65th House candidates address state's financial woes
There's no disagreement among the Republicans running for the 65th District state house seat about extending the temporary income tax increase of 2011.
Absolutely not, said Steven Andersson, Daniel Ugaste and Debbie Miller.
But without that money, the state would face an even bigger gap between what it owes, what it plans to spend, and how much money it takes in. How would they fill the void and move the state toward a balanced budget?
During a Wednesday candidate endorsement interview, Miller said the best way to fix the revenue gap is by encouraging businesses to open. That can be done by reducing regulations and lowering license fees, she said, and offering other incentives for companies that would bring "a lot of jobs" with "living wages." Improving education would also help, making the state's workforce more attractive to employers, she said. More people working translates to more people paying taxes, Miller said. She also called for adopting a balanced budget and cited bringing jobs to Illinois as her top priority.
Andersson said he would work to repeal the tax increase, which is due to expire in January 2015. And rather than looking for replacement money, he would try to find ways to spend less money "so we live within our fiscal constraints." To do so, the state should have a forensic audit of its finances and bring in experts, including economists, to review its programs for cost and quality. Even with that, he said, the state would probably have to cut good programs along with the "fat" high-cost, low-results programs.
He said he didn't have any specific programs in mind but would set priorities for cuts and reallocations, and No. 1 on that list would be education.
"You invest in education, you solve so many ills," Andersson said.
Ugaste said he would address the gap by working for further reductions in the cost of public pensions. He also proposed more Medicaid reforms and suggested reducing state support of Chicago's public schools. "Chicago receives an inordinate amount of school money. Chicago needs to step up and finance" its schools, he said.
Ugaste also thinks money could be found by using "suspicion-based" drug testing of people who receive public assistance. Those who test positive for drugs would have to agree to undergo treatment to continue receiving the aid. Substance abuse, Ugaste said, "detracts from being a productive member of society," including the ability to work. Reforming worker-compensation laws would encourage job growth, he said.
Andersson also cited double-dipping on public pensions, where a person who has had two public jobs collects pensions from one or more of the pension systems, as a drain on state finances that he would like to eliminate. Ugaste agreed, but he would favor allowing workers to transfer credit from one system to another if they take a job after retiring from another.
Andersson, 49, is an attorney specializing in municipal law. He lives in Geneva, where he serves on the Geneva Public Library board.
Miller, 59, of Elgin, owns a life-counseling business.
Ugaste, 50, of Geneva, is an attorney representing businesses' interests on workers' compensation issues.
Current State Rep. Tim Schmitz is not seeking re-election.
Nobody filed for the Democratic nomination. June 2 is the deadline for the party's managing committee to slate a candidate.