Carol Sente: Candidate Profile
59th 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.
City: Vernon Hills
Office sought: 59th District Representative
Family: My parents immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe to seek a better life following the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and devastation of World War II. My mother lives near me in Vernon Hills. My sister and niece live in Glenview.
Occupation: I am the former owner and President of SRBL Architects, which specialized in designing ?green? buildings for local governments. After being elected, I sold my business and am now VP of FGM Architects.
Education: I have a business degree from Indiana University and have taken master?s degree coursework at Northwestern University?s Kellogg School of Management.
Civic involvement: I have served as a counselor at the YMCA camp ?I Am Me? for young burn victims and helped mentor counselors in-training. I have also volunteered for five years with Marcie?s Place Children?s Grieving Camp as a counselor working with those who have lost family members, and have served on the board of the Sommer Memorial Foundation, which provides scholarships to high school seniors who have lost a parent. My professional work has given me a keen understanding of the concerns and operations of local governments as well as a strong working relationship with community leaders throughout the 59th District.
Elected offices held: I was a Commissioner and Vice-President of the Vernon Hills Park District. I served on the park board four years before resigning to complete the remainder of the unexpired term of State Representative Kathy Ryg in 2009. I have been elected to one full term as State Representative.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
Job creation is my top priority to improve the economy and end the recession. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and I am fighting to start a new program to allow unemployed individuals who are trying to start a new business to continue to collect unemployment benefits until they get off the ground. We need to do more to encourage job growth and the best way to do that is to help people turn their ideas into new jobs for themselves and others.
Key Issue 2
We need to continue to reform state government and how tax dollars are spent. This includes reforms to cut gold-plated pensions and continuing to implement budget reforms to eliminate failed programs.
Key Issue 3
Taxes are too high for most families and businesses in the 59th district. We need to stop unfair property tax increases and roll back the income tax increase for working families and employers who are already struggling with the increased cost of groceries, gas and other expenses.
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?
After decades of mismanagement and underfunding the pension systems by previous General Assemblies, I initiated a new law to fully fund the required contributions to the pension systems in Fiscal Year 2012 and Fiscal Year 2013, before any state dollars could be spent on any other program. Mismanagement and the difficult recession have left Illinois in a funding crisis for programs, services and pensions. Something must be done to ensure the sustainability of the benefits that employees have earned, and state leaders, labor and residents understand this. Any changes must be made with organized labor and other stakeholders at the table, and must be fair to employees and taxpayers. In my first year in Springfield, I voted for Senate Bill 1946 in the 96th General Assembly in March of 2010 to reform the pension system and create a new, more affordable pension system for new public employees. While this law is expected to reduce our pension liability by billions of dollars, additional steps are needed to make sure the system remains stable and retirees who have contributed to and earned a pension receive what they have been promised. I want to continue working to reduce state spending so that we can continue to commit our full pension payment each year and make additional payments towards our debt with any revenues the state takes in beyond our expected revenue estimates. The legislature has slowly begun to lead by example by eliminating free health care for retired legislators, but I wish that more of my colleagues would have joined me in voting to completely eliminate pensions and healthcare for future elected officials. Local residents should not bear the cost of the huge unfunded pension liability, especially at a time while many continue to struggle to make ends meet. Local school districts should participate in pension reform negotiations so that a gradual and responsible cost shift can take place without adding to the financial burden taxpayers already face. Previous General Assemblies worked to stop end of career pension spiking and I think that additional reforms are needed so that more responsible salary and hiring decisions are made at the local level. I stand ready to vote for reasonable pension reform that creates a fiscally sustainable solution, is constitutional, and respects the contributions participants have made. I am glad we are including the General Assembly pension in the reforms to demonstrate my commitment to accepting the same change. I think that legislative leaders need to schedule a session day without reimbursing lawmakers to come to Springfield to pass pension reforms before the election instead of kicking the can down the road and leaving voters in the dark on how their public officials stand. To end the gridlock, we need to put solutions ahead of politics, end the fear mongering and negotiate meaningful reforms.
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?
We need to continue to cut waste, fraud and duplication. Since we implemented my new Budgeting for Results law, the state has cut nearly $3 billion. We must continue to set realistic revenue expectations, pay our debt obligations first, pay our unpaid bills, and review the budget line-by-line in bipartisan committees. This method of budgeting will help us continue to reduce spending and make government more responsible and efficient. An important element of my bill is the performance measurement of programs. If they are not producing their targeted results, they need to be cut or revamped. Another aspect of Budgeting for Results that needs to be implemented is the identification of clear goals of what the governor decides to fund and the healthy competition to provide for those services among the various state agencies. This will further produce savings. We need to consolidate services. More thorough reviews of programs and services are needed to identify overlaps that can be streamlined or removed. This includes, I believe, eliminating the offices of Lt. Governor and combining the office of the Comptroller and Treasurer. Additionally, we need to reduce the pay for elected officials and eliminate perks for state officials and employees. We should cut the state?s vehicle and air fleet, reduce the number of state issued cell phones and eliminate pay for serving on state boards and commissions. The only way to overcome our status as a deadbeat state is by paying our bills. Part of my Budgeting for Results measures require the state to make our full pension and debt payment each year to help us get out of debt without borrowing more. We need to pay our bills and limit our spending to the actual revenue projections for the year, and pay any additional revenue towards our debts. I voted against the recent gaming bill because I thought that it saturated the region with too many casinos. I would need to look at specific proposals for gaming expansion before determining how I would vote. I think that more modest ideas allowing slot machines at racetracks should be considered.
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?
As a former small business owner I know that rising, unpredictable taxes place a burden on employers struggling to maintain work during this difficult economy. It is clear that Illinois? steady tax increases over recent years have kept several employers out of our state. We must roll back the recent corporate income tax increase and change the overall taxation level that employers face in Illinois. We also need to rein in property taxes that can rise unpredictably from year to year as local governments raise their levy. I will continue to pursue legislation to freeze tax levy increases until property values rebound so that property owners and businesses can better predict their annual budgets. Besides simply reducing the tax burden on employers in Illinois, we need to treat businesses that pay taxes with respect. It is unacceptable that businesses who in good faith overpay their quarterly tax estimates have to wait months or even years for their refunds. Some businesses have waited more than three years for tax refunds and the state owes more than $500 million in corporate tax refunds. I sponsored Senate Bill 1761 to allow businesses to credit overpayments in taxes towards their next quarterly tax payments to reduce the strain on their budgets. Moving forward, we need to change how we provide tax relief for large employers threatening to leave Illinois. Companies of all sizes should have equal access to incentives and we need more transparency in the award process. I am hopeful that House Bill 3934 that is now law will provide more transparency in this process and allow employers and taxpayers to better know the guidelines for these awards. The tax credits that our state does provide should be based upon published criteria and involve a more transparent system. Changing the taxation system is a start, but to begin attracting new businesses, we need to do a better job of providing incentives to job creators to move to or expand in Illinois. I supported extensions of the research and development tax credit and the net operating loss deduction, and think that we need to extend tax credits for new green technologies to create jobs and help prepare our state for the green energy future. I think these incentives should be available to all employers so that we can retain and increase the number of income tax paying employees. To help create new jobs, I want to encourage people to start their own business. This year, I worked with the Department of Employment Security to implement a new program to help unemployed individuals start a business and help create new jobs. Strict guidelines require a person receiving unemployment insurance to conduct job searches in a full-time capacity, leaving little time to focus on a business enterprise. With this new program, individuals would be able to receive unemployment insurance if they are working full time to start a business and must file a business plan with the state. This way, not only can we help an unemployed individual earn a living, but new businesses will hopefully employ more Illinoisans and help revitalize the economy. We need to reduce the regulations and bureaucracy employers have to cut through to do business in Illinois by continuing to implement Budgeting for Results so that our government is more accountable, transparent, performance based and uses zero-based budgeting. I successfully drafted and passed this legislation to set an expenditure ceiling and require state agencies to reduce bureaucracy by competing against one another for funding. Due to my legislation, we are also making a greater effort toward paying unpaid bills to companies struggling to operate in Illinois. We need to carefully examine all current job creation programs to determine if they are working or if they are just creating more bureaucracy that looks good in press releases. Each year we need to review programs and regulations and eliminate them if they are not protecting the safety or health at the workplace, and free up resources for job training programs to help place unemployed individuals in new fields. With this method, no additional funding is necessary, and job creation would become a higher priority. To help attract new businesses and help local businesses expand, we need to help increase access to capital. While banks are not loaning, I think the state should look into partnerships with local credit unions to help provide low-interest business loans to help create jobs. We must also look at expanding state tax credits and rebates for companies, especially in the expanding green sector. Workers Compensation reform was also a major positive step towards making Illinois friendlier for employers. Cutting down on fraud and abuse will save employers in Illinois millions of dollars that can be better invested in job expansion and growth.
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.
Yes, I support limits on campaign contributions. I was proud that one of my first actions in Springfield as state representative was to help pass Illinois? historic campaign finance reform law, a measure that had the backing of Change Illinois, the state?s leading campaign finance reform organization. I think that this initiative, especially the limits on leaders? and party expenditures during primary campaigns, was a major step forward. I would like to find a way to extend those limits to general election campaigns including legislative leaders while ensuring that outside special interests groups are not given an unfair advantage in terms of their abilities to spend money on campaigns and influence election outcomes. As with any reforms, some people will find loopholes and some have already abused the new system. We need to do more to ensure transparency, especially in the days leading up to an election and with independent expenditures. The current enforcement system is toothless, and I think we should increase penalties for violations of campaign finance laws. I believe that legislative leaders should have term limits. I am focused on hearing from my constituents to do what I believe is in their best interest. At this time I am unaware of who will seek leadership positions in the 98th General Assembly, but would support whichever candidate I believe will work with me to best meet the needs of residents of my district.
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 am a strong supporter of civil rights for all people and do not believe that discrimination based on sexual orientation should be tolerated. I believe that same-sex couples should have the same rights under the law as heterosexual couples when it comes to financial, medical, inheritance, and death benefits. I believe that women should have the right to make their own decisions about their bodies. I am a strong believer in thoughtful education to prevent unwanted pregnancies. I do not believe that regular citizens should carry concealed handguns or keep assault weapons. I voted against House Bill 148 that would have allowed concealed carry and am a co-sponsor of the Assault Weapons Ban, House Bill 1294. As a gun owner, I have taken gun safety classes, have a FOID card and been hunting with my family. I support individuals? rights for responsible gun ownership. We have excellent police and public safety officials and I will continue to work with them to ensure they have the tools necessary to keep our communities safe. I voted for Senate Bill 3539 to abolish the Death Penalty in Illinois. Too many people on death row have been exonerated and our system has flaws that I fear could lead to the death of innocent people. I continue to work with our local police to ensure they have the tools to continue to keep our communities safe, and this is not an issue that I hear about from law enforcement or local residents.
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