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Illinois House District 23, Democratic Primary

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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
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    Zalewski
Zalewski
Birthdate: 11/11/1978
Occupation: Attorney - Chico & Nunes, P.C.
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Carrie K. Zalewski

Education:

Bachelors Degree, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Juris Doctor, The John Marshall Law School

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

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

Former Cook County Assistant State's Attorney, 2004-2007
Senior Public Service Administrator, State of Illinois, Department of Central Management Services, 2003-2004

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

Wife, Member, Illinois Pollution Control Board
Father, Alderman, 23rd Ward, City of Chicago
Sister, Administrative Assistant, City of Chicago, Department of Aviation

Campaign information
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

Campaign headquarters: P.O. Box 721, Summit, 60501
Website: www.mikezalewski.com
Campaign manager:
Campaign budget: $200,000
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
All of the below contributors contributed $1000 this year and in previous years.

Illinois State Medical Society
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
Chicago Federation of Labor
Construction and General Laborers District Council of Chicago
Illinois Pipe Trades PAC Account

What are your top priorities for your district?
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

The 23rd District, comprised of the western and southwestern suburbs, is blessed with a number of economic advantages, including being a transportation hub for the region. I will continue to seek ways to bring jobs and economic growth back to the district by taking advantage of those advantages. Furthermore, it is my duty as a member of the General Assembly to ensure our schools improve, and our streets remain safe from criminals.

What is your top priority for the state?
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

Our state must continue to make the difficult fiscal decisions necessary to reverse years of mismanagement and overspending that led to disastrous budget deficits. These decisions include setting hard revenue caps and spending limits; examining each budget line item to see if it remains necessary to fund; and using any excess revenue to pay off old bills.

For incumbents, please list your accomplishments. For challengers, what unique strengths would you bring to the job of state lawmaker?
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

Since becoming a state representative in 2008, I've taken a number of difficult, but necessary votes, to restore integrity to Illinois. I voted to impeach Rod Blagojevich; institute the first meaningful campaign finance reform in Illinois history; fund and implement a capital construction program that created and retained thousands of jobs; and created a more affordable pension system for newly hired employees. This past session, as a member of the House Revenue Committee, I helped set reasonable financial parameters for the state budget, and, as part of two appropriations committees, went through the budget line by line to get to the bottom of state spending.

Individually, I have sponsored several pieces of public safety legislation, including laws to increase child safety in vehicles, crack down on domestic battery, and protect our streets from felons who use guns. Just this year, I successfully passed a Gang RICO bill that would treat street gangs as criminal enterprises, thereby allowing prosecutors to go after the heart of a street gang and put it out of business for good.

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?
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

I am prepared to suppport meaningful pension reform that would stabilize Illinois' pension funds. The core question facing lawmakers with respect to the growing pension crisis in Illinois is whether altering existing benefits violates the Illinois Constitution. I would support requiring employees currently in the system to pay more toward their existing benefit to bring relief to the pension funds. Creating a three-tier system, as proposed in SB512, creates constitutional questions that may eventually invalidate the law. As first responders, police officers and firefighters fall into a different class of public employees. I would not support altering their benefits at this time.

If you don't support a bill like SB512, how would you deal with the state's unfunded pension liability?
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

See above answer

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?
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

I only supported the tax increase with the understanding it would be temporary; therefore, I expect it will expire in 2014. The tax increase was implemented to address a structural deficit and bring fiscal stability to the budget. Throughout this past Spring and continuing into the next session, if the House continues to work in a bipartisan fashion to eliminate waste and reform spending, I believe we will reduce the reliance on GRF to the point the tax increase will be able to be rolled back.

Do you support any changes to the corporate income tax rate? Do you support any other changes to the state's business tax structure?
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

Because most businesses in Illinois file their taxes as individual returns, I am not certain a reduction in the corporate tax rate is viable or necessary. I support creating a tax tribunal so that businesses feel as though they are getting a fair shake when they have a tax dispute with Illinois. We also should continue to closely scrutinize program like the EDGE tax credit programs to ensure job metrics are fair, reliable, and are being honored by the recipients.

What should the state government do to create a more favorable business climate and to promote job growth?
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

Small business owners tell me the fixed costs of employment in Illlinois--workers compensation, unemployment insurance--are what is most determinative of whether or not they can hire. The General Assembly has taken major steps in both those areas in the last year, first by reforming the workers compensation system saving small businesses $500 million a year, then by stabilizing the unemployment insurance fund while providing incentives to businesses that retain and hire employees. We need to continue to listen to small businesses and give them the easiest path to hiring and retaining employees. We also must instill confidence in state government by controlling state spending and addressing the unfunded pension debt.

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?
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

As mentioned above, because of the hard work I and my colleagues on the House Revenue Committee did to install hard spending caps in last year's budget, we expect a small surplus in this years tax receipts allowing us to pay down old bills. We can continue that effort next Spring. I supported a gaming expansion that would have brought in $1.2 billion in licensing fees devoted exclusively to paying down unpaid bills. Finally, I have supported and would support again, a strategic refinancing of state debt to pay down bills if it were coupled with strategic cuts.

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?
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

I support Speaker Madigan's efforts to inject the General Assembly into union negotiations. It is grossly unfair that the General Assembly is given the responsibility to appropriate money and make spending decisions based upon contract commitments in which we had no involvement. By allowing us a seat at the negotiating table, taxpayers can expect a better return on their dollar when it comes to union negotiations.

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?
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

I supported the gambling legislation passed this Spring. It is important to the western suburbs that Hawthorne Race Course be allowed to compete in a modern economy. Furthermore, I support a Chicago casino. Too many Illinoisans venture across state lines to Wisconsin and Indiana and during a time when every dollar counts, it makes no sense for tourists and conventioneers visiting Chicago to travel out of state to gamble.

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?
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

We can further ensure accountability among elected officials by expanding recall powers beyond the Governor's Office to members of the Illinois General Assembly. I would have to examine a specific proposal regarding finance caps on legislative leaders to determine if such a cap passed constitutional muster.

Would you back a constitutional amendment to shift from a flat income tax to a progressive income tax system?
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

At this time, because a shift described above would require a constitutional amendment, I do not believe it is a viable path. Instead. the General Assembly should carefully review the tax code to determine whether exemptions, deductions, and other tax incentives are fair and result in the best return for Illinois taxpayers.

Do you have a plan to adequately fund schools and reform the property tax system that results in inequities?
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

The first place to start with respect to funding schools is to develop a strategy to pay back old bills that the state owes school districts. If we comprehensively solve our debt problem globally, and pay local governments what the state owes them, we will have taken a dramatic and necessary first step. With resect to property taxes, any proposal that keeps property taxes reasonable while ensuring quality educations for our children deserves serious consideration.

What is your view on gay marriage?
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    Zalewski
Zalewski

I supported civil union legislation last winter. I feel it is the appropriate policy choice for a state as diverse as Illinois.

The candidates
Michael J. Zalewski
The district
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