Congressional candidate Bert Miller says everything, including possible defense spending cuts, must be considered when it comes to balancing the federal budget.
But Miller's three opponents in the March 18 Republican primary race to decide who takes on Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster insist the military budget shouldn't be cut.
All the candidates seeking the GOP nomination in the 11th Congressional District agree it's not sustainable for the federal government to continue spending more than it takes in.
"We need to come up with a balanced budget," said Miller, a Hinsdale resident who owns Naperville's Phoenix Closures.
To achieve that goal, Miller said he's willing to put "every single thing on the table," including the defense budget. "There are no sacred cows," he said.
Two other Republicans in the primary race -- Darlene Senger of Naperville and Chris Balkema of Channahon -- say defense spending is the one part of the budget that shouldn't be touched. The fourth candidate, Ian Bayne of Aurora, said the government should spend more on the military.
"Right now, the security of our country is, as it always has been, the number one priority," said Balkema, who is a Grundy County Board member.
He said last year's military funding cuts were "too far, too much."
"If we continue to cut there and let our debt pile up," Balkema said. "we have a huge problem that goes far beyond our four borders."
Balkema said the debt crisis can't be solved without overhauling entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
He said means testing should be done to determine whether someone is eligible for a program. To ensure the long-term viability of Social Security, he said changes could be made that would impact residents who are in their early 40s or younger.
"If I am in a certain capacity financially and I am 35 years old," Balkema said, "I absolutely do not need to be promised the same entitlements as if I'm 56 or 60 years old and retirement is very close to the horizon."
Miller said it would be terrible for the country to let Social Security continue on its current "death spiral."
"If you do lose Social Security, you've lost your number one social program in America," he said. "You've lost a social program people have spent their whole lives saving for and depending on."
Miller said he agrees with means testing and would review the retirement age.
"You are going to have to look at virtually everything," he said. "We owe it to our seniors to have meaningful money going to them to cover their retirements."
Senger declined to say what changes she would like to see to Social Security. But she agreed with Balkema that the cost of Medicaid could be reduced if officials solved problems with fraud.
"There's a lot of fraud that can be looked at," said Senger, who is a state representative.
Bayne said federal lawmakers should be forced to vote on every part of the budget. He said that would result in a debate over what programs should stay in the budget and what could be removed.
"You'll start to see the waste because it will come out," said Bayne, who is a private investigator.
Bayne said there's a great deal of wasteful spending by the federal government. If that problem is addressed, the budget could be balanced without touching Social Security, he said.
"You can keep Social Security as wasteful and ridiculous as possible and keep handing out money and maybe even take bags of money and throw them into the air," Bayne said.
The winner of the GOP primary will advance to the November election to challenge Foster.
The 11th Congressional District includes Naperville, Aurora, Woodridge, Lisle, Darien, Bolingbrook, North Aurora, Plainfield and Joliet.