In the race to represent the 25th District of the Illinois State Senate, three Republicans face each other while two Democrats pair off. The winners of their respective primary elections on Tuesday, March 20, will face each other in the general election this fall.
Corinne M. Pierog
Corinne Pierog’s background in education, as well as the private sector, has made it clear to her that supporting innovation and education for the workers of today and tomorrow is the way Illinois can turn around its fiscal woes.
Pierog holds two graduate degrees—a Masters of Arts and an MBA.
“Both have given me the necessary training and skills that are vital for developing solid solutions to the myriad of challenges facing Illinois,” Pierog said. “An in-depth knowledge of governmental budgeting, financial forecasting, program assessments, and budget oversight are vital and critical components of good governance.”
Further, her current service on the St. Charles School Board, combined with her experience as a small-business owner, have given her the experience of seeing what the struggling economy has done to Illinois residents, as well as given her ideas of how to help turn the economy around.
“Since 2007, thousands of Illinois’ families have suffered through the debilitating effects of unemployment,” Pierog said. “It is our duty to create both long- and short-term solutions that realistically address the underlying issues of unemployment.”
She explained that a major factor in the loss of Illinois jobs is the decline in the manufacturing sector.
“One of the sources for this decline is our lack of technological preparedness,” she said. “As manufacturers look towards multifaceted technical approaches for cost-saving efficiencies, the average factory worker lacks the skills and training to understand and operate these new technologies.”
She said the state needs to encourage job training opportunities to insure that the state’s workforce is skilled in the latest technological applications and other areas of needs.
Illinois has to start talking about manufacturing as our future, not just something of the past,” Pierog said.
The need for further educational investment extends beyond the manufacturing sector, however. Pierog said that the educational bar continues to rise in the overall job market.
“While a high school education is one of the primary indicators for ending the cycle of poverty, by 2014 most jobs will require at least some post-secondary education. Education funding can either support our families, or slam the door on their economic future,” she said.
Pierog expressed concern with some recommendations for additional state budget cuts to social service agencies. She said that state funding for social service programs are among the lowest in the nation. Rather than focus on cuts that would cause more harm than good, Pierog said the state could budget more effectively and focus on job growth as a two-part plan to help turn the state around.
“I will promote policies that encourage job growth for the people of the 25th District and throughout Illinois,” Pierog said. “We need policies that rid the despondency of our communities. We need to secure a more stable economic future.”
Steven L. Hunter
As a regular citizen of Illinois, Steven Hunter said he decided to run for office because he felt under-represented in Springfield.
“I believe that the government caters to PAC’S and Super PAC’s instead of the people they are supposed to be representing and protecting,” Hunter said.
Additionally, he has seen a lack of progress and in many ways, a regression in the state.
“I look around and see underfunded schools, failing infrastructure and an economic crisis, and I am not comfortable with this,” Hunter said. “I feel it is important for all the people in this state to redevelop the sense of pride in our schools and our state that we once had. I am hoping to do just that.”
He said education and how it is funded is his top priority. He would prefer to see pension funds and 529 college savings plans invested in municipal bond programs that would allow school districts and local governments refinance high-interest construction bonds.
“Reducing the debt load, we will free up capital that can be used for financing the system of public education,” Hunter said. “This would also provide a guaranteed source of fixed rate income to the pension funds.”
Also considered a vital aspect of revitalizing the state is to place a real focus on improving infrastructure as a means to increase job creation.
“Infrastructure improvement will also play a key role in creating jobs and increasing efficiency of small businesses,” Hunter said.
He said that upgrading railroads, bridges, highways and other failing state infrastructure will increase ease in transportation and will make for better business. Paying for the upgrades could be accomplished or aided through the use of various federal grant programs.
While the infrastructure needs are state-wide, he said he does have a local project that he would like to see included in this list of upgrades.
“Specifically in our district, I would like to see the Metra line pushed out from Elburn to DeKalb,” Hunter said. “The purpose of this is to provide an innovative triangle including the students and research professors at Northern Illinois University, Fermilab, and DuPage National Technology Park. This will help to develop the currently stagnant and underutilized Technology Park.”
While that activity works toward rebuilding our state’s educational systems as well as its infrastructure, he said Springfield must also focus its attention on its finances.
“We need to put a moratorium on any new spending and divert all possible new revenue sources towards paying our existing bills,” Hunter said. “It is important that we work with Governor Quinn to take responsibility for our debts.”
The problems are many and steep, but that does not mean they are insurmountable, unless people stop being willing to communicate effectively.
“It is impossible to achieve what needs to be accomplished with bickering and infighting,” he said. “It is time to listen and know the concerns of our citizens.”
Dave Richmond intends to bring his fiscal conservatism from his current role as Blackberry Township Supervisor to Springfield.
“When I ran for Supervisor, I made one promise—to be fiscally conservative with taxpayer’s money—and I have delivered on my promise,” he said.
He points to two facts from his three years managing the township: 1) the current fiscal health of the township, namely, the facts that Blackberry Township has a balanced budget, no debt, and cash on hand. 2) Blackberry Township has lowered its property tax levy from the maximum for all three years of his tenure.
“That means when residents pay their property taxes, we have kept a few more dollars in their pocket,” Richmond said.
Richmond said the focus he has had on ensuring fiscal solvency in Blackberry Township would continue if he is sent to Springfield to represent the residents in the 25th District.
“Our state must live within its means and that means reforming the budget process,” he said. “The biggest problems we face in Illinois are a lack of efficiency and certainty, coupled with a lack of political will to make tough choices about our budget.”
Richmond cited a study that said the state of Illinois lost 800,000 residents between 1995 and 2009. He explained that the Illinois exodus has led to a net loss in income and talent.
“We have become a net departure state. We need to turn Illinois into a destination again,” Richmond said.
He would push to reduce taxes and reform regulations; this would allow current residents to keep more of their income, and would make it easier to establish or expand businesses.
On the state spending side, he said he would push to freeze spending to levels prior to former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s time in office. He would also place a higher focus on departmental efficiency in which each department would be required to justify their work while meeting higher standards for results. Programs that do too little to help should be cut, he said. Furthermore, Richmond said that state entitlement programs should be reformed, and added that he would push to see passage of SB-512, a pension reform bill for state employees.
Adding those components together—reduced tax pressure on residents, loosened regulations for businesses, significant spending cuts and entitlement reform—would reverse the trend in Illinois, leading to growth in residency and jobs, in Richmond’s view.
“I want jobs returned to my district and the state, I want honesty to be the watchword of the day, and I want people to be in control of their own money and destiny,” Richmond said.
Richard C. Slocum
Richard Slocum said he has heard an overwhelming message during his time traveling the 25th State Senate District—Illinois needs to stop its spend and tax mentality. If he has his way, he intends to stop it.
“My role will be to demand accountability and control of the spending and taxing that has been rampant in Springfield for years,” Slocum said.
Slocum has spent the past 16 years serving on the School Board of the West Aurora School District, the past four as the board president. That, combined with his professional experience as a small business owner, give him significant experience in confronting and solving problems.
“I have developed my skills over years of bringing people together to find common ground and agreement on problems that were very difficult,” he said.
Agreement on problems is something he says does not even exist in the state government.
“What I am not seeing in Springfield is the ability or even the intention to stop spending, reform Medicaid and pension benefits,” he said.
The first thing that must be done is that government spending must be reduced—at every level, Slocum said. The first area he would find a reduction would be in Medicaid. He suggests adjusting the current system into a more managed-care type of program. He would then focus on pension reforms. He said that public pensions need to move toward a system that features greater contributions by its participants, lesser benefits being paid out, and he would consider extending the retirement age. He also said pension plans should offer a defined contribution option that would be similar to a 401(k).
He would then turn his attention to taxes, and his prescription is to reduce them for both corporations and individuals. Further, he said that state tax policy needs to be more predictable for businesses of all size than it has been. That would enable businesses to know how their taxes will be calculated years into the future, which would aid them in their planning.
However, Slocum said it is not enough to merely come up with ideas of how to turn around Illinois’ budget problems. There also needs to be a broader effort to get others to see the problems and work toward finding the right solutions.
“Pressure must be placed on the legislature, all its members, and the executive branch so that they understand the voters will accept nothing less than the expenditures being controlled and the reforms I’ve suggested above being initiated immediately,” Slocum said. “I believe through my experience, both in my small business and 16 years on the West Aurora School Board, that I have the knowledge and expertise to make an impact on the budget disaster in Springfield.”
Jim Oberweis did not respond to repeated attempts to obtain information for this article.