Ed Erwin: Candidate Profile
61st District Representative
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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: 61st District Representative
Family: My wife Terry is from Olney, Illinois. We were married on January, 12, 1980. We have one son, Christopher, who attended the Millburn Schools, Lakes Community High School, and the College of Lake County. He will be attending SIU next year.
Occupation: I practiced law in the '80's, operated a family business throughout the 90's and worked for various auto companies while consulting on numerous political campaigns. I am now semi-retired.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, Southern Illinois University - Carbondale, 1979 Juris Doctor, IIT - Chicago Kent College of Law, 1983
Civic involvement: Friends of the Lake Villa District Library Cook County Literacy Initiative
Elected offices held: Democratic Precinct Committeeman 1994, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 Chairman, Lake Villa Township Democratic Party
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: I was arrested for and plead guilty to driving under the influence in 2003.
Key Issue 1
The Illinois House of Representatives must return to being the people?s body. Our current Representative in the 61st District represents the leadership structure in the House rather than the people of her district. My primary goal is to serve the needs and wishes of the people of my district by listening to them, as opposed to Minority Leader Cross or Speaker Madigan. The people of the 61st District pay the bills, and they deserve to be listened to and their wishes communicated loud and clear in Springfield.
Key Issue 2
Educating our children to meet the challenges of our future must remain the highest priority of our General Assembly. We must ensure that the State is current on all of its financial commitments to our schools, work to eliminate duplicitous and burdensome multiple school administrative districts while maintaining a clear voice for the parents, and improve graduation rates from high school, acceptance rates into higher education, and the success rates of those students within Illinois? University. We need an ongoing, permanent dialog with employers to ensure that our kids have the skills to become an effective part of our workforce and build an even better life than our own.
Key Issue 3
Returning to a sense of fiscal responsibility in Illinois is one of my primary concerns because it can serve to improve our business climate, create good jobs, and allow Illinois to meet the health and safety needs of its citizens. Fiscal responsibility means not shifting budgetary items to municipalities so that the expense is merely imposed upon our property taxes. Fiscal responsibility means a fair pension system that is sustainable. Fiscal responsibility means fulfilling the state?s backlog of debt, primarily to the pension system, which is its legal responsibility, but also to all of its creditors. Fiscal responsibility is seeing that the 61st District receives its fair share of economic activity in return for our investment in state government. Most of all, fiscal responsibility means working every day to make Illinois government leaner and more efficient so that it can meet the needs of its citizens consistently, regardless of economic boom and bust cycles.
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 failure to address the state?s pension crisis in the last legislative regular session is an abomination and insult was added to this injury when a special session not only failed to come close to addressing this issue, but also included a vote by our current Representative against reforming her own pension. Clearly, a more inclusive, transparent discussion is required to address this issue in addition to better leadership in the district. Representative Fortner?s HB6204 is a good starting point to address the legislature?s failure to make timely payments into the pension fund, but would require some significant changes, including dedicating actual revenue streams to the process, rather than limiting the streams to existing bond funding vehicles, and establishing a fair contribution rate across all the various pension systems. Combining the multiple pension systems into one entity would reduce administrative costs as well as force the legislature to live with the actions they take. Most importantly, the resolution to this issue must include the voice of all stakeholders in the process, from the employees, to the legislators, to the taxpayers themselves. Recent history has proven that the Governor and the legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle alone are unable to develop a workable option for the very reason that the leadership is following partisan concerns above the need to resolve this crisis. Whether I agree that a lame-duck resolution to this crisis is good or bad, that may be the result, in part because it removes the weight of partisan concerns on the decision-making process of many legislators. Unfortunately, the current proposals addressing the pension issues appear to be only periphery-pecking and lack the meaningful voice of all of the stakeholders, and, as those may be the only proposals addressed in the lame-duck session, the issue will remain unresolved.
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 government can best be described as both anemic and bloated at the same time. Key positions within the Illinois Department of Revenue and Health and Human Services remain unfilled, and this very lack of staffing inhibits the state?s ability to fully enforce its current tax laws and collect legitimately accrued tax liability, and to weed out the most costly incidences of Medicare and Medicaid fraud, while senior staff positions remain fully staffed and funded. Audit positions in every department, but especially in the Department of Revenue must be fully staffed at all times because they produce more in revenue than they cost in salary, training and benefits. Rather than continue the roller-coaster cycle of Draconian cuts in difficult economic times only to refill the ranks to overflowing under better economic conditions, the state needs to push harder toward a ?lean? process of government. Departmental assessments identifying ?revenue? and ?mission? positive positions, processes and expenditures, with a comparison to other states? departmental equivalents and then disclosed publicly and annually, is one method of imposing transparent efficiency on the business of the State of Illinois. Budgetary transparency has always been the most effective cost cutting tool for business and governments alike. Standardizing accounting procedures across departmental boundaries will move the Illinois Auditor General toward being able to publish a ?forensic audit? of all of the State?s expenditures. The people of the State of Illinois deserve to be able to see the state?s checkbook. The departmental grant letting process must include a more detailed proposal review and audit procedure with specific performance matrices. Grants over a given floor amount may require bi-partisan legislative oversight to prevent insider deals and to ensure that adequate performance review is maintained. Departmental contracts for IT and promotional services should fall under stricter scrutiny. The City of Chicago and Cook County recently demonstrated the efficiency of combined IT services. Departments within the State of Illinois should do the same. Merely slashing departmental budgets, closing vital health and public safety facilities and wholesale departmental layoffs and hiring freezes have not only failed to effectively trim the Illinois budget, but have also resulted in undue, unjust, and unintended hardships borne by the most vulnerable citizens of the state. Clear and unequivocal departmental mission statements followed by a lean needs assessment to accomplishing that mission is a process many states with both Democratic and Republican executives and legislatures have enacted and have achieved both reduced budgets and better delivery of needed service. Illinois' 'Results-Based Budgeting' is one step in the process, but only one step. We can go further and get much leaner. The size of Illinois government must also be reduced. The dual offices and staffs of Treasurer and Comptroller are a ridiculous waist of funds. These two positions must be combined into a single office. The Treasurer and Comptroller offices that exist today have the primary responsibility of proposing methods of reducing Illinois? unpaid bills. Both offices have failed in this regard. Unpaid bills that carry a late-payment penalty must be immediately paid, even if it requires a short-term bonding mechanism. Unpaid bills to schools and especially public health entities have become a crisis and deserve a dedicated revenue stream to bring them to balance. Partisan finger-pointing as opposed to aggressive payment proposals or, at a minimum, a working dialog between the Treasurer, the Comptroller, the General Assembly and the Governor, is the lasting failed legacy of the current Treasurer and Comptroller. Expanding gaming in Illinois, while not the end-all of our budgetary crisis, is a long over-due revenue stream that Illinois must immediately begin to take advantage of. The development of casinos in Chicago and especially Lake County will create short-term construction activity, enhance regional commercial activity in and around the site of the casino and provide a revenue stream that can be utilized to both bring the state?s backlog of payments to schools and healthcare providers to balance and provide a funding source to stabilize the unfunded pension debt. By offering slot machines at the tracks, and even on a limited basis at off-track betting sites, the net effect could increase the customer stream at Illinois racetracks and improve the revenue stream of the state.
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?
The 61st District deserves a more aggressive jobs program. Quarterly job fairs in conjunction with IDES have never occurred here and will begin the first quarter I am in office. Merely filling those positions that remain unfilled, even in today?s difficult economy, will expand the circulation of currency in the district and make it more amenable to business expansion. Effective coordination between state, county and municipal licensing agencies so that businesses that wish to open or expand are encouraged to do so is also lacking. Adding a satellite Illinois Department of Revenue office in northern Lake County would help personal and business taxpayers resolve issues more quickly and efficiently. Job training programs, matching employers? needs with resources in the community beginning as early as high school and support for our community college partnered training programs is vital. But the best, long-term investment in a good stable workforce is our education system. Balancing the budget on the backs of students, educators, and our schools demonstrate to the business community a lack of a long-term commitment to a well-educated workforce. Tax incentives granted to large corporations which only seek to maintain the status quo are a bad investment. Incentives that promote expansion, increased employment and market activity suffer from the blank checks and tax loop-holes our state has previously granted. A tax break merely because one is identified as a ?job-creator? is a far cry from an incentive to actually create jobs and business activity. I would seek to eliminate any tax loophole that is not directly related to a quantitatively identifiable expansion of employment and market activity and work aggressively with county and municipal officials to encourage economic expansion that does not require the mortgaging of our school systems or local government. Lake County residents already pay some of the highest property taxes in the United States and our county and local government must set aside partisan politics and work together with the state to advance our economic activity. Merely blaming one governmental body over another has failed to meet the needs of our district.
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.
As the challenger of a ten-year incumbent who is a part of Springfield?s leadership structure, I am all in favor of limiting the legislative and political control exercised by the current leadership on both sides of the aisle in both houses of the General Assembly. The last round of ?election reforms? only served to increase the power of leadership and further separate the people, the families, the neighborhoods and the very folks who pay the bills from the process. However, the costs of a campaign, even one so lowly as for the Illinois House of Representatives, continue to rise. I am a firm believer that the best campaigns exist right at the doorsteps of the voters, looking people in the eye and answering their questions and listening to their concerns. I would limit the amount of money the leadership can distribute to its incumbents but also increase the individual contribution amounts in recognition of both the increased costs of a campaign in general, and the undue influence of the effect of money spent by organizations outside of Illinois who are neither taxpayers nor stakeholders. There should be limits to the amount of individual contributions, but the current limits are set too low to balance the effect of leadership and outside Illinois spending. The ?Citizens United? decision by the US Supreme Court has thrown the campaign financing issue into enough turmoil that I would call for a bi-partisan campaign finance review that includes not only office holders, but representatives from the business and union community who donate heavily, if not necessarily to my own campaign, as well as taxpayer representatives to seek a workable, balanced campaign funding structure that gives the people of the State of Illinois the loudest voice in the selection of their government. Without knowing who will present themselves for leadership positions, nor which party will command the majority of the Illinois House of Representatives, whether I would vote for the current leadership is irrelevant. The leadership election process in the Illinois General Assembly is such a fluid example of horse-trading that I would be foolish to offer my colts without knowing the condition of the mares. I would expect my caucus leader to commit to a balanced, less centralized leadership structure, with a greater emphasis upon listening to the voice of the people. I would treat my vote for the leadership in the House as the first test of whether I have the courage to listen to my constituents. My process will be to ask the people of the 61st District what they need and want out of the leadership in the House and then vote accordingly.
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 support gay marriage in Illinois. I have been married to the same woman for over 32 years and I cannot, for the life of me, see how the marriage of any two individuals diminishes or enhances our own marriage. As I society, we should promote and embrace life-long commitments of two individuals to one another, to raising families, to being an active, positive presence in our communities. Exclusion based upon gender is as abhorrent to the ideals of our founding fathers as exclusion based upon race or ethnic origin. That a particular issue is dealt with in a lame-duck session often has more to do with the effects of extreme partisanship and a failure of reasonable debate over that issue than merely ?sneaking in? a vote. We elect representatives not only to represent our wishes, but also to exercise their judgment. If we really want to prevent lame-duck voting, the Illinois Constitution should be amended providing a time-specific in which legislation must be enacted. Illinois should not define life as beginning at conception because that isn?t how the human reproductive process works. Plant life begins at the moment of conception, or fertilization and requires nothing further than its environment to flourish. Human life requires that the fertilized egg successfully implant itself within the uterine wall and that the uterus of the woman and the fertilized egg are able to establish a flow of nutrition between them. The government, be it state or federal, has no place in a woman?s uterus, nor in the room with a woman and her doctor. The government of the State of Illinois has enough trouble with its own business. I am concerned that the current concealed carry proposal in Illinois imposes an unnecessarily harsh financial and legal burden on our universities and may in fact, fundamentally alter the common law absence of liability for the unforeseen criminal acts of third parties beyond the four-corners of this bill. Once the legislature decides that the criminal act of a third party is statutorily foreseeable to a single class of institutions, the question becomes whether it should be foreseeable to other institutions. What has not occurred yet in Illinois is a real discussion of the expanded presence of guns in our communities that isn?t reduced to the gun-hater versus the gun-nut mentality. We need an open discussion that includes law enforcement, public safety and health officials, local mayors, educators, and parents, in addition to rather than merely the anti- and the pro-gun lobbyists and the legislators. As many churches seem to be willing to engage in the political process regarding other issues, I would welcome their input as to this issue as well. I am certain I am the only candidate in the 61st District to have been held-up at gunpoint, so I truly understand both the desire for personal protection and the need to limit the flow of illegal guns in Illinois. The current proposal before the Illinois legislature creates a too severe and too expensive a burden upon our already financially strapped universities for me to support. While I believe that there are crimes that are so heinous in nature that the state has the right to take the perpetrator?s life, the State of Illinois has a poor track record when it comes to capital murder cases. That there is but the slightest chance that an innocent person is executed should be horrific to every citizen. This was the fundamental tenant of the founders of our country and is no less important today. Lake County in particular has seen a rash of not just wrongful convictions, but egregiously bad prosecutorial conduct. There are circumstances where I could support taking the life of the perpetrator of a heinous crime, but under no circumstances could I support this without the wholesale improvement in our own Lake County State?s Attorney's office first, and a fundamental revision of our review process to ensure that when the state wields the ultimate authority, there can be no question it is directed at the correct individual. Given the state of our current, almost hapless, Lake County State?s Attorney, I could not, in good conscience, support any capital punishment verdict arising out of that office.
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