Jonathan Greenberg: Candidate Profile
57th 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: 57th District Representative
Family: Married to Dr. Sharone Shamir Greenberg Two sons: Jaron (5) and Adam (1) Expecting our first daughter in November.
Occupation: Non-profit executive
Education: BA in Political Science, Indiana University, 1996 MPA in Public Affairs, Indiana University, 2001 MAHL in Hebrew Letters, Hebrew Union College, 2005 Rabbinic Ordination, Hebrew Union College, 2006
Civic involvement: Member, American Israel Public Affairs Committee Member, Chicago Board of Rabbis Member, Young Israel of Northbrook
Elected offices held: none
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: no
Key Issue 1
Taxes - repeal of the 67% income tax increase and ensuring that Springfield politicians don't force up property taxes by dumping teacher pensions on school boards.
Key Issue 2
Reforming public employee pensions and Medicaid, reducing spending, paying our overdue bills, and balancing our budget.
Key Issue 3
Instituting pro-growth policies that will bring jobs back to Illinois.
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?
Our public employees work hard and deserve to be able to build toward a secure retirement. Taxpayers also work hard and deserve to have their finances respected. In solving this problem, everything is on the table but cutting benefits for those who are retired or nearing retirement is the absolute last thing we should do. Those workers made good faith decisions about their retirements based on bad deals made by self-interested politicians and union bosses and it?s too late for them to adjust their retirement plans. Any plan that I would vote for needs to adhere to five essential principles: 1. It must comprehensively solve the problem; 2. It must stop accruing new debt; 3. It must not raise taxes; 4. It must implement full actuarial honesty; and, 5. It must result in a substantially reduced annual pension payment. These principles are not a matter of choice; they are a mathematical necessity. In order to meet these principles, we will need to make some painful choices. As have virtually all of their neighbors in the past several years, we will ask public employees to pay more for benefits, retire later, and calculate their pensions based on a different starting-point of salary. Cost of living increases must be substantially reduced and tied to the Consumer Price Index. These are baseline, cost-control measures. I believe we need to do away with pensions entirely and transition to a defined contribution system like most private sector workers have. Yes, this subjects public employees? retirements to the vicissitudes of the market; just like most of their neighbors in the private sector and just like the pension funds in which they are now invested. The key difference would be that their money will no longer be subjected to the risk of Springfield politicians whose legacy of sound management is nonexistent. I?m willing to consider a Rhode Island-like combination of defined contribution and defined benefit for teachers who do not participate in Social Security. Defined contribution systems save money, allow for budgetary certitude rather than reliance on actuarial tables, and prevent the kind of fraud and abuse that we?ve all seen over the past several years. Transitioning to a defined contribution plan does not fully solve our problem as those who have earned pension benefits will still receive them. Our pension funds are so under-funded that we currently have only $70 billion in assets to pay more than $600 billion in liabilities. If the math still doesn?t add up after we reduce COLAs, raise retirement ages, and increase benefit contributions, we may need to look at reducing some benefits for current public employees. If that means amending or repealing Article XIII Section 5 of the Constitution, I would be open to doing so. The Constitution, as tradition tells us President Lincoln said, is not a suicide pact. While there is reason to examine ? as part of a much broader package of education funding reforms ? requiring school districts to make pension payments for their teachers, we shouldn?t do it now. Dumping these costs on to local school districts is a ploy by Springfield politicians to make those billions of dollars someone else?s problem and will result in cuts to classroom spending or increased property taxes. In Northfield, Wheeling, and Palatine townships alone, the additional cost to property taxpayers could be around $50 million. This plan will effectively put our homes up as collateral for an insolvent retirement system. I can?t imagine that anyone who cares about our public schools or struggling homeowners would support such a plan ? yet my opponent does. Voters should remember that we?re only in this situation because of the flagrant irresponsibility of legislators ? including my opponent ? over the last ten years. My goal will be to fix what they have broken in as fair and painless a way as possible ? but let?s remember who made the mess. Stein?s Law says, ?things that can?t go on, won?t.? And our pension system can?t go on. Mathematical reality will, eventually, force bipartisan consensus. Voters can, of course, hasten this process, save our public employees and taxpayers a lot of unnecessary pain, and help stop the economic bleeding in Illinois by electing leaders who won?t wait until the system fails entirely.
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?
Senate Republicans came up with 22 pages worth of proposed budget cuts. I don?t support all of them, but it?s certainly a good place to start the conversation. The first order of business is fundamentally and permanently to fix our pension problem and rein in our out-of-control spending on Medicaid. Anyone not proposing fundamental reforms to those two programs is not serious about dealing with our problems. To be clear, legislators need to stop pretending that we can fix our problems by ?finding savings? and eliminating fraud. We should certainly do both of those things, but only serious reductions in our spending will adequately address our problems. On Medicaid: Over the past decade, my opponent has repeatedly voted to expand Medicaid (at a rate of 7% per year) without adequately funding the program. Medicaid, designed to ensure basic care for the poorest of the poor, now serves 20% of Illinoisans and eats up around 17% of our budget. We simply can?t afford it. The legislature this past session, under threat of a downgrade from credit-rating agencies, made a series of cuts that were totally insufficient and morally bankrupt. The Governor set a goal of $2.4 billion in cuts ? what we got was $1.6 billion in cuts aimed at the people who need it most and a $350 million regressive tax increase. And now, the Governor and Springfield Democrats want dramatically to expand the program. If we don?t control our spending on this program, it will quickly replace pensions as our biggest budget sinkhole. Painful as it will be, we need to dramatically reduce our spending on this program. To fix our status as a ?deadbeat state? we need to cut spending, stop borrowing, and pay our bills. If people want to gamble, I have no problem with it. Because it amounts to a regressive tax, I dislike the State?s use of gaming as a revenue-raising tool. Where gaming already exists ? as at Arlington Park ? expansion makes a lot of sense. Where it does not ? as at O?Hare ? it doesn?t.
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?
Working with our terrific local Chambers of Commerce and elected officials, I intend to be an advocate for business in my district. I will tirelessly promote our industrial and commercial parks and partner with local officials to bring in new business and grow existing businesses. We need to make Illinois more attractive by lowering taxes, ensuring that regulations make sense, fixing our broken workers? comp system, implementing serious tort reform, restructuring our unemployment taxes, and generally giving state government an attitude adjustment when it comes to working with employers. Unfortunately, unless and until we reform public employee pensions and Medicaid, reduce spending, pay our overdue bills, and balance our budget, Illinois will continue to bleed jobs. We must fix those big problems first. I spent three years working in economic development at the Indiana Department of Commerce in the Business Development Division. I helped companies seeking to relocate and local companies trying to expand. Indiana is, arguably, one of our toughest competitors in economic development and I?ll put their successful playbook to work for Illinois: a set of incentives and rules under which we may employ them. We?ll work closely with local officials to maximize the effectiveness of state incentives. It is a relatively equitable system and it works well for communities, businesses, and taxpayers. Unfortunately, our economic development model in Illinois is fundamentally flawed. Giving tax breaks at the legislative level to corporations big enough to hold us hostage by threatening to leave Illinois is a big mistake and only invites such behavior in the future. Incentives should be, at worst, revenue neutral and based on the number and type of jobs created. Only companies creating jobs in Illinois ? as opposed to Sears, which took our incentives and then turned around and fired Illinois workers ? should receive incentives.
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.
Every candidate for state office should play by the same rules. A different set of rules for leaders only perpetuates a system in which power is consolidated in the hands of the few and fealty to leaders is the clearest path to reelection. I believe that Rep. Cross has been a good leader of the opposition and will support him for leader of my caucus. I think he knows and accepts and, unlike Speaker Madigan, even appreciates that I plan to be a strong, independent voice for policies I believe move Illinois and my district forward.
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 marriage equality. As an ordained rabbi, I believe that marriage is a covenantal relationship between the couple and God and that the State?s sole interest is in regulating the contractual aspect of that relationship. As such, the State?s role should be to guarantee equal protection under the law and allow religious institutions and/or individuals to handle the rest according to their doctrines and consciences. There is almost no justification for anything of substance passing in a lame-duck session. Lame-duck sessions that pass major initiatives such as tax increases or significant social legislation are an insult to taxpayers and voters. Legislators should have the courage to vote for or against what they believe in regardless of when they?ll have to face the voters. I am pro-choice. Illinois should allow our citizens to make their own theological and medical decisions. I would vote for a license to carry law if - at the absolute minimum - it accomplished the following to my complete satisfaction: 1. Guns will be kept out of the hands of those with a history of violent crime and/or unstable psychiatric illness. 2. Local law enforcement would have input into the application process in order to screen out troubled individuals who do not technically have a criminal record or official psychiatric diagnosis. 3. Comprehensive firearms training would be required for licensure. 4. Licensing fees would pay for 100% of the application process. 5. Short-term licensure (some states offer a lifetime license ? I think that?s a mistake) that must be renewed. 6. Built-in ability to revoke licenses of those who commit crimes or demonstrate mental instability. 7. Adequate restrictions on carrying in sensitive areas such as schools, police stations, courts, government buildings, ballparks, bars, etc. 8. Businesses would be able to prohibit firearms on their premises by posting an approved sign. 9. Adequate penalties for violating the above provisions including, at a minimum, the revocation of the license in question. 10. The measure would have to have the overwhelming support of the Illinois law enforcement community. Study after study proves that the death penalty is disproportionately applied to minority defendants and does not deter crime. As it is susceptible to the flaws of the human beings who administer it and as it is irreversible, our criminal justice system is better without it.
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