The two hopefuls vying for the 28th Senate District seat in November agree creating jobs will require reforming the way Illinois does business, but they differ on just how that can be accomplished.
Republican political newcomer Jim O'Donnell and state Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Democrat representing the 33rd Senate District, go head-to-head on Nov. 6.
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The newly drawn 28th District runs from Roselle east through Schaumburg, Elk Grove Village, Des Plaines, Rosemont and Park Ridge.
O'Donnell, 61, a Park Ridge businessman, said lawmakers need to create a positive business climate for job growth to occur. He said corruption, high taxes, unfavorable workers' compensation costs, unemployment compensation and tort laws are driving businesses away.
"Our tax base is eroding. We're losing our wealth. We're losing our talent," O'Donnell said. "Successful businesses that are in a stable environment, they hire people."
Fixing the state's budget woes is a big part of addressing the problem, he added.
"We can't tax our way out of the mess. We can't totally cut our way out of the mess. So we do have to grow our way out of the mess," said O'Donnell, acknowledging growing jobs will take time.
Kotowski, also of Park Ridge, said the state needs to invest in startup technology companies and recruit workers to fill the 80,000 manufacturing jobs currently available. He touted his own efforts toward facilitating four job fairs for employers hiring in the areas of manufacturing, retail, health care, finance, and sales.
"It's very exciting but it's also very overwhelming because you see the number of people who are looking for work," Kotowski said. "The most important thing is getting people back to work, but also understanding that when you tackle business as usual, when you fight corruption, when you improve accountability in government, you can fix what's wrong with Illinois and you can make sure that our economy is jump-started."
O'Donnell said he is not in favor of tax incentives for select businesses -- something Kotowski voted to extend -- but rather supports lower taxes for all businesses.
Kotowski criticized O'Donnell because his own company, Camcraft Inc., benefitted from state tax credits.
"He got a $1.7 million tax break from the Blagojevich administration," Kotowski said. "You can't have it both ways. The fact is either you're against them or you are in favor of them."
O'Donnell said his company took advantage of the state program and would rather not have taken the credit, "if we could have lower taxes and meaningful tort reform."
His company invested $5 million, retained its existing workforce and added 25 new jobs to receive the incentive, he added.
Kotowski said the business incentive programs work, if handled responsibly.
"We've got to attach greater performance standards to this" because some businesses may get the credit and not deliver, he said. "We need to provide more accountability. If we're going to require every single area of government to be measured by performance, we need to place increased performance standards on the creation of jobs attached to these incentives."
O'Donnell said his top campaign issue is repealing the 2011 state income tax increase backed by Democrats, while Kotowski supports letting it sunset over time.
"The 67 percent individual income tax increase hit small businesses right between the eyes," O'Donnell said. "That's how we destroy jobs by raising taxes."