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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.
City: Elmwood Park
Office sought: 77th District Representative
Family: Julie, wife Bianca, daughter Gianna, daughter
Occupation: full-time legislator
Education: Bacherlor's Degree in History from DePaul University
Civic involvement: Founder of Elmwood Park Civic Organization Member of Kiwanis Club Member of Lions Club
Elected offices held: Leyden Township Supervisor 1989-1993 State Representative, 77th District 1993-Present
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: NO
Key Issue 1
At a time when most families are already struggling, serious tax reform must be implemented. First, the 66% income tax hike of 2011 must be repealed and second, property tax relief needs to be advanced through legislation. I voted ?no? on the 2011 income tax increase.
Key Issue 2
The biggest burden on our state budget crisis is the unfunded pension liability. The Illinois General Assembly must act upon the pension situation now, not later and implement serious reform that includes all those involved at the discussion table. Because of the recent income tax hike on corporations and unfunded pension liabilities businesses are reluctant to locate here or expand their Illinois businesses. This is why Illinois has the highest unemployment rate in the Midwest.
Key Issue 3
For decades now, the State of Illinois has had a reputation of outspending the amount of revenue that is generated. Like in most cases, when more money is spent than is earned, financial disaster will eventually occur. The priority must be in passing a balanced budget where the State spends less money than is taken in, and even more so, a serious effort must be made in paying off years? worth of outstanding bills.
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?
At 45% funding, Illinois has the worst funded state employee pension plan in the country, and each year the underfunding will consume more and more of our state budget thus curtailing vital services. In 2008, state pension contributions consumed 6% of the general revenue fund, next year it will consume 15%. This is unacceptable. The unfunded pension liability and the spiraling costs associated with it can only be resolved if all parties involved participate in serious discourse. It is important that the discussion table include anyone who has a stake in the pension system; a cooperative effort is the only way in which a fair deal is agreed upon. All of the current political back-and-forth has done nothing to solve the unfunded pensions and has only created more tension during negotiations. Both SB 512 and SB 1673 contained some good provisions; however all of the provisions should be worked on collaboratively by all parties. I voted in favor of legislation, a few months ago, that would call upon state retirees, including General Assembly members, to contribute to their health benefits. This initiative would work to make funds available to finance the state pension system. The Illinois General Assembly is feeling the effects of its constant desire to raid the state pension system to fund other programs in years past. I have always voted against any raiding of the pension system and will continue to do so. Last spring, we were making great strides in figuring out a solution to the pension crisis, however in typical fashion, the House Democrat Leadership inserted the cost shift provision into the legislation. This cost shift would have placed the burden on local school districts to fund their teachers? pension; the raising of property taxes and elimination of extracurricular activities would have been inevitable. The typical suburban school district derives around 7% to 12 % of their budget from the State of Illinois. State funded school aid comprises almost 30% of the Chicago Public School budget. If suburban school districts start paying for teacher pension costs the state school aid imbalance between Chicago and the suburbs will grow even greater. It was because of the Speaker?s lack of willingness to compromise that negotiations stalled a few months ago. I do heartily agree we need to hold suburban school districts ?feet to the fire? when they wantonly award large end of career salary increases to school personnel for the sole purpose of increasing the employee?s pension. Any addressing of the pension should not be done during a lame-duck session due to the influence that may be interjected during the process of negotiation. As said above, the only way to avoid partisan grid-lock over the pension crisis is to invite all participants to the discussion table. Not only should this include leaders of both the Republican and Democrat caucuses, but also all union leaders and members. From only this point will true discourse take and not the party-line rhetoric that is customary at the moment.
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?
I supported numerous pieces of legislation that aimed at cutting state spending. The General Assembly scholarship program was abolished through House Bill 3810 which will save the State of Illinois $13 million annually. I also supported House Bill 3188 that mandated all General Assembly members take 12 unpaid furlough days and save the state over $600,000 annually. The cost-of-living-adjustment for all state legislators was also frozen by House Bill 3188, saving the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. Medicaid reform was enacted via Senate Bill 2840 which removed approximately 300,000 individuals from the state Medicaid program. This was a serious effort at creating stricter requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries and removing deceased individuals from the pool of recipients. Further, Senate Bill 2840 will reduce the eligibility limit of the Family Care program; the implementation of a $10 co-pay for emergency room visits; $3.60 co-pay on all medical services; and $2 co-pay for generic medications, among other provisions. In total, Senate Bill 2840 will save the taxpayers over $350 million. Finally, through Senate Bill 1313 state retirees will be expected to make contributions to their own health care coverage. The Director of Central Management Services (CMS) will submit to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) a proposal listing the expected State contribution and the individual?s contribution to the health plan. As co-chair of JCAR, I will work to ensure that fair contributions are made into the state-retiree health plan as it will save the state upwards of $800 million. Just as many families have had to make tough decisions regarding their personal budgets, the State must begin to implement the same lifestyle. The State must adopt ?Pay-As-You-Go? budgeting where the Illinois General Assembly must cut spending under identified areas of the budget in order to make up for the increased spending in another department or program. The offices of the Illinois State Treasurer and the Illinois State Comptroller office must be combined which will save the state of over $12 million annually. I have supported gambling bills, slots at race tracks and casino expansion in the past, and I will consider any future pieces of legislation as they are introduced.
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?
Illinois is struggling through an unprecedented weak economic climate that many would call historical. The General Assembly must work tirelessly to retain those businesses that are already located in Illinois, and further, a serious effort must be made to attract new business to the State. Various surveys conclude that businesses are reluctant to expand or locate in Illinois. To regain our rightful place as an economic leader, Illinois must spend within its means, cease over-taxation, and resolve the pension crisis. During last year?s veto session, I voted yes on SB 397 which provided tax relief to two very large job-creating establishments, Sears Corporation and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). Not only did this legislation retain Sears and CME in Illinois, but it also provided for tax relief for small business in terms of various jobs tax credits and the increase of the estate tax exemption. Although state bailouts of big business may be looked at as playing favorites amongst certain establishments, in certain circumstances a bailout becomes necessary in order to retain tax income, but more importantly jobs for our residents. These bailouts should be treated on a case-by-case basis and should not act as a blanket precedent. I have worked as the key negotiator on legislation and multiple initiatives that were aimed at saving the State and the people of Illinois money. For three consecutive years, I spearheaded an effort to restructure the debt at the McCormick Place in Chicago, which would have, not only saved the tax payers money, but also freed up funds that could be used to entice more trade shows, conventions and businesses into Illinois. However, keeping with tradition of Illinois government, the Democrat Leadership blocked my attempts because of politics and personal vendettas. I was able to successfully restructure the McCormick Place debt, although at this point, the taxpayers were out $500 million. Had my previous attempts been fruitful, the State would have saved a half-billion dollars. Finally, I was the key negotiator in the Capital Bill, which worked to upgrade much of the infrastructure all over Illinois. This legislation not only released funds to improve cities and towns in this state, but it also created jobs for Illinois residents. Locally, I will continue to work with the municipalities within my district in order to retain and attract businesses through state, and other government, programs which would provide tax incentives, training grants, etc.
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 support the necessity for more regulation of campaign finances. Campaign contribution limits must be set from an individual level, to the party level, to the PAC level, as this will be the only means of keeping the electoral process open to all those who would like to run for office despite their personal economic status. Just recently, I voted against legislation desired by Speaker Michael Madigan and the Democrat Leadership which would have allowed for unlimited contributions from Super PACs. Yes, I would vote for the current leader, Tom Cross as our party leader. Through his leadership, the Republican Caucus has been able to work across the aisle in order to advance key legislation aimed at improving the lives of the people of Illinois. At the same time, however, the Caucus has not sacrificed its values and vision for the State.
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 supported Civil Unions in the past. Any important legislation that will affect the lives of Illinoisans should be to an attentive, open-minded legislature. During a lame-duck session, this focus is not always present. My record reflects that I have voted according to the mandates laid out by Roe v. Wade. The historic court case defines the legality of abortion in the United States and as a state legislator I have no influence on changing the precedent set forth by Roe v. Wade. I have supported certain restrictions such as parental notification and other common sense measures. Illinois is the only state that does not have some form of legalized concealed carry; I will at least look at any legislation that has iron clad safeguards in place for people to legally carry a gun. I do not support the return of the death penalty.