving. As a vice-chair and chair of both of the Senate budget committees, I have voted for spending reductions in several areas of the budget. I passed a bill into law that cuts the budget of the general assembly. I also was the chief sponsor of the pay cuts for legislators and the elimination of the free healthcare perk for politicians. I also helped lead the effort in getting rid of the corrupted legislative scholarship program. In the coming year, I will move to eliminate all automatic spending in the state budget. The state still spends over $1 billion a year on various legislator-sponsored programs without these costs being reviewed and evaluated in the budget committee process. I have introduced bill, SB 351, to stop this unregulated and wasteful practice immediately, and save taxpayers hundreds of millions in unnecessary expenditures. I will also break with my party and vote ?no?, as I did this past year, on the approval of paid, part-time appointments made by the Governor. At a time of such financial difficulty, the state cannot afford spending tax dollars on part-time appointments that, with the right amount of outreach, we could get volunteers to do the same job. I will continue to do whatever is necessary to change business as usual and restore fiscal health to Illinois. This means that I will continue to support meaningful reforms that truly stabilize our state?s financial situation, like Medicaid and Pension Reform. These measures and those mentioned above will get us on the road to fixing what has been broken in our state for too long. Illinois needs to set aside dollars in each budget year to pay off old bills, as it did this year. To that end, I voted on a bill which became law to ensure that the state does not carry over Medicaid bills. This action will go a long way toward forcing the state to meet its obligations and pay its vendors. Regarding gambling, I would need to review the legislation. I voted against the last gaming bill because its size and scope were too much, and the bill did not guard enough against future abuse and corruption. I would be open to slots at the tracks as long as the bill did not include a massive and unmanageable expansion of gambling throughout our state with several new casinos.
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?
We need to do whatever we can to create jobs and jump-start the economy. This requires constant review of incentive programs to keep what works and get rid of what doesn't. Responsible tax incentive programs help our state to compete and attract new businesses. We must ensure, however, that corporations are held accountable for the promises they make and the tax dollars they receive to create new jobs. I have worked with legislators from both sides of the aisle to sponsor and pass several corporate accountability measures and laws: *SB 375: Opens up state contracts to competitive bidding to eliminate the corrupt, political deals of the past and give small businesses the chance to secure work. *HB 3934: Ensures greater transparency by requiring that the state posts the terms and details of tax credit agreements with corporations. *SB 3711: Guarantees that the public know the names of corporations and the money they had to pay back to the state due to their failure to meet the terms of their incentive agreement. I have also partnered with a bi-partisan group of lawmakers and leaders to sponsor and pass legislation that creates jobs. I was the chief sponsor of legislation that expanded the Illinois Technology Development Account (TDA), which has turned $44 million in state funds into over $787 million in outside, private sector investments -- helping business growth and providing 'start-up' capital for new Illinois companies. This action has already created over 3,500 jobs in our state. In addition, I supported the following laws to foster a better business climate and ensure more job opportunities. *Small Business Job Creation Tax Credit: Provides a $2,500 tax credit to small businesses that hire new employees. * Research and Development Tax Credit: Offers Illinois companies with an incentive to increase their research and innovation. *Enterprise Zone Extension and Reform: Provides stable, predictable and long-term job creation and retention incentives for business and manufacturing; increases transparency, performance reporting and revised qualification criteria. I have done my best in my position to combat unemployment by passing job creating policy and by connecting people looking for work with companies looking to hire. I have partnered with local businesses, universities and the Illinois Department of Employment Security to host several job fairs. One local job fair in Elk Grove helped 31 people get new jobs. I also was the catalyst behind a partnership that developed between Harper College and local businesses to help fill the 80,000 available manufacturing jobs in our state. This partnership led to the creation of a certificate program for manufacturing at the college and to the opportunity for students to receive on-the-job training through internships at local manufacturers.
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.
The solution to break the stranglehold of special interests on elections is to cap spending on political campaigns. This cap would level the playing field and minimize the influence that excessive contributions can have on candidates and elected officials. Yes, the Senate President has supported every measure that I have fought for to stop business as usual, punish corruption and reform spending in our state. On this same topic, however, I think it is very important that we pass a law creating term limits for legislative leaders. I support this legislation because our state and its taxpayers will benefit from the infusion of new legislative leadership on both sides of the political aisle.
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?
Yes. I don't think the government should tell people who they can or cannot marry. No. I am against allowing people to carry loaded, concealable handguns in public places like little league baseball and soccer games. No.