Small business owner / State Senator, Self employed
On the Record
Do you support a plan to shift responsibility for teacher pensions from the state to local school districts? What is your plan for pension reform?
We need fundamental reform of our pension system and we should show leadership by starting with the legislative pensions (for elected representatives and senators) by eliminating double dipping, capping pension payments, reducing the annual cost of living adjustments (COLA’s), and increasing the retirement age. Once the legislators have reformed themselves, they would have more strength to ask other groups to participate in reform. It is unfair to shift pension costs to suburban school districts. The legislature created the pension crisis by failing to meet its funding obligations. Shifting pension cost to suburban school districts will burden homeowners already paying exorbitant property taxes. However, if a local school district chooses to increase benefits for its employees above what the state mandates - and if they purposely manipulate the pension system (i.e. salary sweeteners / bumps shortly before retirement) - then it seems appropriate for them to cover the increased costs. As the minority spokesperson for the Senate Pension & Investments Committee, I have been a very vocal advocate fighting for fair and constitutionally accurate pension reforms since the day I took office.
Should part-time state legislators, state representatives and senators, receive pensions? Explain.
Public service should be exactly that: service – not a career. Ideally, legislators should lead by example and change their pension system to a 401K type system (which is what most tax payers receive) and reduce benefits for existing pension recipients as I outlined in previous pension question. Further, the retirement age should be the same as social security.
What do you think about the Medicaid reform package passed by the General Assembly in May?
There were some actual reforms in the Medicaid bills. Senate bill 770 targeted the states use of “presumptive eligibility” in re-determining eligibility for Medicaid applicants who were automatically assumed to be eligible without proper verification. Senate bill 2840 reduces Medicaid liabilities by more than $1.6 billion and is a major component of the Medicaid reform package that is anticipated to reduce overall liabilities by $2.7 billion in FY13. These reductions reflect reforms that Senate GOP lawmakers have advocated for many years. In 2011 I, along with others, introduced the Reality Check fiscal reform plan, which included many of the spending reductions contained in SB 2840. These reforms targeted eligibility verification, utilization controls, optional services, and rate adjustments, among other changes. Senate bill 3397 essentially cuts up the Governor’s Medicaid “credit card” by changing the “Section 25” provision in state law. Section 25 has allowed our Governors to purchase Medicaid services in one fiscal year, but push off the payments until the following year. Starting this year, the state can no longer roll over more than $700 million in Medicaid bills. The following year and subsequent years thereafter, the state’s credit limit will be held to $100 million. The Illinois Constitution requires a balanced budget each year. Section 25 is nothing more than an accounting gimmick to circumvent the constitution. The General Assembly now must do the hard work by staying vigilant and make sure Springfield leadership actually implements these reforms.
Should the General Assembly repeal the massive income tax increase approved in January 2011? Explain.
YES! I am the co-sponsor of a bill to repeal it. We must be competitive with the surrounding states and the rest of the world. We need more tax payers - not higher taxes. Higher taxes will not improve economic growth in Illinois. Without economic growth, we will continue on a downward spiral while other states are implementing the essential changes needed to compete in a world economy. Illinois can balance its budget without tax increases if the legislative leaders and the governor make the hard choices needed. The solution is to improve the efficiency of the government, reduce the pension liability and roll back the tax increase.
What kinds of gambling expansion or contraction do you support?
I do not support expansion of gambling in the State of Illinois. Gambling is an unstable, unreliable revenue source. Casinos on every corner will not solve our budget problems and would have a negative impact on the quality of life for our families.
Outside of jobs and taxes, what are the one or two top issues in your district, and what will you do in Springfield to address those issues?
Exposing Corruption Four of the last seven governors from Illinois have gone to jail. But the corruption doesn’t stop there. Public corruption in Cook County and the City of Chicago is legendary. We have become a punch line for late night comedians. It’s embarrassing and shameful. A small business owner never knows when he/she is going to be shaken down for a new business regulation “expense / tax” – or how much it will cost. When it happens there is no place for them to go to report the corruption because the whole system is corrupt. Uncertainty will strangle even the most stable business plans and impede job growth. Corruption occurs regularly in our state yet how many cases of public corruption have the Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, prosecuted? Is it now completely the responsibility of the Federal government to prosecute corruption in Illinois? Imagine if our local judicial system was also properly pursuing corruption. As a State Senator I have been vigilant in shining a light on the cozy relationship between the Governor’s campaign contributors and the appointments they receive to high paying state boards and commissions.
Grade Gov. Pat Quinn’s job performance. What has he done well? Where has he failed?
I would give him an “F”. Governor Quinn has been effective at achieving his agenda of higher taxes and more spending but he has failed miserably in job creation. Our unemployment rate is higher than the national average. There is no reason for our state to be lagging behind the rest of the country. We have world class universities, the richest farm land in the world, a diverse economy and a transportation hub. The hardest working people in the United States live in Illinois. It is not an accident that the states surrounding Illinois have unemployment rates lower than the national average (Indiana – 8.2%; Wisconsin – 7.3% and Iowa – 5.3%) while we continue to struggle with almost 600,000 people out of work. Those states have something we don’t: good government.
Other Local Races
Kathleen Bergan Schmidt
John Jung Jr.