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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.
Office sought: 27th Distrct Senate
Family: Married, wife Julie, four children
Occupation: Attorney, Senator
Education: Juris Docotor
Civic involvement: Co-chair Northwest Suburban Alliance on Domestic Violence, Palatine Park District Foundation, Women In Need Growing Stronger Advisory Board,
Elected offices held: Harper College Trustee, Senator 27th District
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Key Issue 2
Getting spending and state debt under control
Key Issue 3
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?
I have never voted for a budget that underfunded the pension systems or for a borrowing scheme that hurt their solvency. Last year I voted to make the full payment in cash. Unfortunately, the undeniable fact is that Illinois has the worst funded pension system in the country and changes must be made, for the benefit of both taxpayers and employees living with uncertainty. We also need to consider the fact that this issue casts a pall on job growth in Illinois as business decision makers ponder what percentage of the at least $83 billion tab will fall to them to pay. So, how do we fix the gap? Our jobs climate and those struggling to find work cannot afford another tax increase. Illinois suffered the largest spike in unemployment in the country after the majority passed the 67% income tax increase in 2011. Thus, tax increases are not a viable solution to this problem. We need to work with all stakeholders to come up with a bill that solves the problem while preserving as much of the promise to employees as possible. It would be preferable to impact older workers, who have a shorter worklife to adapt, less than younger workers, who will have more time to adjust to the changes. I would change the rules for retirees only as a last resort. Some options to address this problem include: making employees wait longer, to at least 62, before receiving retirement benefits; requiring employees to pay a larger percentage of their salary into the pension system; and replacing the extremely expensive 3% compounded cost-of-living-adjustment with a simple interest increase pegged to the CPI or 3%, whichever is less. I am open to other suggestions that will actually solve this problem and eliminate the pension gap. Pension costs should not be shifted to suburban districts. The state's pension payment was precisely the type of state obligation the majority told us they needed the income tax increase to pay. Now, a year later,they do not want to pay that bill with that tax increase. Instead, the majority's plan is to push the obligation off onto suburban and downstate property tax bills. Given the education funding disparities that skew heavily toward Chicago, this is simply wrong. However, the notion that suburban and downstate school boards need more of an incentive to limit future pension liabilities is a reasonable one. There is a better way to achieve this goal than increasing suburban property taxpayers' already high burden. In 2006, the legislature passed a bill to limit to 6% per year the amount of a raise that school boards could give to school personnel. Any raise above that amount would result in the school board (i.e. local taxpayers)paying for the increase in pension costs. To better control future pension costs, perhaps that 6% per year figure should be reduced to the CPI or 3%, whichever is less. Neither this nor any other major issue should be voted on during a lame-duck session. After the January 2011 lame-duck session produced more high-profile, substantive legislation than the entire two years before it combined, I filed legislation to curtail this abuse. It remains my sincere hope that both parties can come together to get this pension solution done. Again, I am, and have been, flexible on how to solve this problem.
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?
Illinois needs to take advantage of the latitude provided in the recent US Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act and further reform our Medicaid system. We need to look for efficiencies in our education systems, both k-12 and higher education. We need to reform pensions to provide taxpayers budget relief. We need to eliminate programs like Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, wherein millions was poured into neighborhoods primarily in Chicago in the months before the last election, ostensibly for crime prevention. However, the money has not been clearly accounted for and was not even spent in the neighborhoods the Chicago Police identify as the most dangerous. Another program to cut is Grow Your Own Teachers. As is often the case, it sounds nice, but in fact state taxpayers have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars per teacher produced. At a time when the teaching job market is already tight, taxpayers should not have to spend this kind of money to fill jobs that there are already many applicants seeking. I have voted for gambling bills in the past. I support slots at Arlington and have voted for these bills because it was the only way to get this benefit for this major business in my district.
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?
Despite its many unmatched inherent assets, Illinois lacks economically for a few very specific reasons. First our cost of doing business is too high. Part of this problem is due to high taxes. However, regulations, litigation and health costs also contribute. We need to cut taxes fairly and across the board, further reform Medicaid, and repeal costly health insurance mandates. Second, State spending continues to rise after the majority promised it would go down in conjunction with their tax increase. This continued increased spending results in a stubborn deficit of approximately $8 billion and a perception among job creators that Illinois government's appetite for spending is literally insatiable. This undoubtedly leads them to wonder just how high their taxes might go if they move to, expand in, or merely stay in Illinois. State spending needs to be cut to a level where the income tax increase can go away as promised,if not sooner. Once we successfully tackle these difficult issues, Illinois will be in a position to dominate the region economically. We are a centrally located transportation hub that is home to the major metropolitan area of the Midwest, a diverse economy, from the financial markets of Chicago to the agriculture belts of central Illinois to southern Illinois' promising energy resources. Illinois has a workforce the U.S. Chamber says employers want to hire. Simply put we have more to offer than any state in the region. Once Springfield does the hard but necessary work referenced above, the people of the State will see a return to prosperity and a real opportunity to do better. As to the tax breaks granted to companies like Motorola, Navistar and Sears, I have supported those incentives as a form of jobs triage, especially in light of the large number of Motorola and Sears employees in my district. However, I much prefer an across the board tax policy that treats similarly situated individuals and businesses the same. Gimmicks like these should not be necessary once we undertake the major reforms referenced above.
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.
If the state is going to have campaign contribution limits, those rules should not treat legislative leaders differently. I opposed the legislation that carved out legislative leaders and treated them specially because it further enhanced their power over Illinois government. If elected, I intend to support Christine Radogno for caucus leader. She is principled, thoughtful, and interested in solving problems. I oppose campaign contribution limits. If the goal is to limit money in politics, look no further than Washington to see what a failure the concept has been on that front. If the goal is reduce influence in politics, again, see Washington. These rules merely serve to make it harder for regular voters to follow the money in politics. I prefer a system where donations of $500 or more are disclosed in three days online. Thereafter let the people vigorously analyze the significance of donations and donors.
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?
Gay marriage should not be legalized in Illinois. A vote on such an issue certainly should not occur during a lame-duck session. On the issue of life, I am pro-life with exceptions for rape and incest. Any mail campaign suggesting any position by me to the contrary, particularly from a group called Personal PAC, is simply a lie. On concealed carry, I have voted for limits on the number of bullets in a gun magazine, so I take the public safety concerns seriously. However, Illinois is the only state in the nation that does not allow some form of concealed carry. I have to believe that if it were shown to increase crime that at least one of the other 49 states would have moved to repeal it; so far none has. When I think of the issue, I cannot help but picture a nurse walking down the steps from an "L" platform after a 3 to 11 pm shift. If she is properly trained, she should have the right to protect herself on her way home. We know her would-be attacker would not think twice about arming himself, legally or otherwise. I support the return of the death penalty, with proper safeguards in place.