Two Republicans, incumbent Jeanne Ives and challenger Adam Johnson, are seeking their party's nomination in the March 18 primary for the state's 42nd District House seat.
The winner will advance to the November general election where no Democrat has filed for the seat.
The district includes all or parts of Carol Stream, Lisle, Naperville, Warrenville, West Chicago, Winfield and Wheaton.
The Daily Herald recently asked the candidates several questions about their district. Some of their answers are provided here; for a look at all of them, visit dailyherald.com beginning in mid-February.
Q. Why are you running for this office?
Ives: I am running for a second term as state representative to continue to give taxpayers a voice in Springfield. They are the most underrepresented group in committee meetings and in legislative debates.
In my first term, I have been able to establish myself as a serious, policy-oriented representative. My legislation has been discussed in editorials and news articles around the state as solutions to some of the state's problems.
Illinois is not living up to its potential and has compromised the ability of business and individuals to prosper here. I want to continue to advocate for the policies that will turn this state around economically.
Johnson: My wife Kathy and I were both born and raised in this community, and now we're raising our own 2-year-old son here. We want him to enjoy a great childhood and great education just like we did, but the last few years have been a hard time to start a family in Illinois. The weak job market, rising health care costs, and a general sense of economic insecurity have taken their toll on us, just like they have for so many working families.
Meanwhile, we see elected representatives wasting their time pointing fingers and picking fights, rather than delivering solutions that put a little more money in our pockets and make it a little easier to get ahead. I'm running for state representative because I believe the families of this district deserve better.
Q. What differentiates you most from your opponents in the race?
Johnson: My opponent has not passed a single bill as primary sponsor since arriving in Springfield. Veteran statehouse reporter Rich Miller has called her "perhaps the least influential member of the Illinois House." Her divisive rhetoric and confrontational approach have not delivered results that benefit the hardworking families of this district.
I'm not looking to go down to Springfield to pick fights or get publicity. I'll be going down there to roll up my sleeves and get to work solving problems. The families of this community work hard every day to build a better life for themselves, and they deserve positive, unifying representation that seeks common ground solutions and delivers visible results.
Ives: I have the background to fully engage in the major policy debates facing Illinois. My analytical background, degree in economics, tax and accounting work, and time on Wheaton City Council give me the tools to understand and contribute to the conversations that will impact policy.
It also means I have the knowledge to lead on policy, something I have done already in my first term. My time in the military has helped shape my character and tested my courage, I have advocated for good policy choices regardless of often intense political pressures -- and will continue to do so.
Finally, as a mother of five, I understand well the concerns of families and the pressures they face financially; the precarious situation our children will inherit, growing up in a debt-ridden state; and that education of our children will make or break this state in the future.
Q. Would you vote to make Illinois' temporary income tax hike permanent before it expires in January 2015?
Ives: Illinois has taken in record amounts of revenue over the last two years. But, instead of using that new revenue to pay down back bills (approximately $7 billion), the state has added new spending and has had to increase pension payments. Those choices have made it very difficult to sunset the tax increase without creating a deficit.
Keeping the promise to taxpayers to sunset that increase means Illinois needs to decrease spending from $4 billion to $5 billion from our general revenue. The most prudent way to do this is to make structural reforms.
None of the choices are easy, but in a state with one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation, raising taxes in not an option, either. Stronger pension reform could shave off $700 million more, moving Medicaid to a premium support system for our most needy could save around $1 billion, and making retirees pay the average health insurance premium other state worker's pay in the nation could save an estimated $600 million.
More controversial is shifting spending back to local governments where there is more control and closer accountability by the taxpayers. The debate for spending is best done at the local level. Getting it back there will be laborious, but worth it in the end.
Any spending shift must give complete local control over the spending shifted, be phased in over time, and give taxpayers protections over excessive property tax increases. We can save money in education by moving on School Choice, redoing the school funding formula, and relieving local districts of unfunded mandates.
We must redesign every aspect of the budget, allow managers to manage and hold them accountable for their budgets.
I favor privatization of government services similar to the Medicaid Maximus contract. The redetermination of Medicaid eligibility will now cost taxpayers more since a lawsuit by the public sector unions caused that work to move back to public sector employees. This decision moves against the cost-saving initiatives we need in Illinois.
I will not vote to make the tax increase permanent as we must first make the tough choices on reforming government. In addition, it is important to note that Illinois spending has increased at three times the rate of population growth and inflation since 1990.
Johnson: I would not vote to extend the income tax increase. For hardworking families trying to get ahead, the difference between a 5 percent and 3 percent income tax has a real impact on their lives. It might mean the ability to buy your kids the presents they really want for their birthdays. It might mean being able to finally replace the family car that's on its last legs. It might mean the first family vacation in five years or the opportunity to go out for a "date night" with your spouse every month. Working families deserve to keep more of the money they earn, and I will be looking out for them in Springfield.
Our state's finances are never going to improve if we don't get the Illinois economy growing again; otherwise we're just fighting over pieces of a shrinking pie. More money in regular people's pockets leads to more consumer spending, more business growth, more hiring, and more money in more people's pockets -- all of which leads to long-term growth of Illinois income tax revenue.
In the short term, we need to stop the massive yearly increases in state spending. Families have had to tighten their belts and live within their means in this economy; it's time the Illinois government did the same.
On the revenue side, I would look toward expanding gaming, a source of voluntarily contributed revenues, unlike income and property taxes. I would also work to eliminate tax giveaways and loopholes that benefit the well-connected at the expense of hardworking families.
Q. Please outline your views on public pensions in Illinois.
Johnson: I believe that the failure of Illinois politicians to adequately fund the pension promises they made was irresponsible and inexcusable. The consequences of that mismanagement are now being felt by employees that did their jobs for years and planned their retirements around promises that are now in doubt. Meanwhile, the younger generation has inherited the tab for large unfunded liabilities along with a broken economy as we try to start families and careers of our own.
The recently passed pension reform bill attempted to move the ball forward on this problem, but I remain unconvinced that it is consistent with the Illinois Constitution. The upcoming court rulings on this law will set the parameters for the types of reforms that can be made to pension programs going forward.
Once we know those constitutional parameters, it is important that Republicans also recognize the parameters of political reality in a state with sizable Democratic majorities in both houses. Insisting on policies that have no chance of actually being implemented is not "changing the conversation." It's taking yourself out of the conversation.
I am committed to playing a constructive role in repairing the state's retirement system rather than standing on the sideline pointing fingers.
Ives: The pension reform bill signed into law in December does not solve the problem. In fact, that bill is an immature response to the $100 billion problem that is weighing this state down economically.
Legislators voted for marginal reforms that put retiree pensions in jeopardy, are unaffordable for taxpayers, and erode our ability to balance budgets fairly.
I voted for the original version of SB1 pension reform as a first step to further reform. This revised bill, though, is not a first step and asks taxpayers to fund generous pensions for government workers still retiring before the age of 60 while asking employees to contribute less to their retirement.
Rhode Island faced its pension problem head on and made substantial reforms. Illinois, with the worst funded pension systems in the nation, must do the same. To say this is the best Illinois can do is the worst of political statements on this issue and a disservice to taxpayers.
Not only did I vote with others to pass the original pension bill as a first step, I, along with Rep. Tom Morrison, filed a pension reform bill that immediately moves all current and future employees to a 401K-style plan while giving them the defined benefits they earned to date at retirement as well. We need to modernize our retirement system to align with private sector retirement plans. These plans are more evenhanded, giving consideration to taxpayers; provide employees control over their retirement; and still provide generous retirement income to government employees.
Q. What changes would you make to the state's new concealed carry law, if any?
Ives: I co-sponsored the concealed carry legislation that was passed with a large bipartisan majority. This legislation was a compromise whose various parts have been in discussion for a decade.
I believe most of the bill is fair to all interests, but I have concerns about the practicality of some of the requirements.
For example, this bill requires unloading of the firearm before entering mass transit and separating the magazine from the weapon and storing them apart from each other. This may sound reasonable to most people until one realizes that the handling of a weapon while loading and unloading can be more dangerous than keeping it holstered.
I am open to further discussion on the signage requirements for no carry zones and informing police officers at traffic stops that you are carrying. I believe mental health reporting requirements should go straight to the Illinois State Police and not through the Department of Human Services.
Illinois requires more training for a CCW permit than any other state. However, course content requirements are more important than time requirements, so I may have recommendations on the training after going through it myself, which I intend to do.
The question on assault weapons and high capacity magazines cannot take place without both those terms being defined first. But, as a point of reference, a NYPD report showed it took trained officers over 17 rounds to stop an attacker.
Johnson: I support the Second Amendment right of citizens to bear firearms to protect themselves. Concealed carry is brand new to Illinois, and it still has not been fully implemented. We need to take some time to observe its effects in practice before contemplating potential changes to concealed carry or other Illinois gun laws.
Q. What is your view of the tax breaks granted to companies like Motorola Mobility, Navistar and Sears, and should state tax breaks be given to companies moving from one Illinois municipality to another?
Johnson: I do not believe there should be a different set of rules for the powerful and well-connected than there are for regular people and small businesses. I am in favor of simplifying and overhauling the tax code to create a jobs-friendly business climate in Illinois, but I do not believe in handing out special tax breaks to favored companies.
Our state has enough inherent competitive advantages that Illinois does not need to bribe companies to locate here. We simply need to get out of our own way and stop enacting business-unfriendly policies that drive them away.
Ives: I voted against EDGE credit tax breaks for specific companies. It encourages rent-seeking behavior and is inherently unfair to the 1.1 million small business owners in Illinois and the individual taxpayers.
In the absence of major tax reform and in an effort to level the playing field until tax reform is addressed, I filed amendments to the bills seeking favored tax credits for certain companies that would offer those tax credits to all companies that qualify. I am working with a group of lawyers to write a separate bill that gives these credits to all companies that qualify.
I am in favor of major tax reform for our state that lowers rates, reduces or eliminates special credits, and helps lower the reliance of property taxes to fund local government.