Susan Sweeney: Candidate Profile
55th District Representative (Republican)
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.
City: Park Ridge
Office sought: 55th District Representative
Family: Three children - Kelly, Jake, and Brendan
Occupation: Former client manager at IBM also been employed as a substitute teacher
Education: B.S. from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Civic involvement: As a community activist for special needs children, Susan helped initiate the successful effort to bring special education support to parochial school children in Park Ridge. Susan has been involved in The Youth Campus women?s auxiliary and helped support charitable causes such as Rebuilding Together, Our Lady of the Angels, St. Joseph Carondelet, the HEAR Foundation, UNICEF, among others.
Elected offices held: none
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Repeal the 67% income tax increase.
Key Issue 2
Reform public pensions.
Key Issue 3
Real reform to ensure eligibility verification for Medicaid and welfare programs.
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?
While Illinois pension systems report a "discounted" unfunded liability of $85 billion, the truth is the system has promised over $600 billion in future benefits and has about $70 billion in assets to pay them. In recent years, Illinois has been forced to borrow in order to make its pension payments. Clearly, this is unsustainable. Raising taxes to support our ballooning pension payment is not an option. Springfield has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Illinoisans are tired of picking up the bill for politicians? mismanagement. I also would not support the ?cost shift? as proposed by Governor Quinn. This plan, if implemented without other cost control reform measures, does not solve the systemic problem. It merely passes the buck onto school districts. For example, the shift would cost Maine Township District 207 over $5.8 million and Des Plaines District 62 over $2.8 million. This ?solution? would do nothing to ease the burden on taxpayers. Instead, Illinois citizens would once again see their property taxes skyrocket, even as many continue to watch the value of their homes fall. In effect, we would put our homes up as collateral for an unsustainable system. Eventually, I could consider supporting a cost shift solution under which both the cost and design of the pension plans are negotiated locally. Responsible local government should consider the future impact of salary increases on future pension costs. Until then, state government is responsible for the massive unfunded liability and should therefore also be responsible for a solution. Local governments should not bear the burden of Springfield politicians? irresponsibility. Illinois needs to provide more affordable retirement compensation to its workers. To this end, I would support legislation which allows employees more affordable options, such as defined contribution or hybrid retirement plans to give them control over their future (including an option that would allow for personal savings accounts, taking their future out of the government?s hands). Meanwhile, we should be protecting benefits that have been promised and earned. I would also support reducing annual cost of living adjustments and increasing employee contribution requirements. Reform needs to happen as soon as possible. Every delay costs Illinois taxpayers millions and billions. No matter when it is proposed,reform should be guided by principles that ensure a comprehensive solution.
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?
Until a forensic audit is completed, we will not know how deeply we need to cut. However, in the mean time I would support the following 5 measures to reduce spending: 1. Pensions. As discussed earlier, we need to commit ourselves to reforming our pension system, which is on an unsustainable path. By 2017, pension costs will represent 21.6% of total General Funds expenditures. 2. Medicaid. While recent reforms are a step in the right direction, there is much work to be done. We must work to eliminate fraud within the system to ensure the truly needy are receiving the assistance they deserve. We should also reject expansion of our Medicaid rolls that would occur as a result of ObamaCare without our action. To this end, I would support a bill like HB 6197. 3. Retiree health care. I support the changes in SB1313 that require state employees to pay a portion of their health care premiums. 4. Welfare reform. We need to reexamine our eligibility requirements and the verification of those requirements for the LINK program. We also need to evaluate what we currently consider acceptable expenses under this program, prioritizing need-based goods over want-based goods. The goal is to reduce fraud, cost, and waste. I support drug testing for welfare recipients, requiring photo ID requirements, and disallowing the purchase of junk food. 5. State salaries. Across the private sector, employees have frozen salaries or even taken pay cuts to reflect economic realities. Public sector employees should do the same. It goes without saying that pay raises for state employees during times like these are unthinkable. Pay cuts should be equitably shouldered and furlough days extended. When elected, I will happily be the first to take a pay cut. I support allowing racetracks to have slots. However, I would not support the addition of any more casinos.
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?
Private enterprise does not need the government?s help creating jobs. Simply put, the free market needs government to stay out of the way. For decades, Illinois government has made itself an obstruction to private industry. We must work to improve the combative nature of our businesses? relationship with Illinois government. For far too long, career politicians in Illinois have stifled growth and innovation with burdensome regulations and punitive tax policies. What business DOES need from government is certainty and stability. In order to provide these conditions, Illinois needs to reduce and eventually eliminate its long-term debt. This will not happen unless we tackle the most pressing issues of: pension reform, complete Medicaid reform, and meaningful workers compensation reform. I support the provisions contained in SB 397 related to the net operating loss deduction and the research and development tax credit (with one caveat: the R&D tax credit needs to be extended indefinitely, rather than the temporary extension provided for in SB 397). These programs are critical for incentivizing innovation and for helping struggling businesses remain solvent - particularly in this difficult economy. All tax incentives proposed to keep a business from leaving Illinois should be examined on a case by case basis. The consequences of a firm?s threat to move out of state clearly need to be considered. Just as importantly, small businesses should not be ignored simply because they cannot afford high-priced lobbyists or make headlines by threatening to move out of the state. While specialized incentives to keep jobs in Illinois are at times necessary, we MUST work to improve our overall business climate to minimize the frequency of such situations. Putting an end to over-taxation and over-regulation will keep more businesses from fleeing to more pro-growth states than individual tax incentives ever could.
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 absolutely support REAL campaign finance reform that places limits on contributions from party leaders. Our current system is unfairly tilted toward legislative leaders and places too much power in too few hands. I have not committed to vote for any member of my caucus. My decision on this matter will depend on who is interested in becoming our Leader and who I believe will best guide our caucus and help us develop a meaningful legislative agenda.
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 support the civil union law and believe that it provides sufficient equal protection under the law for same sex couples. I am pro-life with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is in danger. I would support a license to carry law under certain reasonable conditions. I oppose the death penalty and would not advocate for its reinstatement.