suntimes
GRACIOUS
Weather Updates

Illinois Senate District 23, Democratic Primary

.

The questions

All candidates were invited to respond to questionnaires, although not all chose to participate. Click on a candidate's name to see the unedited response to each question.

Biographical information & experience
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen
Birthdate: 7/17/1964
Occupation: Marketing/Self
Marital status: engaged/domestic partner
Spouse: Lisa Favia

Education:

St. Ignatius College Prep
Northern Illinois University, major in Economics
Kellogg School of Management, professional development coursework

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Du Page PADS, Addison Township Democratic Organization, York Township Democratic Organization, St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church, Friendship House, Du Page County Democratic Central Committee, IVI-IPO, Northside DFA, DL21C, Illinois Democratic Women, Democratic Women of Du Page County, New Organizing Institute, OFA, Move-On, ACLU, Americans for Marriage Equality, Progressive Democrats of America, Metropolitan Planning Council, Chicago Area Public Affairs Group, Child Nutrition Foundation, School Nutrition Association, National Restaurant Association, Democracy for America, New Leaders Council, Personal PAC, Planned Parenthood, NOW, Chicago Battered Women's Network, Human Rights Campaign, Equality Illinois, Center for American Progress, Voices for Illinois Children, Advance Illinois, Common Cause, The Main Street Alliance

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

Addison Township Democratic Precinct Committeeman, DuPage County Democratic Executive Committee Member

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

NONE

Brownfield
Birthdate: 10/21/1960
Occupation: Attorney / Self
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Debbie Brownfield

Education:

I got my union card at age 18 and worked in a grocery warehouse for many years. But as the 80s progressed, I became increasingly concerned about the decline of blue-collar wages and I burned the candle at both ends in order to get my college degree. I studied diverse subjects including religion, ethics, and political theory and graduated with a BA in Philosophy from California State University, Long Beach. In 1994, I left California to attend the University of Kansas School of Law. I was on the Law Review and received highest honors for my work in Business Law and Workers Compensation. During law school, I interned in the Kansas Legislature and made that year's ethics reform the subject of my research and writing. I received my Juris Doctorate degree in 1996.

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Most of my civic involvement has been church-based, including active/leadership roles with my local church and within my church's regional governing body. I also served on the board for a 501c3 related to this work. Between the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, I worked on the effort to establish the Illinois Minorities Political Action Committee (IMPAC). Finally, I am a steering committee member for Hanover Township (Cook County) Democrats and Independents. (HanDI).

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

No. But I ran for State Representative in 2010.

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

None.

Cullerton
Birthdate: 9/20/1969
Occupation: Route Sales Representative/Interstate Brands
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Stacey

Education:

Loyola Academy
Oakton Community College-attended
University of Kansas-attended
US Army

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Member-
American Legion
Knights of Columbus
DuPage Mayors and Managers
Metropolitan Mayors Caucus
Villa Park Youth Baseball
Neighborhood Watch Captain
CERT- Citizens Emergency Response Team
Teamster Local 734

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

Village Trustee- Villa Park 2005-2009 elected
Village President-Villa Park 2009-2013 elected
DuPage Water Commission -2010-2016-elected by other Mayors of DuPage Dist 2

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

No immediate family, however my 3rd cousin John Cullerton is a State Senator another 3rd cousin is Tim Cullerton 38th Ward Alderman-Chicago

Campaign information
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

Campaign headquarters: 1062 Jamey Ln. Addison, IL 60101
Website: allenforillinois.com
Campaign manager: John Douglas Davila
Campaign budget: $40,000 - primary
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
Committee in formation

Brownfield

Campaign headquarters: P.O. Box 8244, Bartlett, IL 60103
Website: www.gregbrownfield.org
Campaign manager: Laurel Bault
Campaign budget: Primary Budget - $17K
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
Individual Local Supporters and Friends: $7450
Family: $1050
Local Labor: $950

Cullerton

Campaign headquarters: 126 N Charles Ave. Villa Park, IL 60181
Website: www.tomcullertonforsenate.com
Campaign manager:
Campaign budget: $10-15000.
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
Jean and Tony Ferrone- Mom and Stepfather $1000
Tony Raggucci- Mayor Oakbrook Terrace $500
Gerald and Joan Strom- Aunt and Uncle $1000
Tom and Lynn Trost-$1000 - kids go to school together
Bill and Jean Arnos-$500 In-Laws

What are your top priorities for your district?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

My first responsibility is ensuring that the needs of all of the 217,000 people who live here are properly and honestly represented in the Senate chamber. I also will be responsible for making sure that the communities within the district are receiving all of the funding available from the state. This includes the state's constitutional obligation to our schools. To ensure that, I will need to dedicate myself to doing everything possible within my legislative role to addressing our state's multifaceted financial problems. Without establishing a better base with more security, and building an environment that is good for attracting new business investment and the jobs that come along with it, there will not be funding available for even our basic needs. The Governor's budget outlook for the next few years is only the tip of the iceberg. Everyone in the General Assembly - everyone - needs to be ready to discard the “business as usual” approach if we are going to be able to do any of the heavy lifting we must do in the next three years to get this state back on track.

Brownfield

Establishing a top-notch constituent service program.
My service as a legal aid attorney was primarily geared toward counseling low-income clients about their legal problems and directing them to resources. Serving as a State Senator would allow me to use these skills to harness and enhance the resources within the district.
Encouraging greater participation in decisions about important matters.
One of the things that deeply concerns me about our State government is the absence of broad participation in important decisions. On any given issue, lawmakers get input from lobbyists and, perhaps, a couple of dozen people who make the effort to place a phone call or send an e-mail. In some cases, lawmakers hold town hall meetings, but I question the effectiveness of this a means for thoughtful debate about policy choices. I don't have a clear-cut idea about this yet but I have been investigating the prospect of enhancing citizen participation via social networking tools and/or community roundtable events. Importantly, I believe that “voting my district” is sometimes an excuse for avoiding hard policy choices. That is not what I have in mind. Instead, my hope and belief is that broader participation would lead to better policy choices.

Cullerton

Top Priorities
1. To work with municipalities to ensure the best possible services for the people of the 23rd District. As a Mayor I have found that most of my peers and our residents really need help getting infrastructure upgrades. Whether it be constant flooding problems. Sanitary treatment plant funding, local park upgrades, school district and library district funding for upgrading and keeping up with technology, Fire protection to keep our residents and our firefighters safe. I believe the role of State Legislator is the facilitator of these types of initiatives. Our role in making sure our district gets their needs met is crucial. we can only accomplish that by working hand in hand with the local elected officials. Township, Municipal, School Board, Library District, Fir District and Park District officials.
2. Working to improve the business opportunities within in the 23rd District. By working with our Chamber of Commerces and the DuPage County Convention and Visitors Bureau we can expand our reach to touch as many people as possible and bring more opportunities to the 23rd. With the completion of the Elgin-Ohare Expressway the possibility to increase the capital dollars and investments inside the 23rd will be huge. My goal is to make sure all necessary partners have the tools to accomplish those goals. The long term goal would thereby create jobs and a stronger community for the 23rd.
3. To focus on utilizing Green opportunities for all of the residents of the 23rd. Whether it be through EPA grants for business and individual interests, or even something as small as creating an entire rain barrel program for the district much like the one we have in Villa Park.
4. To establish accountability within the district of my voting record and how I am working to move Illinois forward.
5. To be a champion for the 23rd. I tirelessly promote and work for the betterment of Villa Park as its President. As Senator I will be the face of the 23rd District. The man who you will see at your community events, who will fight for the causes near and dear to the 23rd. It's what I do for Villa Park, it's what I will do for the 23rd.

What is your top priority for the state?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

Comprehensive tax and financial reforms, along with ensuring the state is positioning itself correctly to attract and retain businesses in an increasingly competitive environment. The problem is that there is no quick fix, simple solution to any of this. Springfield is - or I should say the GA is – particularly timid when it comes to tackling complex revenue issues. Our legislative leadership's traditional avoidance of taking risks is firmly based on their understanding that the public – or more precisely the electorate – doesn't really want them to take on anything too significant. If they do, we will most likely just see different people in Springfield in two years avoiding tough choices. But, changing the people doesn't seem to help anyway, as some of the fundamental issues as to why Illinois doesn't appear to like paying its bills go back nearly 40 years. However, I also know that nothing is going to change unless we start somewhere to push, pull, and force a comprehensive package of restructured revenue sources and set budget disciplines through that the GA would actually vote for and the people of Illinois would be happy with. Not to over simplify but to fit the requirements of this forum, the components that should be looked at would at least include:

• Some different form of income tax - limited flat tiers or simplified progressive - that would include annual COLA increases in personal exemptions and adequate protections for earned income credit for the working poor
• Revision of the state portion of sales tax to reflect movement to a service economy
• Introduction of some new use-based sales taxes to provided dedicated revenue streams for related expenditures that now come out of GRF
• Reducing or eliminating individual income tax revenue sharing with other government units
• Property tax relief to reduce our overall dependence on a family's least liquid asset
• Eliminating the ability for the state to intentionally carry forward bills related to education, healthcare, and human services from one FY to the next to artificially “balance” the budget
• Restricting the issuance of new bonds or other forms of long-term borrowing to cover only the purchase/construction/maintenance of physical assets or public infrastructure with an equally long-term value

Brownfield

I can't narrow it down to one because there are two extremely critical priorities: (A) promoting job growth and relief from economic distress and (B) promoting fiscal and moral responsibility with our State resources, especially balancing the budget in responsible manner and adequate funding for public education.

Cullerton

1. Immediately address our State's financial situation. Find a long term plan with both Democrat and Republican support to get our financial house in order. Making sure our bills are paid on time, so that small business's can pay their workers and stay afloat instead of waiting for money. Funding our pensions, we cannot tear away the benefits that have been paid for by our service employees and teachers. We need to work to get our S&P rating back up, it is imperative if we are to create a stronger financial picture of Illinois. If we, at least start addressing those concerns we will see Illinois start drawing back lost business, even being able to take away from surrounding States.

For incumbents, please list your accomplishments. For challengers, what unique strengths would you bring to the job of state lawmaker?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

I have the benefit of having worked all my life. I got my first job the summer I turned 11 and basically haven't stopped since. I'm a typical “Type A” person who works constantly and consistently, and have never asked anyone to take on anything that I wasn't first willing to do myself. I have been successful, but I also have a deep understanding that my personal success has been dependent on both an excellent education and an economy that was generally beneficial to most people and to my community at large. Everything I have in life I owe to a combination of small family owned businesses and Fortune 1000 companies – which has given me a unique perspective on the way the world works. I'm used to managing multi-million dollar budgets and have spent most of the last two decades learning the interesting craft of how to get more and more out of less and less. Dealing with operations in 89 countries worldwide has definitely taught me how to negotiate and balance the needs of very different people with very different expectations and perspectives. Working executive positions for publically traded companies whose primary focus was on maximizing shareholder value has also made me learn to weigh decisions differently than most people. I don't handle other people's money “like it was my own”, I handle it like it was theirs – carefully and skeptically – working to create an incredible return on their investment. Government is the most expensive thing most people in this country own other than their home, they buy it again every year, and yet most of them know very little about it. We need people who will not only value that investment and the immense personal sacrifice it represents, but who also understand the very real difference between “cost” and “value”, even when the investors sometimes don't. And, having cut my teeth in the retail industry that through a variety of jobs eventually made me in part responsible for maintaining a150 years worth of rules and traditions, I have to admit I have an ingrained sense of customer service that, while definitely a bit of a throwback, has proven to be immensely valuable in my life.

Brownfield

The things that most differentiate me from my primary opponents are as follows:
Demonstrated Service-First Outlook: I took a 75% pay cut to move from a partnership- track position with a good law firm to serve as a legal aid attorney. My primary motivation in life is to make a difference, not money or status.
Demonstrated Commitment: In July of 2009 I quit my job to be a full time candidate for State Representative. I did so out of a deep commitment to grassroots politics and the extreme importance of improving our political system. I have continued this full-time shoe-leather effort and will do so through November 2012.
Demonstrated Track Record of Independence: I did not succumb to pressure from party insiders to hide the truth about the need for a tax increase.
Demonstrated Respect for Democratic (small d) Ideals: It is easy to say that you support things like education and social services. The hard part is to openly talk about the unpopular choices that are necessary to support these priorities. When we vote based on false, misleading or incomplete information, this is a failure of democracy in my opinion. In 2010, my campaign team and I fought hard against this and made every effort to get other candidates to follow suit. Pretty much everything we talked about came true after the election, which shows how much work we still have when it comes to honest politics and democratic ideals.
Broad Perspective: I worked for many years as a union laborer. I faced the difficult career transition that many older workers now face and navigated it successfully. As an attorney, I have worked for a labor union, a Fortune 100 corporation, and a respected law firm that represents units of local government. In my five years as a legal aid attorney, I served about five thousand low-income families, including hundreds of middle-class families that were falling into poverty as a result of the economic crisis. The breadth of my perspective allows me to see problems from multiple viewpoints and to appreciate the difficulties that many of our fellow citizens face.

Cullerton

My common sense and my ability to work with everyone.
I don't believe that things can't be accomplished because the other side is against it. As an elected official in DuPage my Presidential race was nonpartisan. I work with and have my hand extended to everyone. As long as your goal is to improve the life of the people of Villa Park I will work with you I will find solutions for you and I will help you in any manner that I can.
As the Senator for the 23rd District my goal will be the same- I don't care what you look like, what religion you practice, what party your from if your goal is to help the people of the 23rd achieve a better life then I am the one you want on your side. I will work tirelessly to make it happen. Everything in Springfield needs to stop being a showdown and a right and left bashing. We need to bring leaders in who don't care what the headlines say, they only care about creating better lives for their constituents.

The state public employee pension system is severely underfunded and paying down the debt threatens to crowd out spending on core state services. Do you support reducing pension benefits not yet earned through a bill like SB512, which offers state workers three options for earning future pension benefits. Should police officers and firefighters be included in a reduced pension system?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

This demands thoughtful, not simple, answers. SB512 includes a tiered structure format that appears to eventually force any participant more than a decade away from retirement eventually into the lowest tier, as maintaining full participation would eventually become cost prohibitive. The question still remains if Article VIII of the constitution would somehow prohibit a reduction in plan benefits to current participants, and if this would fall under such a prohibition. Unfortunately, this will ultimately be decided only after a very long and very costly battle in the courts. It is also curious that this approach of pushing for increased contributions and potentially reduced future benefits has already been shown in some studies to, on its own, mathematically not actually solve the funding problem long term. For these reasons, I do not support 512 in its current format. I believe it will ultimately leave the pension problem that we created unsolved, while the plan itself remains unenforceable due to court injunctions. Our current revenue streams are not sufficient to cover the backlog of pension payments, and there is no way to avoid that truth. Yes, he problem wasn't caused by the pension plans themselves but through years of spending the money that should have been set-aside for meeting pension obligations on other GF items of no residual value. Underfunding naturally lead to underperforming when the market was riding high, since you can't invest what you don't have. The issue now is that we have a multi-billion dollar hole that we can't climb out of without changing something. The other issue is that – no matter what we come up with for this session, the fundamental problems with our revenue system means we are probably going to re-fight this issue nearly every year. Pulling policemen and firemen into this mess would appear to only exacerbate problems, not solve them.

Brownfield

No, because I would prefer to give the public employee unions a chance to come up with something first.
I believe that it is important for all sides to recognize that public employees and taxpayers are innocent parties in this disaster and that there's no way for us to get our money back from the irresponsible legislators who caused the problem. In my humble opinion, this means that neither public employees nor taxpayers can bear the entire burden of this problem.
My strong preference would be for public sector unions to negotiate a reasonable solution rather than having the General Assembly unilaterally impose its ideas about what would work.
If that fails, one of my key objectives would be to do as much as possible to protect basic pension security; the average State pension is about $23,000—usually without the benefit of Social Security.
In making any decisions about pension reform, I would prefer to start wherever unsuccessful negotiations leave off. Beyond that, I support some of the ideas from the new-employee reform, including putting a cap on the maximum pensionable salary (I would prefer something quite a bit lower than the current limit of $106,000) and increasing retirement ages.
I recognize that there is an argument that none of these changes would hold up under the Illinois Constitution, but I don't believe that we will really know until we have an actual ruling from the State Supreme Court.

Cullerton

Before I make any decisions on pending legislation I would have to see all minutes, documentation and correspondence related to the issue. I will support, that any reforms that occur in Illinois need to have a full partnership of not only legislators but employees as well. The legislators need to realize that we cannot move this State alone. We need the employees of the State, the legislators and the people of this State to work together to come up with our solutions. Utilizing local forums, communications and grassroots efforts will allow more voices to come forward, bring more ideas to the table and get us going in the right direction.

If you don't support a bill like SB512, how would you deal with the state's unfunded pension liability?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

Here too, the real solution needs to take all the factors into account – what we have, what and when we need to pay out, and where the difference can come from to cover any shortfalls. I have spent a lot of time talking to participants in most of the different state plans about these issues over the last three to four years. In incredibly broad terms, I believe we can help alleviate our problems by taking these steps:

We need to make it impossible for the state not to pay its obligations without severe, automatic penalties. We also need to look at implementing tiered structures that DO NOT eventually force most current plan participants into untenable choices prior to retirement, while still addressing revenue requirements. Offering a hybrid system to younger or newer members that would keep them as primary plan participants, but offer them an option of keeping a portion of their retirement savings that could be self-directed and fully portable might be incorporated into the mix. Changing accrual and actuarial formulations to reflect real requirements, removing elected and appointed officials from pension rolls, eliminating all forms of double dip, and setting attainable goals for gradually bringing all plans/plan participants to full funding must be included in fixing the problems we made for ourselves.

Brownfield

See question 3.

Cullerton

I think the answer above covers? let me know if you need more of an expanded thought.

Do you want the 2 percent point income tax increase to expire in 2014, as planned, or would you like to see the tax increase extended beyond 2014?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

The sunset provision of the temporary tax increase must be followed exactly. To break faith with this will erode public confidence in the GA even further and eliminate any opportunity we have in the near term to address the fundamental issues at the core of our revenue problems with sweeping, comprehensive tax reform.

Brownfield

It depends. Absent a quick and dramatic turnaround in our state economy, I suspect that we will need the additional revenue beyond 2014. One of the reasons I supported a temporary increase was that I thought that this would give the General Assembly an opportunity to reestablish trust with voters by using the new revenue wisely. My further support for enhanced revenue is based on this expectation.
But rather than reauthorizing the current system, I would prefer a complete overhaul that includes progressive rates, taxes on appropriate services, and property tax relief. I also believe that we need to look at taxing retirement income (we are one of a very few states that does not) and a more aggressive approach toward internet sales tax (this is a revenue issue and a jobs issue). Finally, we need to make sure that every penny of state spending is a wise investment, including “tax spending” (special tax breaks), such as our recent efforts with Sears/CME.

Cullerton

I would like to see it expire in 2014.

Do you support any changes to the corporate income tax rate? Do you support any other changes to the state's business tax structure?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

We need a tax structure that encourages investment and rewards the creation of good, stable jobs with benefits. In a highly competitive environment, we must craft a total business package that includes a competitive and fair tax structure coupled to incentives for new investment and expansion. Tax benefits on their own rarely achieve their goals, especially in a down economy. Ask any business owner what kind of tax incentives will it take for them to add one job, if they're not making enough to pay any taxes in the first place.

Brownfield

In my opinion, this is an extremely difficult but fundamentally important issue. As we just witnessed with Sears/CME, big businesses have leverage to negotiate special deals because job-poaching Governors from other states are on the prowl in Illinois.
Without a doubt, this will happen again and I don't believe that it is fair to put smaller businesses on an uneven playing field. I don't have a specific idea for this but believe that we need to do something that is pretty much the opposite of what Minority Leader Cross is apparently trying to do in HB 3918 (the bill appears to incentivize layoffs or non-hiring).
The difficult challenge is to figure out a policy that prevents job-poaching, that puts small business on an even playing field, that rewards companies for creating good jobs in our state, and that sustains much-needed revenue from reasonable taxation of corporate profits. I have been thinking quite a bit about this lately but don't have a good answer yet.
At some level, I wonder if the job-raiding problem has gotten so bad that we need to start thinking about it in foreign policy terms. For example, would it make sense to seek no-raid “treaties” with other governors?

Cullerton

Before we make changes to our tax rates we need to make sure our tax dollars are being utilized correctly and we are accounting for our long term future not just today's issues. Once we get a grasp on where we are at, we can then make clear, transparent and obvious choices that make sense and work for the business and people of Illinois.

What should the state government do to create a more favorable business climate and to promote job growth?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

Government does not, for the most part, create jobs. The kind that it does in the short term tend to be equally short term. What government can do is help create an environment that in turn is good for business. In particular, small business needs access to capital - right now. Larger banks, national banks, traditional sources of revenue have moved on to other things that involve less risk and faster payback than making loans to the businesses that create most of the jobs in this country. The state, partnering with smaller community banks can make a real difference here.

Brownfield

As noted above, I have concerns about a war of all-against-all when it comes to the 50 states trying to raid each other's jobs. Instead, I believe that we should focus on steps that will make Illinois more attractive on a broad basis.
One idea I have been thinking about for a while relates to requiring internet retailers to collect sales tax. The non-collectability of internet sales tax traces back to a 1992 US Supreme Court case involving an out-of-state catalogue retailer. This is a jobs issue and a revenue issue because it puts local retailers—who create local jobs and pay local taxes—at a significant disadvantage. Also, it is another example of regressive tax policy because low-income folks frequently don't have credit cards or computers.
Several states, including Illinois, have made limited inroads in this area by requiring tax collection by internet retailers who have in-state suppliers. This reaches companies like Amazon but does not reach other types of retailers. The 1992 Supreme Court made it clear that Congress can pass legislation to correct this situation and Senator Durbin is the lead sponsor of a bill that would do so. I strongly support Senator Durbin's effort and the state-level efforts that would facilitate it. Also, the particulars of remote sales and taxation have changed dramatically since 1992. This makes me wonder if there's a prospect for clever lawyering to make inroads in the event that Senator Durbin's bill is not successful.
Another significant issue is workers compensation reform. My understanding is that the last round of reform still leaves us with the nation's second-highest workers compensation costs. I have not studied the things that have worked in other states but suspect that focusing on things like electronic billing, better fraud prevention, and a better arbitration system would be a good start. That said, I also believe that we need to do everything we can to provide a reasonable safety net for workers who have legitimate claims.
Finally, as noted above, I believe that we need to do something that is pretty much the opposite of what Minority Leader Cross is trying to do in HB 3918, a bill that gives corporations tax breaks as unemployment rises. Any tax incentives should be specifically and narrowly tied to the creation of good jobs in Illinois.

Cullerton

Promoting our States benefits to outside interests should be our number one goal. There are so many tremendous things about Illinois that a business should want to be a part of. Not only our high quality of talent that any company can draw from but also our quality of life here in this great State. A constant outreach is the only way to attract new business to Illinois and to retain the high quality of business that we have here already.

Lay out your plan for paying the billions the state owes schools, universities, human service providers and others. Would you support borrowing to pay down those bills?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

Our long-term solutions are tied-up in comprehensive tax reform to establish steady and reliable revenue streams while also providing more certainty and security for the tax paying public at large. Part of this needs to include placing new restrictions on borrowing or issuing bonds for GF spending – this practice in the past has been directly responsible for creating much of the mess we are in now. Some estimates show that every other that is currently in the red – including California – will most likely pull out of their financial problems as the economy starts to recover and the housing market finally stabilizes – with the notable exception of Illinois. This is because of our past preference for building-up debt instead of addressing revenue problems. However, I understand that under current circumstances even with our lower credit rating we could restructure a sizeable portion of our existing debt at lower rates and at the same time get the funds we need to pay all of our current back-due bills. Doing this would actually reduce the long-term cost of maintaining the debt while relieving huge immediate problems at schools and service providers. While there has been opposition to doing this coming out from some quarters in Springfield, if the math works, why wouldn't we? If you could reduce your monthly mortgage payments AND still get extra money to fix your leaking roof at the same time by refinancing, it would seem to be a question that answers itself.

Brownfield

After the last election, Senate Republicans finally provided a somewhat detailed plan that seeks to pay off our debts off slowly as the proposal for deep cuts produces budget savings. The main point of this plan is to avoid borrowing. I have several problems with this approach.
First, it suffers from a math problem because they complain about the recent tax increases but do not supply enough in cuts to replace the revenue from those increases—much less enough to replace the new revenue and deal with our huge pile of unpaid bills. Second, part of the “savings” from this plan pushes the tax burden to local government (by cutting the local government distributive fund). Third, it cuts over $1 Billion in education funding. In my humble opinion, education is the key to equal opportunity and competing in a global economy, which puts this idea in the category of eating our seed corn. Finally, contrary to much of the heated political rhetoric, I do not believe that all borrowing is irresponsible.
Indeed, we recently witnessed near-unanimous support for SB 72, a borrowing bill for our Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. The point of that bill was that regular borrowing (via low-interest bonds) is cheaper than indirect borrowing (from the Federal Government). The same thing applies here. We can borrow money cheaply via bonds and save money on the penalties we are paying for late payments to state contractors.
Finally, it strikes me as odd and even immoral to oppose conventional borrowing on the grounds that we can continue to impose a form of forced lending (a form of theft?) on our state contractors.
I support responsible borrowing and believe that the opposition to this idea is more about political rhetoric than sensible policy.

Cullerton

My immediate plan would be to take a stronger look at where our dollars and how our dollars are allocated. I would look at reducing the redundancy of State offices. Every Dept within the State needs to take a look at where there are overlapping services and if the priorities within their structures are set up correctly as to achieve their mission. Once that is established it will give us a jumping off point to assess how much funding is needed and where we are short. As a municipal leader I am required to have a balanced budget. We have always found ways to stretch our dollars and to allocate our resources so that the priorities of the citizenry was met first and foremost. At the same time we were able to pay our pension obligations and partner with our employees to find funding solutions.

State legislative leaders are trying to give the General Assembly a role in negotiating contracts with state labor unions. What is your opinion of that?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

Considering the last issue with the Governor agreeing to certain guarantees to get the negotiations done, and then rescinding them the following year when everyone knew there was no way to honor them in the first place, it would at first seem to make sense to get some more eyes on the ball. However, simply adding to the din or failing honor the complexity of the process by just throwing more people with different agendas at it doesn't make sense either. I would have to see a specific proposal and a specific structure for the planed legislative participation before I could determine if it was something I could support in the best interest of the taxpayers of Illinois who are ultimately supposed to be at the table too.

Brownfield

I strongly support the idea of full collective bargaining rights. But I wonder if there is a creative solution that would preserve collective bargaining rights and allow for budget relief during an economic crisis. For example, much of our current budget crisis is a function of high unemployment. I wonder if it might make sense to require that future collective bargaining agreements include a wage-freeze provision that would be triggered by a specific level of unemployment.

Cullerton

While I don't believe the legislative should lead negotiations, I think that legislators, as the residents elected officials, should have a seat at the table. The only way to fix our underlying pension issues is for the finger pointing and animosity to go away. We are all in this together whether people want to believe this or not. We all need to work together to find a solution. not just tell one group they have to give everything while another group stays out of the fray.

The legislature has tried repeatedly to expand gambling in Illinois. Do you support expanded gambling in Illinois? In what form? Do you support a Chicago casino?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

Our financial problems will not be solved by reliance on gambling as a primary new source of revenue for the state's general fund. The initial effect that the new Rivers Casino had on other existing operations clearly demonstrates that there is a limit to what the market will bear in terms of generating additional casino revenue in the Chicago metro area. That having been said, I agree that issuing additional licenses for strategically positioned casinos on the way to other out of state gambling destinations only makes sense. If we can capture a portion of those dollars that were going to be spent elsewhere by Illinois residents, and potentially attract some additional out of state revenue, then we should definitely explore what options are available. This would include a Chicago casino. As a regular exhibitor in Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando, and other major convention markets across the country I am very aware of the competitive nature of this business, the amount of money it can bring to a local economy, and the fact that while Chicago's facilities are among the best in the world - we're still losing business every year to other cities that are not as well equipped to handle the actual conventions themselves. We can't do anything about the weather, and we have made significant progress on making McCormick Place more exhibitor friendly and affordable, but it isn't enough. Adding a truly world-class casino conveniently located between downtown hotels and the South lakefront would significantly add to our competitive profile as a convention and tourist destination. As for slot expansion, I am strongly opposed to placing machines in airports but I also believe the Governor's position on racetracks is wrong. I am familiar with where this has been done before and done successfully, with little negative impact on either surrounding communities or other gambling venues. The state's racing industry is most likely correct in presuming that they will continue to loose money to other options to the point that their particularly high overhead will force them out of business otherwise. In the case of allowing video poker in bars and restaurants, once again this is not going to solve our long-term revenue issues and comes along with a host of potential problems for every community in the state. Quite frankly, it was a terrible idea and I am still unclear why particular legislators ever voted for it in the first place.

Brownfield

In general I oppose the expansion of gambling. Among other things, I suspect that this winds up as one more regressive means of raising revenue. But I could envision limited circumstances where I might vote for a bill that includes gambling as a revenue source. For example, if I am forced into an up or down vote on an important infrastructure package that includes gambling, I would need to consider the broader impact on the common good and vote accordingly. Also, I suspect that there are times when the “expansion” is simply a move to capture gambling that would happen anyway (e.g. out of state or illegal gambling). I would need to think about such situations carefully based on the facts at hand.

Regarding a Chicago casino, I would lean “no”, with some prospect that I could be convinced to vote for it based on the factors listed above. However, this prospect is slim, given that a recent report from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability paints a bleak picture when it comes to additional revenue.

Cullerton

I support expanding gambling in Illinois. I support slots at the racetracks and OTB's.
I would wait on a decision of a Chicago casino until we have at least a years worth of data that shows dollars from our newest casinos. I also would like to see what impact expanded gambling has on our current venues if we increase slot machines at the racetracks and OTB locations.

Would you seek any changes to the state ethics and campaign finance laws? Would you support capping what state party leaders can donate during a general election?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

I was very curious as to how the recommendations included in the Reform Commission report were going to be translated into law. With the public outcry in the wake of the Blagojevich scandal and the scrutiny the state was under from world media as a result, there was a unique opportunity for us to make sweeping changes that would not only demonstrate the Illinois was embracing reform, but that could serve as a model for the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, what we ended up with was a least-common denominator compromise. The fact that the first version was passed with such fanfare, and then immediately withdrawn before the Governor signed it should have been a clear indicator that what we were being told we were getting and what was actually delivered were two different things entirely. The second version that just went into effect last January was only a slight improvement that, in practice, will probably disproportionally favor incumbents with established revenue streams and active donor lists. In the process, a lot of potentially good ideas were simply left on the table. Party caucuses will also continue to hold sway over the primary process, which is where most of state elections are won or lost anyway. As for limiting party ability to fund races for general elections, it really isn't politically practical unless we believe we could replace the current system entirely with some form of public funding or a public/private hybrid. Even well established incumbents find it hard to raise the enormous amounts of money it takes to effectively reach an under-informed and unengaged electorate without direct party support. I would like to see broader limits on back-door money coming in around individual limits in place to heavily influence and in some cases overwhelm specific races, but I am not sure how far we can go operating under the Citizens United ruling from the US Supreme Court. For transparency's sake, we need to adopt reporting requirements for lobbyists similar to other states to truly reflect how much money is being spent, where, and on who's behalf and to make that information readily available to the general public. I will push for significant changes in what qualifies for no-bid and service contract exemptions at every level of government – specifically to address the problem of segmenting projects to get around current expenditure caps. I will sponsor legislation to severely restrict or eliminate campaign contributions from contractors and appointed officials to any elected person who has direct influence over their awards and appointments.

Brownfield

In my opinion, it is only a slight exaggeration to say that money is root of all evil in politics. However, I am not convinced that nibbling around the edges is the right answer. When money becomes the gateway to election/reelection, it creates a perverse set of incentives that funnel things toward narrow interests. In order to reestablish Lincoln's vision of a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” we need to consider bold measures like public financing and/or a money-is-not-speech amendment to the United States Constitution.
In the absence of such reforms, I am not sure about capping the donations from party leaders because I worry that this might have the unintended consequence of making it much harder for challengers to beat incumbents. That said, I also worry about the problems associated with party leaders' purse strings and don't have a clear idea about how I would vote on this issue.
As far as other reforms are concerned, my top priority would be term limits for legislative leaders

Cullerton

While I agree that campaign finance has skyrocketed there seems to be very few opportunities that are low cost that truly allow you to deliver your message to the public. Until delivering your message to the constituency is more cost effective and accessible, campaigns will have to continue on the path they are on. We have multiple finance and ethics laws on the books and creating more could just create an unfunded laibility at a time when we already are having trouble paying our bills.

Would you back a constitutional amendment to shift from a flat income tax to a progressive income tax system?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

We have been avoiding having a serious discussion about revenue in Illinois for four decades. Prior to the temporary tax increase, Illinois' individual flat tax rate was dead last among the 43 states that collected some form of personal income tax. As a business person myself, I have posed the question to other people for years in terms of “What would happen to your business if you never took a price increase for forty years?” The response has always been the same. Yet we expect the state budget to somehow balance itself by simply living off of increases in population and general economic activity – disregarding the fact that those increases also drive demand for services, infrastructure, etc. – without any regard to natural inflation or increasing costs. The problem then becomes one of no matter how much we can legitimately cut out of the discretionary budget, we will not have the ability to effectively pay - at least at the state level – for what we need. Anyone close enough to the subject knows that we have to have a balanced approach that takes both expenditures and revenues into consideration, no matter what they may say in public. However, moving to a simplified progressive tax or an alternative tiered flat tax structure in and of itself will not address the complex issues of establishing sustainable and stable revenue streams, reforming school funding, and maintaining fairness in our tax structure. In order to do this, we have to have a comprehensive approach that encompasses everything we do to pay for government in Illinois. If we politically prove that we finally have the stomach to take on the real work of fixing a revenue system that is so far beyond just “broken”, then yes – I would support a constitutional amendment to alter the personal income tax in some significant way – but ONLY as a component of larger changes. If, however, it was proposed without any other supporting tax relief, or as simply yet another patch in the patchwork revenue quilt we've managed to sew together over successive legislatures and through both Republican and Democratic administrations, than I would absolutely not back it in any way.

Brownfield

Yes. Our current system for state and local taxes puts a disproportionate burden on middle and low income families. In my opinion, this is a critical issue that we should put on the ballot for voters to decide. I would encourage voters to adopt this measure but would also trust them to make the right decision.

Cullerton

I couldn't back any amendment to our State Constitution without seeing the actual figures involved. What are the upside and downside? How much will it cost to change the system? I would hope that any change to our Constitution would go through a referendum process so the people of Illinois have their chance to speak.

Do you have a plan to adequately fund schools and reform the property tax system that results in inequities?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

Did not respond

Brownfield

Our current state tax system produces an outrageous disparity between the best and worst funded school districts, not to mention the significantly higher property tax rates it imposes on low-income communities. It strikes me as nothing short of outrageous that our state's public schools would serve to further advantage families that don't really need help and further disadvantage those who desperately need it.
Equal opportunity is one of our nation's most cherished values—the idea that no matter where we start from we should all have a chance to work hard and reach our full potential. And without widespread opportunity for high-quality public education, equal opportunity is a pipe dream. Proper funding is an important element of this and it needs to be a high priority.
My answer to question 5 outlines some of my thoughts about tax reform. School funding reform is a big part of this, including the need to move toward greater state-level funding and away from property tax. I am not entirely sure about the specifics but my foremost objectives will be to promote equal opportunity and to reduce our reliance on local property taxes.

Cullerton

I am currently working with different constituents who have school funding expertise to find a process with which, they believe, will move us forward on our school funding issues. Obviously one immediate problem is people who live in more affluent school districts are not going to want to separate their tax dollars from their children. With that in mind is how I am approaching my thoughts on how to move forward.

What is your view on gay marriage?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Allen
  • [ + ]
    Brownfield
  • [ + ]
    Cullerton
Allen

I personally advocated on behalf of and supported the Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Unions Act, understanding that it did not go far enough. In general, I would like to see the state get out of the marriage business entirely, offering only civil unions as a way of two adults contractually combining households into a single entity for tax, healthcare, survivor, and other legal benefits and protections. When the discussion turns to the “sanctity” of marriage, it takes the subject entirely out of the realm of government. In terms of sacrament, marriage must only be governed by the doctrines and beliefs of whatever organized religion someone personally subscribes to, and the state and other public institutions have no right to interfere in any way. While I understand the common law history of government issuing marriage licenses, I find the practice personally questionable. No other form of contract between two individuals requires such an extraordinary government approval, and on the face it seems to stand against our fundamental principles of individual freedom and personal liberty. I am also surprised that having a subject that is so incredibly personal and that incites so much passionate debate in today's society reduced to the legal level of driving a car doesn't offend more people. So long as Illinois or U.S. law grants exclusive rights and privileges to the legal state of marriage, then I would not just support but sponsor legislation to extend those rights to any two adults willing to join each other in marriage. In my opinion the government actually has no intrinsic right to legislate against it.

Brownfield

I was a voting member of my church's regional assembly when we considered this question. I understand that "marriage" started out as contract-based idea but the term has clearly taken on a religious/moral meaning. Accordingly, I would prefer to purge the word from our legal structures and leave "marriage" to churches and other faith communities. From participating in my own church's process, I know that this is a much better place for thoughtful deliberation about moral judgments. From a purely civil standpoint, I don't think that our government should confer lesser benefits or status on homosexual couples. As such, I would prefer that all civil ceremonies (including heterosexual) result in a “civil union.”

Cullerton

I support gay marriage.

The race
The candidates
Greg Brownfield
Thomas E. Cullerton

Not pictured:
Kevin Allen

The district
Loading...
Loading...
Latest News Videos
© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.

Comments  Click here to view or make a comment