Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant: Candidate Profile
49th District Senate (Democrat)
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: 49th District Senate
Family: Married, two children
Occupation: Regional Superintendent of Schools, former Teacher and Principal
Education: Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Science, Illinois State University Master?s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction, University of St. Francis. Doctorate in Education, Loyola University
Civic involvement: Will County Center for Economic Development, Joliet Chamber of Commerce & Industry Education Committee, Wilco Area Career Center, Troy Educational Foundation Board, Community Services Council, Parishioner and former Parish Council President at St. Paul the Apostle Church
Elected offices held: Regional Superintendent of Schools, 2006-present
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
Enacting sound budgeting and fiscal policy to close Illinois' budget hole.
Key Issue 2
Encouraging job growth, starting with streamlined regulations, and education and training programs to keep workers in my district competitive and attract employers.
Key Issue 3
Education, and support for quality schools in the district.
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?
The state needs to keep the promise it made to the hard working men and women who signed up to serve with an understanding of a certain expected benefit. It is clear that the State pension systems need reform for the future in order to remain solvent. The first step is to maintain our commitment to meeting the funding obligations from the state. We cannot continue to make a bad situation worse by simply skipping or lowering are required payments. One of the important lessons from the recent Medicaid reform package is that we can, in fact, find a balanced solution to our biggest issues. We need to find an approach that does not disproportionately harm one side over another. I do not believe school districts can absorb an increased share of teachers? retirement at this time without asking for unacceptable increases in local property taxes. The legislature must work together with the other stakeholders to find a real solution for the problem, instead of engaging in political posturing and obstructionism that only delays a real solution. Opening real dialogue between legislators and with other groups instead of pointing fingers in the press is the only way the state can find a real compromise that closes our pension gap.
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?
Many of the state?s questionable spending tends to happen when decisions are made behind closed doors rather than in full public view. One way to root out the waste in the state?s budget is to implement a completely transparent budget process with as much sunshine as possible. I believe that there is much to be done in the way of reducing or eliminating redundant and unnecessary administrative functions. Just as I have done as Regional Superintendent in every budget since taking office, the state needs to examine each and every function and evaluate it against the services that we are expected to provide. In my Office, we have dealt with reduced budgets by eliminating vacancies and combining functions?all while maintaining levels of service to schools, teachers, administrators, and parents of Will County. The State also needs to look at areas of service that are being administered by numerous agencies. Where there is duplication of effort, we need to find the most efficient way of delivering services. Illinois needs to do be able to do more with the limited resources we find ourselves with. Areas of public transportation (IDOT, THA), mass transit are two areas that should look to consolidate effort. Areas of childcare and juvenile services, though much more nuanced, hold a high potential for increased efficiency. Of course, finding a solution to our State?s ongoing pension problem is the first step to ensure the financial health of Illinois. It would be impossible to find enough cuts in the state?s operating budget to offset the growth in contributions to the state?s pension system. After years of mismanagement, skipped payments, and missed opportunities, the state now finds itself with one of the worst funded public pension systems in the country. The state must take care of its spending problems and meet its obligations to the pensions, and should not attempt to use gambling as a way to prop up the unsound budgeting practices that created the budget deficit.
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?
There are companies in the area that have taken advantage of various favorable tax initiatives that have created jobs and set the stage for positive economic development. In Will County, we have seen evidence that such initiatives can work. However, the state cannot become over-reliant on these types of initiatives. The state should look for ways to level the playing field so that more businesses, not just the targeted few, can take advantage. Furthermore, incentives such as the ones mentioned in the question often benefit large companies and corporations. And, while we need to create jobs anywhere we can, we should do more?much more?to help the small businesses that employ a much higher percentage of our workforce. There are a number of ways that the state, through limited involvement, can offer assistance to small businesses that need it. One is access to capital. For entrepreneurs that want to start or for owners that want to grow, the state should look at ways to use its leverage to encourage or incentivize banks to provide loans with favorable terms for the expressed purpose of providing more loans. The state should also reform and streamline the regulatory environment and process. There is no doubt that there are necessary, common sense guidelines and regulations in place. To say that the state should rid itself of all regulation and rules would not add value to a very important conversation that needs to lead to real action if we are to move Illinois forward. However, there are ways that we can ease the burden of over-regulation on our small businesses by taking a close examination to determine which regulations are still necessary. For those regulations that continue in place, we need to make sure that the process becomes as succinct and efficient as possible. A quality education is key to any successful job environment. In area that is growing, like the communities of the 49th State Senate District, the economy has become extremely diverse?which has brought in employers that are looking for a variety of different skill sets. We need to make sure that individuals, especially our younger population, are equipped with the tools and skill necessary to prepare them for a changing and demanding workforce.
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.
I believe in an open and fair election process. The way campaign finance in Illinois is currently set up, there is a consolidation of power in the four legislative leaders. I would support measures to level the playing field so that leaders, corporations, individuals, and PACs are able to play by the same set of rules. In general, I believe that the increasing necessity of money in politics can erode public confidence in the political process, and support reasonable contribution limits to help limit its role.
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 would vote for a bill which ended Illinois? status as the only state without concealed carry, and believe strongly in the importance of Second Amendment rights. I oppose bills which seek to redefine life in order to subvert existing laws regarding choice, and believe the Roe v. Wade decision firmly establishes the right to choose. I support the rights of all individuals to care for their loved ones during critical moments in their lives, but also believe that legislators who use the lame-duck session to vote against their constituents ignore their duty to the voters?when elected, I will always vote with the interest of my district, and I cannot condone legislators who forget this obligation when they decide to retire.