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updated: 9/21/2012 4:30 PM

Deb Conroy: Candidate Profile

46th District Representative (Democrat)

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  • Deb Conroy, running for 46th District Representative

      Deb Conroy, running for 46th 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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A

 

Bio

City: Elmhurst

Website: http://www.VoteDebConroy.com

Office sought: 46th District Representative

Age: 50

Family: Married, four children.

Occupation: Artist

Education: York Community High School, courses at College of DuPage and Columbia College of Chicago.

Civic involvement: York Student Enrichment Team, Religious Education teacher at Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Church

Elected offices held: District 205 School Board, 2007-2011

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Putting people back to work and creating good-paying jobs is important to working families and critical to overall economic recovery. Too many people in our communities are out of work altogether or are struggling to find a steady job that pays well enough to support their family.

Key Issue 2

The state budget is a top concern of mine and of local residents. If the government doesn't budget smartly and take meaningful steps towards putting Illinois on a responsible fiscal path, hardworking families are going to ultimately pay the price. Lawmakers have to put politics aside to find real solutions for eroding the state?s debt and eliminating wasteful spending.

Key Issue 3

Accessible quality education is any community?s strongest asset, and we must work to strengthen education opportunities for students. Education funding in particular has been hit hard in the state budget cuts and school districts are struggling to make ends meet. It is vital that funds are spent in the classroom on resources for students and that even more devastating cuts in education are avoided.

Questions & Answers

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 don?t believe anyone would disagree that we need to fix the state?s pension problems if we are ever to put Illinois back on the right track. Everyone with an interest in the state?s pension problem needs to have a seat at the table and they need to be ready to work until an agreeable solution is found. In the end, everyone will need to give a little to make sure the pension funds are solvent and that Illinois can provide retirement benefits to those employees that have paid into the system. That means each group will win on some of the issues and concede on other issues. We must avoid the practices of the past that led the current pension crisis. For years, our elected officials in Springfield failed to make the required pension payments. They thought it was better policy to spend that money elsewhere while allowing millions of dollars in pension obligations to pile up, becoming the responsibility of future generations. This shortsighted mindset has to end. I do not believe that pension costs should be shifted to the school districts. Property owners are already facing rising property tax bills even though their home values are declining. I don?t believe home owners can shoulder the additional burden that a shift would put on their tax bills. In November, voters are electing the representatives they want to govern Illinois for the next two years. I would hope that the lame duck session respects the voters? decisions on Election Day and the new General Assembly would be able to work on these problems. I don?t believe elected officials who are leaving office should tackle such important issues when they no longer have to consider what their districts want and be held accountable by residents. The voters can play a vital role in ending the partisan gridlock when they go to the polls in November. Voters need to choose candidates who will look beyond partisan politics and are willing to sit down in the same room with members of the opposite party to solve the problems facing Illinois. Our elected officials need to be more concerned with problem solving than sound bites. Once the voters send that message, you will see an easing of the political gridlock that plagues Springfield.

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?

Elected officials need to start managing Illinois? budget like we do in our homes by spending only what we bring in each year, cutting back on unnecessary spending and beginning to pay down the pile of bills that are costing taxpayers millions of dollars in interest. These seem like commonsense solutions. The question that should be asked of our elected officials is if it seems so simple, why is it so difficult for them to understand? Illinois needs to change its mindset when it comes to the budget. Lawmakers need to realize that they can?t be careless with how tax dollars are spent just because it?s not money from their own pockets. To begin with, legislators need to take a pay cut. We also need to limit travel and reimbursable expenses and cut back on state owned cars for employees. Illinois must also pay down our bills so we aren?t unnecessarily spending millions of dollars in interest. Each state agency should also look to cut back on expenses that don?t directly help those in need. While these savings alone won?t be able to pay down our debt, it will help develop a way of thinking that over the long term will result in Illinois achieving fiscal stability. Illinois can only lose its moniker as a ?deadbeat state? if it pays its bills in a timely fashion and honors the commitments it makes. We can only do that if we change the way we budget, alter the way we use our tax dollars and stabilize our state?s fiscal state. I am open to additional gaming in Illinois. I would have to see the specifics of a gaming bill before committing to support it. However, I see merit to previous bills that have called for slots at the race tracks and additional casinos, especially those that would cater to Illinois residents traveling to Indiana or Wisconsin or one in Chicago that would serve the tourism and convention industries. With any bill that is considered, I would like to see safeguards in place to ensure any new gaming sites are free of crime.

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?

To start, we need to transform Illinois from being a punch line on late night television to being the model for change and prosperity. Our last two governors are currently in jail and our economic situation is often ranked as one of the worst in the country. No business wants to invest dollars in a state that is so volatile. Illinois needs to bring stability to our government and responsibility to our fiscal house. We also need to identify, focus on and accentuate our strengths as a state. Illinois has a strong higher education system that has the ability to graduate highly educated students ready to take on the challenges facing the 21st century workforce. We are the crossroads for interstate transport. For example, my district is in close proximity to four interstates, O?Hare airport and numerous rail lines. These are very valuable for any business looking to move goods to consumers, whether within the country or overseas. We need to do a better job of marketing our state as a transportation hub, and that is done in part by investing in infrastructure. Illinois also needs to stop taxing its residents and businesses to the point that many are choosing to move to states with a lesser tax burden. Rising property taxes and the recent income tax increase are causing many within the workforce to leave the state, making Illinois less attractive to businesses. This especially hurts Illinois? potential to serve in the forefront of the growing market for 21st century jobs in the green industry. The business community faces deeply rooted problems. Companies that already call Illinois home are hesitant to invest in new facilities or expand their workforce because of increased taxes, numerous fees, bureaucratic red tape, and uncertainty in what the state?s economic climate will look like three months from now, let alone three years from now. The same holds true of any company considering relocating to Illinois. Sadly, the state?s positive attributes are continually overshadowed by the immense problems the business community faces. I have serious concerns about the state granting tax breaks and financial incentives to companies under the premise they will keep their workforce in the state and expand operations, only to see news reports that those same companies are moving jobs out of state or posting large profits. I would prefer to see Illinois focus on small and medium sized businesses that don?t have the clout of the national corporations, but play an integral role in job creation. If we are going to provide tax breaks to companies, let?s consider the local businesses rooted in our communities that aren?t going to take from us only to immediately look for a better deal elsewhere. Let?s invest in those companies that want to grow and expand in our state, hire our workers and call Illinois home for years to come.

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 am in favor of limiting how much money party leaders can give to a candidate during an election. Illinois took the initial steps toward campaign finance reform a couple of years ago with the imposition of contribution caps on political parties for a primary election. There is still work to be done. In addition to limits on party leaders, we need to remove the influence of special interest groups and Super PACs. Currently, a Super PAC in Illinois can spend unlimited amounts of money to defeat someone running for office. The influence of money on elections, politics, and the decisions being made on behalf of Illinois citizens needs to be curbed, whether that influence is by a party leader or a third-party Super PAC. I also believe a shortened election cycle, by moving the Primary Election in March closer to the General Election in November, would limit the role money plays in elections. Currently, there are over seven months between the two elections. Instead of catering to special interests, elected officials and those running for office need to go back to talking about the issues and how they would tackle the problems facing our state. Removing the influence of campaign contributions is pivotal to getting to this point. Currently, my focus is talking to voters, understanding their concerns and telling them why I am running for State Representative. If successful on Election Day, I?ll begin the transition to the duties and responsibilities of serving as State Representative.

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 believe no one should be discriminated against due to their sexual orientation, just as no one should be discriminated against based on their race or gender. That is why I believe that same-sex couples should be granted the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, which are especially important for financial benefits and medical decisions. I have serious concerns about the General Assembly voting on bills during the lame duck session. The voters make a choice on Election Day. Until those that are elected are sworn in to office, I would hope that the only issues lame duck legislators consider are those that were started before the election or emergency measures. I believe the issue of when life begins is something for each person to decide. I don?t support concealed carry. The death penalty should only be an option for those who are guilty without a doubt for horrific murders, and I think many would agree that high profile murderers should be eligible for the death penalty. On the other hand, we need to be extremely careful. If someone is put on death row, we must make absolutely sure that they are guilty. It wasn?t that long ago that over a dozen people on death row were exonerated. We don?t want to ever have someone put to death who is later discovered to be innocent.

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