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State Senate, District 28

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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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    O'Donnell
Jim O'Donnell
Political party: Republican
Birthdate: 6/27/1951
Occupation: Camcraft, Inc. Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Martha

Education:

University of Notre Dame - BBA in Accounting with High Honors
Certified Public Accountant (Illinois)

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

I have been an active business community advocate as the Vice Chairperson on the Government Relations Committee of the Tooling and Manufacturing Association (TMA). My civic activities include the Park Ridge Soccer (PRS) Board of Directors for 17 years, student mentor at Spring Wood Middle School in Keeneyville District 20, National MS Society volunteer and fundraiser, and Chicago Marathon volunteer.

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

No

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

None that I am aware of.

Campaign information
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    O'Donnell
O'Donnell

Campaign headquarters: 1585 Lee Street Des Plaines, IL
Website: www.votejimo.com
Campaign manager: Tom Mannix
Campaign budget: $500,000
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
Camcraft, Inc.
Tooling and Manufacturing Association
Otto Engineering
Illinois Chamber of Commerce
National Federation of Independent Business

For incumbents: In either the fall veto session or in January, will you support a bill like SB1673? That bill cuts pension costs for four of five state pension systems by making state workers and retirees choose between keeping state-subsidized health insurance or an automatic 3 percent annual pension hike during retirement. Do you support the element of the bill that shifts employer pension costs from the state to local school districts?
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    O'Donnell
O'Donnell

Did not respond

If you don't support a bill like SB1673, what is your plan for rescuing the state's pension systems?
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    O'Donnell
O'Donnell

Did not respond

For challengers or candidates for an open seat: If there is no action on pension reform in the fall veto session or in early January, would you support a bill like SB1673 in the next legislative session? That bill cuts pension costs for four of five state pension systems by making state workers and retirees choose between keeping state-subsidized health insurance or an automatic 3 percent annual pension hike during retirement. Do you support the element of the bill that shifts employer pension costs from the state to local school districts?
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    O'Donnell
O'Donnell

We must immediately reform our state pension system. The various pension systems have promised over $600 billion in future benefits and have only $70 billion in assets to pay for them. I believe we need to look to Rhode Island where they were able to reduce their unfunded pension liability by almost 50%. Some of the ways they accomplished this:

- Suspend COLAs until the unfunded pension liability is reduced.
- Create a hybrid plan that blends defined benefits and defined contributions.
- Increase the minimum retirement age for certain employees (Specifically those not at or nearing retirement age).
- Preserve pension benefits earned to date, and ensure there is little or no impact on the ability to retire for those currently eligible to retire.

Failure to take bold action all but ensures that our pension system will collapse beneath its unfunded liability and deny public sector workers their retirement benefits.

I also believe the legislator pension program should be eliminated and replaced with a 401(k)-type plan. I plan to lead by example on this reform and will opt out of the legislative pension system that currently exists when I am elected.

I do NOT support shifting the Teacher Retirement System's or the State Universities Retirement Systems' liability and future payments to local property tax payers. Besides adding to what is already an unbearable burden on property tax payers, this has the potential to create unfunded mandates for the local districts because the General Assembly would continue to set benefit levels.

If you don't support a bill like SB1673, what is your plan for rescuing the state's pension systems?
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    O'Donnell
O'Donnell

See answer above.

For all candidates: Do you support the Medicaid reform package passed last spring, including $1.6 billion in cuts and rate reductions and an increase in the cigarette tax? What else, if anything, needs to done to ensure the health of the state's Medicaid system?
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    O'Donnell
O'Donnell

I do support the Medicaid reform passed last spring, but not the increase in the cigarette tax.

The Illinois Medicaid crisis was spawned by eligibility expansions beginning in 2002. I am troubled by the fact that the 2012 reform included an eligibility expansion, and we are still faced with further expansion as a result of Obamacare. We need to make sure that we return Medicaid to what it was originally intended to be -- a safety net for the most needy citizens. In addition, like most initiatives we see coming out of Springfield, the Democrats coupled a good piece of reform legislation and added a tax increase to it. While we can all agree smoking kills, and a tax on smoking affects only a very small portion of the population, we must change the ‘Pro-Tax Increase' culture in Springfield if we are to get our state back on the right track.

We need to be sure that the enacted reforms are implemented. I am disturbed to read that Governor Quinn recently announced delays in implementing eligibility audits.

Do you support letting the 2 percent point income tax increase expire in 2014 as planned, or would you like to see the tax increase extended beyond 2014?        
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    O'Donnell
O'Donnell

We must repeal the income tax increase and we should not consider new taxes such as a sales tax on services or a graduated income tax. The ever-increasing tax and fee burden on Illinois businesses and individuals is driving businesses and people out of Illinois. The total tax burden (income tax, sales tax, property tax, personal property replacement tax, estate tax, and various excise taxes) in Illinois is one of the highest in the nation. The taxes and fees in Illinois have been increasing while incomes in Illinois remain flat, or in many cases, are declining. This creates enormous hardship for businesses and individuals. We need to find ways to reduce this tax burden and reverse the downward spiral of people and businesses leaving the state, eroding our tax base in the process.

Do you support any changes to the corporate income tax rate? Do you support any other changes to the state's business tax structure? What should the state government do to create a more favorable business climate and to promote job growth?
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    O'Donnell
O'Donnell

Regarding taxes, see my answer above. To create a more favorable business climate and to promote job growth, we must address the following:

Political corruption is a serious problem in Illinois and it needs to be reduced, if not eliminated, if we are to improve our business climate. We can best accomplish this by replacing career politicians, who serve their own interests, with citizen legislators who serve the interests of the people of Illinois.

Second, workers' compensation and unemployment insurance need further reform. Lacking a meaningful causation standard, the recent workers' comp reform allows abuses of the system to continue, and our costs in Illinois remain above most other states. Unemployment compensation is intended for people who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. Unfortunately the system we have in place currently allows people to receive benefits to which they are not entitled. Reforming both of these systems would bring much-needed relief to businesses, both large and small, without costing the state additional money.

Third, we need to identify unemployed people and hard-to-place non-violent offenders who are willing to be trained in manufacturing. There are thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs that need to be filled. There are organizations like the Tooling and Manufacturing Association (TMA)* that have long-standing programs in place that would allow us to rapidly train individuals and put them into good-paying American jobs. The state needs to focus on working with organizations like the TMA to help put people back to work. ( * I am on the Board of Directors for the TMA.)

Do you support the gambling package Gov. Quinn vetoed at the end of August? If not, how could it be improved?
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    O'Donnell
O'Donnell

I don't think gaming is a desirable way to generate revenue for the State of Illinois, but I do recognize that it is not going away and it does generate economic activity and provides a form of entertainment that assists the tourism and convention industries.

I do not support video gaming in every liquor establishment and I do not support slot machines at our airports. I do not support expansion of gaming beyond what can be effectively regulated by the State Gaming Commission.

As a practical matter, I believe there should be a properly regulated casino in Chicago, and casinos placed strategically at the Wisconsin and Indiana borders to prevent Illinois gamblers from losing their money to the benefit of neighboring states. In addition, we should follow the lead of other states in protecting the horse racing industry by allowing either slots at the tracks or a revenue sharing arrangement with the casinos.

Over the last few years, the state Legislature has begun to bring spending in line with revenues by cutting spending in education, health care, social services and other areas. Has the state Legislature done enough to reduce spending and run government more efficiently? What more could be done? Are there any areas where you would like to see greater state investment?
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    O'Donnell
O'Donnell

The legislature has not done nearly enough to cut spending to bring it in line with revenues, and has not done nearly enough to promote economic growth that generates revenue.

The key to attracting and keeping businesses in Illinois is to establish just enough taxes, restrictions and regulatory oversight to fund and protect the interests of the people. In a free market, employers will sink or swim on their own. If you ask business owners whether they would rather have the government help them or leave them alone, the answer is invariably "just leave us alone." Business leaders have absolutely no confidence in the ability of Illinois leadership to proactively improve the business climate.

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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    O'Donnell
O'Donnell

I do support campaign contribution limits. I do not wish to see a return to pay-to-play politics. Regarding unlimited Super Pac contributions, I am in favor of complete transparency of donors. I favor limiting party leaders to the same limits allowed for all other political action committees. The concentration of money and power in the hands of legislative leaders has been a contributing factor to the fiscal crisis Illinois now faces.

Would you back a constitutional amendment to shift from a flat income tax to a progressive income tax system?         
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    O'Donnell
O'Donnell

No.

Do you have a plan to reform Illinois' school finance system so that it no longer produces inequities in school funding across the state?        
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    O'Donnell
O'Donnell

A fair way would be to distribute the total amount of State money available for school funding to school districts on a per student basis across the state. Complications would arise with special education districts and special needs children, but the same principles could be applied.

What is your view on gay marriage?     
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    O'Donnell
O'Donnell

While there are a number of issues with moral implications that are the main focus of select voters, I believe our immediate focus must be on the critical task of stabilizing our state's fiscal affairs.

The candidates
Dan Kotowski

Dan Kotowski

Jim O'Donnell

Jim O'Donnell

 

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The district
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