Six local legislators offered their opinions about a variety of state issues during the Hoffman Estates Chamber of Commerce's annual legislative lunch Friday.
Concealed carry, pensions, campaign funding and other hot topics were briefly touched upon, but much of the 40-minute panel discussion -- which took place at the Alexian Brothers Women and Children's Hospital in Hoffman Estates -- was dedicated to state spending and how to help businesses stay and succeed in Illinois.
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State Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, said he would like to see more state-funded programs getting measured for their productivity.
"We still have areas within the state budget that aren't evaluated for performance. Believe it or not, we have $6 billion worth of grants that we dole out that I've been working for the past couple years to get legislation passed to make sure it's performance-based," he said. "We need to make sure that we're doing a better job of being stewards of taxpayers' dollars."
State Sen. Michael Noland, an Elgin Democrat, said he thought the state was not spending enough, particularly on training for jobs that are available statewide.
"We spend less on you, as citizens, than any other state in the nation," he said, adding that he supports a progressive income tax. "We have a $30 billion budget here in the state of Illinois ... but we have a $600 billion economy. That means for every dollar that flows through our economy that means we spend a nickel on government."
State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, said only in Illinois would a small-business owner seeking help be responded to with a suggestion of higher taxes.
"We don't need to raise taxes on anybody in this state," he said. "What we need to do is bring the cost of doing business down, which is taxes, it's regulation ... and then market the incredible advantages Illinois has over everybody else in this region."
State Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, said an example of spending that needs to be re-evaluated are two state colleges that have had a four-year graduation rate of 4 percent for the last 10 years.
"I think we do have a spending problem," he said. "I wouldn't even talk about progressive income tax rates and changes in tax structure until we address how we're spending right now."
State Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican, said he would encourage business owners to set up meetings at his office to discuss issues their legislators can help them with.
"We want to be responsive to you," he said. "If you want to bring a group of people or if you want to set up something closer to where you live or your businesses, I'm sure everyone up here would agree to that."
State Rep. Michelle Mussman, a Schaumburg Democrat, had similar sentiments, saying that she wants to meet with business owners one-on-one to talk about what their obstacles are.
"You need to talk about what it is that you're going to need, say, in the next five years. Where is your work going and how is the state able to help you get there?" she said. "We're not in your industry so we don't necessarily know what's impeding you ... we don't now what needs solving if you don't tell us."