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Governor: Rich Whitney


Political affiliation: Green Party

City: Carbondale

Marital status: Married

Occupation/Firm name: Attorney, Speir & Whitney

Campaign HQ address: P.O. Box 3803, Carbondale, IL 62902

Campaign website: whitneyforgov.org

What is your campaign budget- Still in flux; est. $200,000

What are your top priorities for the state-

Solving the budget crisis and structural deficit, since it will be impossible to tackle most other problems until that matter is solved.

Lay out your plan to solve the state budget crisis. Be as specific as possible, including any recommended spending cuts. Given a massive state deficit, what areas would you prioritize for state spending- What can Illinois do without-

We can solve the budget crisis through the following steps:

A. Eliminate spending that exists only to reward political supporters of favored legislators and that does not serve a legitimate public purpose.

B. Enact a comprehensive reform of our existing tax structure, which relies far too heavily on local property taxes to fund our schools and places too much of the burden on lower-and-middle-income working people.

C. Impose a financial transactions tax on speculative trading, making the financial sector responsible for much of the current economic crisis pay its fair share to repair the damage and promote economic health.

D. Create a state bank, in which to deposit our tax revenues, supplemented by funds from private depositors, so that the State of Illinois can invest in productive ventures that benefit the people of Illinois, and keep the interest collected for the benefit of the people, rather than pay interest to enrich the same private financial institutions that have already preyed upon workers, homeowners and taxpayers.

E. Implement a "fee and dividend" system on producers of energy and products responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and nuclear power. Fees would be imposed on the producers while consumers would receive quarterly dividends from the proceeds, based on their income level, that would provide protection from energy price hikes and allow a shift in spending in favor of clean energy and energy efficiency.

F. Raise additional revenue by ending the socially destructive "war on drugs" and specifically by legalizing and taxing the sale of marijuana.

Taking these in order:

A. Eliminate spending that exists only to reward political supporters of favored legislators and that does not serve a legitimate public purpose.

Although we cannot close a $12+ billion deficit primarily by making spending cuts--at least not if we want to restore and maintain adequate funding for core services--spending cuts do need to be part of the equation. There is still waste, inefficiency and payment of illicit political rewards in Illinois government, and we need to eliminate them if we are going to spend our resources more wisely on programs that genuinely improve economic opportunities. To this extent, I will make common cause with Republicans, Libertarians and independent conservatives who see elimination of waste and political patronage as a top priority. After all, we may disagree as to the appropriate role and scope of government but we all agree that it should be more efficient and aimed squarely at serving the public interest.

The idea that government is a kind of fatted calf, and that the main goal of each legislator is to get the biggest slice for his or her district, regardless of the effect on the rest of the state, is a sickness, destructive of the public good. Who better than a Green Party governor--with no stake in political patronage and no corporate largesse or PAC money to hand out to political supporters--to clean house and eliminate political hires, ghost jobs, inefficient administration and wasteful pork-barrel spending-

As governor, I pledge to:

- Convene an independent Citizens' Budget Review Commission, drawn from both the private and public sector, and all parties, which will conduct a forensic audit of our operating and capital budgets. The Commission will be armed with the authority to subpoena witnesses and documents, to ferret out wasteful pork spending, ghost jobs, inefficient practices and expenditures--and any spending that does not serve a legitimate public purpose.

- Better publicize, expand and utilize the State Government Suggestion Award Board program that provides rewards for meritorious ideas that save the state money. Although the basic idea behind this program is good, it is practically unknown and few Illinoisans even know about it or how to participate.

- Review the "piglet booklet" prepared periodically by the Illinois Policy Institute and Citizens Against Government Waste to identify additional programs, projects, grants and contracts that are wasteful and should be eliminated. Although I disagree with many of the items that these organizations identify as "waste," I commend them for their citizen initiative and work in scrutinizing the budget and do find agreement on some items. A Whitney administration will review their findings and act on those that have merit.

- Review and cut allocations from the recently passed Capital Bill that were clearly aimed at rewarding legislators and serve no legitimate or Senators serving on their boards. One grant was even awarded to a youth camp located in Wisconsin. Numerous handouts were awarded to religious organizations and/or serve no secular purpose. Numerous grants were for road expansion projects of dubious or no merit. If bonds for some of these projects have already been sold, I will fight for legislation to reallocate these funds to the Operations Budget or to pay down some of our state's huge unfunded pension liability.

It is difficult to state with certainty how much money we can save through such initiatives. However, I will set as my goal saving $2 billion by these means.

B. Enact a comprehensive reform of our existing tax structure.

This is not a matter of "raising the income tax," with no conditions. Although the state does need more revenue to fund essential programs, raising taxes on working people and small business owners will not help the economy recover. The crux of the problem is that Illinois has one of the most regressive tax systems in the nation, meaning that we tax lower-income residents more heavily than the wealthiest. In fact, when all taxes are combined, Illinois taxes the lowest 20 percent of income recipients at more than double the rate of the top one percent! A related problem is that Illinois relies far too heavily on property taxes to fund its schools--which has given us among the poorest funded schools and the most unequally funded schools in the United States. District-based property taxes also operate in a regressive manner, since poorer districts must assess at a higher rate in order to fund their schools.

Therefore, we need to implement tax fairness, and reduce the burden on lower-and-middle-income working people, including overburdened homeowners. What is needed is a whole package, taking an approach similar to current Senate Bill 750. That bill would raise additional revenue by raising the personal and corporate income taxes, and broadening the sales tax to include some services. However, it first protects lower and middle-income wage earners, by tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit and creating a Family Tax Credit for low and middle income taxpayers to offset the effects of the income tax increase and sales tax base expansion.

Another part of the tax reform package is that it must reduce reliance on property taxes to fund schools by increasing the state's share of support for schools, thus allowing real property tax relief. SB 750 would do this by increasing the state's per-student Foundation Level for K-12 education to the amount recommended by the Education Funding Advisory Board over four years (raising it to $8,410 from $5,959). The Foundation Level and state Poverty Grants would also be automatically tied to increases to the Employment Cost Index to adjust for inflation. It also requires increased funding for pre-school education, special education, grants for high-poverty schools, teacher and principal mentoring programs, science, math and technology programs, and mandates a $300 million annual appropriation (indexed for inflation) for grants to higher education.

The property tax relief would be implemented by doubling the Illinois residential property tax credit. Earlier versions of SB 750 provided relief by providing abatements paid by the state. Either approach is valid; the objective is to provide property tax relief without actually lowering the assessments and revenue streams at the local level. We must avoid a "shell game" in which increased state funding results in lower local funding. We want to improve school funding and reduce school inequality by raising the floor for all.

Implementation of SB 750 would yield an increase in revenue of $7.352 billion, going a long way toward eliminating the structural deficit.

Although I support SB 750 and would sign such a bill, two important qualifications are in order. First I would want to amend the bill to replace the Family Tax Credit with a more straightforward tax credit to be applied based on income without regard for family status. It should be strong enough to ensure that the lowest quarter of wage earners actually pay lower taxes than they pay now, with the next highest 40 percent paying no more in income taxes than they pay now.

This will not only reduce the regressivity of our tax system; it will also provide economic stimulus. Dollar for dollar, any program that puts more money into the hands of the lowest-income workers tends to have a greater stimulative impact than a tax cut or any other type of expenditure. That's because low-income workers spend a higher percentage of their income, creating a greater multiplier effect than money expended anywhere else.

Second, although expansion of the sales tax to cover consumer services may be a necessary evil now, the sales tax will be among the first things to go once we achieve fiscal health and can afford to get rid of it, beginning with food items and other essentials, and then abolishing it for everything except luxury items. The sales tax is notoriously regressive and it imposes an undue burden on many small businesses. Its abolition will be a high priority.

References: See the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability: http://www.ctbaonline.org/.

C. Impose a financial transactions tax on speculative trading.

Our economy has become increasingly dominated by the "finance, insurance and real estate" (or FIRE) sectors of the economy, the social usefulness of which is far outweighed by its tendency to prey upon consumers, more genuinely productive businesses and taxpayers. After the predatory activities of this sector created a speculative "bubble" that triggered the current economic collapse, it bought off enough members of Congress to soak the taxpayers for a record bailout, with an ultimate price tag of $14.4 trillion. Then they turned around and paid themselves another round of obscene executive bonuses for their "performance."

This sector comprises a new class of "robber barons." Congress is too bought and paid for to seriously challenge their power. But here in Illinois, through the Green Party and this campaign, we can start to make them pay their fair share of the wealth they have stolen and start to undo the tremendous damage they have caused.

The vehicle for doing so is a Financial Transactions Tax on speculative trading--trading that bears little relationship to the real productive activity of the economy. Specifically, I propose levying a tax on the trading of futures, options and interest rate products. The notional value of such securities traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board Options Exchange in 2008 exceeded $1 quadrillion. An extremely miniscule tax on such transactions--measured in terms of 10-thousandths of one percent, far less than the commission and brokerage fees most have to pay to make a transaction--could potentially raise enough revenue to eliminate the deficit in Illinois on its own.

However, considering the volatile nature of such trading, I propose a more modest beginning. I would propose that we levy a tax on such trading sufficient to raise $4.5 billion in new revenues for our State government.

At a time when the Illinois legislature repeatedly hits low-income workers disproportionately with "sin taxes" on alcohol, tobacco and gambling, a Financial Transactions Tax would impose a tax on another form of gambling, one that is every bit as harmful as the other sin taxes, and far more voluminous. Such a tax would also provide these added benefits:

- It would discourage manipulative and monopolizing behavior within the financial markets.

- It involves a transaction tax so small as to not affect those genuinely engaging in legitimate financial activities.

- It will help stabilize the derivatives markets which serve as product price insurance so important to Illinois farmers.

References: See the Chicago Political Economy Group and its working paper on a Financial Transactions Tax nationally. http://www.cpegonline.org/. Also Mother Jones: http://motherjones.com/special-reports/2010/01/accountability-deficit

D. Create a state bank, in which to deposit our tax revenues, supplemented by funds from private depositors and state pension funds.

This will allow the State of Illinois to invest in productive ventures that benefit the people of Illinois, and keep the interest collected for the benefit of the people, rather than pay interest to enrich the same private financial institutions that have already preyed upon workers, homeowners and taxpayers.

While almost all states are struggling to balance their budgets like Illinois, one exception to the rule is North Dakota--the only state with its own bank. Instead of using state funds as a means to further enrich private banks, a state-owned bank could earn additional revenue for the state, while at the same time help spur economic development in Illinois. It could provide low-interest credit to Illinois-based businesses, farmers and college students. It could be used to finance capital projects, modernize our infrastructure, promote green energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transportation, insulate homes and businesses and provide more affordable housing. It could help the state pay its bills during times of fiscal emergency. It could help moderate the effects of economic downturns by making credit more widely available at reasonable rates of interest. As needed, it would have the power to borrow from the Federal Reserve at the same nominal rate of interest as commercial banks.

A "Community Bank of Illinois" ("CBI") would be the depository for all incoming state funds. The act authorizing the bank should require or at least encourage each of the state's five public pension plans, with combined assets of about $50 billion, to deposit a modest percentage of their holdings in the CBI. Along with tax revenues and private deposits, this would ensure a sizable fund of start-up capital with which to begin operations relatively quickly. The CBI's earnings, in turn, could be used to help alleviate our state's huge pension fund deficit.

State Rep. Mary Flowers has introduced a Community Bank of Illinois Act, HB 5476, which proposes to create a state bank modeled after North Dakota's. While I think there is room for improvement in the bill, it is a good starting point and should be applauded.

The fiscal impact of the CBI on the state budget would of course be limited at first. Even at its inception, however, it could be a useful instrument for lending money to the State government to deal with immediate crises. After that, it would not take long for it to have a measurable positive impact on our economy.

References: See the articles of Ellen Brown on this subject, at http://www.webofdebt.com/ and especially her blog, at http://webofdebt.wordpress.com/.

E. Implement a "fee and dividend" system on producers of energy and products responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and nuclear power.

While the federal government is debating whether to implement an ineffective "cap and trade" system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Illinois can get ahead of the curve by implementing a simpler but more effective greenhouse gas fee-and-dividend system. Under such a system, gradually increasing fees would be imposed on the producers of greenhouse gases, while consumers would receive periodic dividends from the proceeds, based on their income level, with progressively higher dividends going to persons at lower income levels, that would provide protection from energy price hikes and promote a shift in spending in favor of clean energy and energy efficiency.

The guiding principle is that those who are imposing such terrible costs on society should start paying the price for it, thereby creating an incentive for producers to transition to renewable energy and zero-emissions processes, and for consumers to transition to better insulated homes, sustainable transportation and more energy-efficient products. This would also create a more level playing field for producers of clean energy such as wind energy and solar power. As economies of scale are created for such production, the price of such energy will fall, and the shift to clean energy will accelerate.

The fee-and-dividend system I favor is a variation of the proposal favored by the nation's leading climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen. Under this proposal, a fee is imposed on each fossil fuel at the point of sale, in dollars per ton of carbon dioxide in the fuel. The public does not directly pay any fee or tax, but the price of the goods they buy increases in proportion to how much fossil fuel is used in their production. Fuels such as gasoline or heating oil, along with electricity made from coal, oil or gas, are affected directly by the carbon fee, which is set to gradually increase over time. This gives the public time to make changes in transportation, housing, insulation and other consumer decisions in order to avoid the higher costs. Under the dividend part of the proposal, the public is also given the means to do so. Hansen proposes that the fee-and-dividend system be revenue neutral, such that 100 percent of the money collected from the fossil fuel companies is distributed uniformly to the public. Those who do better at reducing their carbon footprint will receive more in the dividend than they will pay in the added costs of the products they buy as a result of the fees.

I would modify Hansen's proposal in several respects. First, instead of just imposing the fee on CO2 emissions, I favor imposing fees on all greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide, which, pound for pound, contribute much more to global warming than CO2. I would also add nuclear power, which, although it does not contribute to global warming, also imposes costs on society, such as the terrible human costs involved in mining and processing uranium, and the cost of storing nuclear waste for thousands of years, that are not adequately reflected in the price of nuclear energy. I would propose to impose a fee on nuclear power equivalent to the fees imposed on greenhouse gas sources of electrical power. This would also ensure parity between Northern Illinois, where much of the population gets it power from nuclear sources, and Central and Southern Illinois, where more of the population gets its power from coal.

Second, because the State of Illinois is in dire financial straits, I would not make the fee-and-dividend system revenue neutral. However, the fee-and-dividend system would provide an opportunity to address some of the regressive impact of our current system of taxation and provide more of the burden on those most able to pay, instead of putting it on those least able to pay. Although precise figures are not available, we estimate that a fee on CO2 emissions amounting to $8.80 per metric ton (the equivalent of imposing a 10 cent fee on a gallon of gas), with proportionately higher fees imposed on sources of methane and nitrous oxide, would yield gross revenue of about $5.5 billion. I would propose remitting dividends to consumers in the amount of $3.5 billion, yielding a net gain of $2 billion. In order to counter the regressive impact of the current Illinois tax system, I propose that the lowest income Illinois taxpayers (as measured by their most recent annual filing) be paid a quarterly dividend that would actually be higher than the estimated impact of fees on the prices they pay for energy, that middle-income taxpayers receive a dividend about the same as the impact of the fees, and that higher-income Illinoisans receive dividends proportionately less than what they pay for higher energy costs.

The creation of a statewide public utility, and/or changes in state law allowing energy co-ops to compete with Ameren and Com Ed statewide, could also provide a means by which to mitigate any adverse pricing impact of the greenhouse gas/nuclear power fees.

References: (Study of proposed carbon tax in New Mexico: http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/ecmd/Multimedia/documents/carbontax8_14.pdf); James Hansen, How to Solve the Climate Problem, The Nation, 13/30/2009, http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100111/hansen.

F. Raise additional revenue by ending the socially destructive "war on drugs" and specifically by legalizing and taxing the sale of marijuana.

The so-called "war on drugs" has been a colossal failure, imposing huge social and financial costs on our criminal justice system and society at large. It has resulted in the United States having the higher incarceration rates in the world and made "criminals" out of people who sought only to experience the pleasure of an altered state of consciousness. The criminalization of marijuana is especially irrational, when the hazards of marijuana consumption are compared those of alcohol, tobacco and any number of legal pharmaceutical drugs. Most sensible people know this to be true. A growing number of law enforcement officers agree that arresting and prosecuting people for cannabis possession and consumption is a waste of resources. Yet, somehow, conventional political thinking requires most legislators to ignore fact and common sense and pretend that voters won't support a more enlightened view of marijuana and drug use.

Against this, I say that we can no longer afford to ignore fact and common sense. I support the full legalization of the production, sale and consumption of marijuana, and propose that it be taxed at rates comparable to current taxes on alcohol and tobacco. We should decriminalize other drugs, by degree, maintaining criminal penalties for truly dangerous substances such as methamphetamine. We should treat most drug abuse as a public health problem more than a criminal problem.

The overall case for taking such steps is a separate subject, to be treated at greater length in my platform on criminal justice issues. With respect to the economy, ending the war on drugs and legalizing marijuana will allow us both to raise additional revenue, channel funds to more productive areas of the economy than the prison-industrial complex and focus law enforcement resources on real crimes.

It is almost impossible to determine how much revenue could be realized by taxing the sale of marijuana in Illinois. Illinois obtained about $615.9 million in tobacco and cigarette taxes in FY 2008. Guesstimating that roughly1/3 that sum could be collected on marijuana taxes would yield a figure of about $200 million, although this would not be available until after legalization and startup of commercial production and sale.

References: http://www.mpp.org/assets/pdfs/downloadmaterials/TandRARGUMENTS092008.pdf

http://www.slate.com/id/2220221/pagenum/all/#p2

Total additional revenue to be realized by the Whitney plan for tax and budget reform:

Savings from targeted cuts of pork and reallocation of bad Capital Bill expenditures: $2 billion

SB 750: $7.352 billion (not counting added revenue for education)

Financial Transactions Tax: $4.5 billion

State Bank: Unknown; long-term potential is tremendous

Greenhouse gas fee and dividend: $2 billion

Legalization and taxation of marijuana: Not applicable during start-up (est. $0.2 billion afterwards)

Total: $15.852 billion

Less structural deficit of $12.3 billion = $3.552 billion net increase

Do you support or reject increasing the state income tax- What about expanding the sales tax base- What is your view on taxing retirement income-

See prior answer. I support raising the state income tax, provided that lower and middle-income earners actually pay lower, or the same level of taxes, respectively, as they do now, through use of an income credit, and provided that it is coupled with mandatory property tax abatements, and guaranteed funding streams for our schools, as I propose. The sales tax base should be expanded to include services, as a temporary measure only. Once we achieve fiscal health, I would like to seen the sales tax gradually phased out, beginning with necessities, and possibly leaving it on luxuries. Retirement incomes over a certain high threshold should be subject to taxation, probably on incomes over $100,000, or in that ballpark.

What is your view on state borrowing to pay bills, including to pay pension obligations-

Borrowing should be a last resort and we need to do what is necessary to get our government back on the "ramp" to gradually pay down our unfunded pension liability without constantly having to resort to borrowing. Under the current administration, borrowing seems to be much closer to being a first resort, right up there with simply not paying bills. We do have to meet our obligations and I would rather borrow than default. But we need to avoid getting in that situation in the first place.

The state last spring created a two-tier pension system. Would you go further by including new police officers and firefighters and by reducing benefits for current employees- Would you support making retired state workers pay more for their health care benefits-

NO. NO. If I could put that in bold and underscore it, I would.

I will fight to REPEAL the two-tier pension system. Despite highly publicized abuses, our public pensions are far from generous, ranking near the bottom among state governments. The new two-tier system puts us at rock bottom. The workers are not to blame for years of deliberate underfunding of the pension system, under both Democratic and Republican administrations. The way the two-tier system was imposed was fundamentally undemocratic, having been rammed through the General Assembly without any time for public reaction and input. I will fight to reverse this despicable sneak attack on middle-class living standards in our state.

How would you reform the state Medicaid system-

I want to replace the state Medicaid system with a comprehensive single-payer, improved-Medicare-for-all type health care system. Federal Medicaid funds would be folded into such a system. Reimbursement rates would be set through state-level negotiations between a state health-care board and representatives of physicians, hospitals and other providers.

What would you do to facilitate job growth in Illinois- Is the money spent by the state to recruit businesses and offer tax breaks money well spent-

I have a comprehensive plan to meet the goal of a full employment economy. The full version is on my website. It starts with solving the budget crisis and restoring health to the public sector, especially education. A public sector that invests in people--their education, health care, infrastructure, affordable housing and affordable clean energy--is the key to creating a healthy and productive private sector. That's why I am fighting for free higher education for Illinois residents and a single-payer universal health care system.

I am fighting for a Green capital bill to promote renewable energy, with manufacturing based in Illinois, sustainable transportation, including real high-speed rail, smart urban redesign and energy efficiency. In addition to our transportation and energy infrastructure, we need to renovate or build better parks and recreational facilities, libraries, hospitals, schools and low-income housing. During the Great Depression, millions of Americans worked under the Works Progress Administration to build such facilities, many of which still serve useful public purposes today, or under the Civilian Conservation Corps, to create and maintain trails and otherwise improve recreational areas. Others were employed in the arts, adding beauty and cultural depth to our public life. To some degree, Illinois can and should follow that model during our own period of depression. There is no reason why some Illinoisans cannot be employed in such endeavors to help our economic recovery and benefit society in the process. Certainly it would be beneficial to employ a small corp of Illinoisans to plant trees throughout the State, as another step in the struggle to combat global warming.

I propose to use the power of eminent domain to reclaim and retool closed factories and facilities, and reopen them as community-owned or employee-owned enterprises. My state bank proposal can provide a powerful tool of monetary policy, to extend credit where it is needed to attain our economic goals.

The Illinois Constitution says the state has the "primary responsibility" for funding education. How would you make the state live up to that obligation-

Under a comprehensive plan like HB 174 or SB 750, with some modifications as discussed above, the state would provide over half of the funding for education, while providing real property tax relief.

How would you improve the campaign finance law passed in 2009- Would you support capping donations from party leaders during general elections-

Yes, I would support capping donations from party leaders, and all committee to committee transfers. That would be a very good start. But there is much more to do.

As your next governor, I pledge to vigorously enforce the rules of the Rutan decision, that all non-policy-making state jobs be selected on the basis of objective criteria by an independent bureau. I also promise to appoint an Inspector General from an opposition party, to prevent and root out illegal job patronage and help remove the cloud of corruption over our state. I will also fight to create an independent Citizens' Budget Review Commission, which will conduct a forensic audit of our operating and capital budgets, armed with the authority to subpoena witnesses and documents, to ferret out wasteful pork spending, ghost jobs, inefficient practices and expenditures--and any spending that does not serve a legitimate public purpose. I will fight to end "pay-for-play" in Illinois by banning campaign contributions from state contractors, their owners and officers--and barring the awarding of contracts to any company whose owners or officers had made such a contribution to an incumbent. Contracts should be awarded on the basis of merit, with consideration given to historically disadvantaged groups and under-served communities. I will also look to the recommendations of the Illinois Reform Commission and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform for further guidance on ethics and campaign finance reform. I also support publicly funded campaigns for candidates who get a certain threshold of small donations, as is done in Maine.

What is the long-term solution to fund the CTA and replace its aging buses and trains-

That would be a part of my Green Capital Bill. Funding public mass transit, especially rail, throughout the state, is a high priority: good for immediate job creation, good to provide alternatives to the gas driven automobile and congestion, good to reduce transportation costs, so that people spend more money on other products and services, good for the environment and the fight against global warming.

Should the state play an active role in reducing global warming- If so, how-

Yes. Armed with the additional fiscal tools of a balanced budget and a State bank, one of the next priorities must be to modernize our energy infrastructure in a manner that both lowers greenhouse gas emissions and lowers the cost of electrical power, heating and cooling, to consumers and businesses. This will both create jobs in the short term and stimulate the economy in the long term. This can be accomplished by:

A. Create alternatives to the profiteering utilities. Some communities in Illinois have well-functioning, publicly accountable public utilities providing their power and gas, and others are served by electrical co-ops in which the customers have an ownership stake and voice in how the company is run. However, much of the State is held hostage by the utility monopolies, Ameren and Com Ed. Co-ops are legally barred from competing in these areas. This bar should be lifted, and the State should create a public utility to provide a broader, publicly accountable alternative. By eliminating the need to ensure profit-making by the utility monopolies, power, heating and cooling can be provided at lower cost.

B. Improve energy efficiency of homes and buildings. Substantial savings of energy use and cost can be achieved by improving the insulation and using more energy-efficient appliances, lighting and equipment in homes and businesses alike. Therefore, we as a society should make it a priority to help both homeowners and businesses accomplish these objectives. A stepped-up program of higher required efficiency standards for appliances sold in Illinois, higher construction standards, and grants, low-interest revolving loans and tax incentives to promote the rehabilitation of older buildings and low-income housing, will all help move us in the right direction.

C. Promote solar and wind power generation--with production based in Illinois. We have great untapped potential to meet much of our energy needs through a combination of solar and wind power generation. A rapid expansion of solar and wind power generation can be accomplished by: 1) requiring lenders to extend loans to qualified property owners for solar power or wind generators at a minimal 1 percent interest rate (this could be readily accomplished with a State bank), and 2) requiring utilities to purchase power from solar and wind power producers at a premium rate. Under one variation, a portion of the premium would be payable directly to the lender, which would have a secured interest in the solar or wind generator until the loan is paid back.

This creates a win-win situation: The bank is paid back. The homeowner, farmer or business investing in solar or wind generation realizes immediate savings on energy costs and in many cases will go from being a net consumer to a net producer of energy. Their greater income will further stimulate the economy. The utilities will have to pay the cost of the premium rate but in the long run will realize the benefits of having a greater, stable, more diversified and decentralized energy grid, ultimately cheaper in the face of rising fossil fuel prices. As economies of scale are realized in wind and solar power generation, the costs will fall, as will the necessary premium rate. And we all benefit from the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite growing demand for solar and wind generation in the U.S., the biggest producers of solar panels and wind generators are in China and Europe. A program like the one proposed here, combined with appropriate grants and loans for start-up businesses, could help jump-start solar and or wind generator manufacturing businesses here in Illinois, creating more quality manufacturing jobs.

D. Develop other creative means of generating energy that do not emit greenhouse gases. One very promising option is the "Integrated and Advanced Renewable Energy System" developed by Equitech, International, LLC. This is a process that can take a variety of forms of toxic, radioactive, medical and other harmful wastes--something our society produces in abundance--and, by using super-heated steam, break it down chemically, extracting energy and reforming the remaining matter into non-toxic, usable products.

Equally important, the Equitech model focuses not only on the technology but on the question of who owns and benefits from the technology. In its pending demonstration project in East St. Louis, and generally, it proposes that the community where the System is sited be invested in the project--literally, as community stakeholders. Thus, the community benefits not only from an infusion of jobs and a new source of clean energy; it also benefits by virtue of being shareholder-owners of the facility and recipients of the eventual dividends realized. This same model could then be utilized to revive other depressed communities, from Southern Illinois to the South Side of Chicago.

What is your view on gay marriage and civil unions-

I support equal rights under the law for gays and straights alike, including the right to marry. I would add only this qualifier: I would prefer that the State not use the word "marriage" at all. I believe that what the State calls "marriage" today is essentially a contract, a legal relationship. This should more appropriately be called a "civil union," whether applied to gays or straights. "Marriage" is a religious concept that should be left to the churches, each to define as it sees fit.

Such a classification would be more appropriate than the current one, as it would "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's," and would eliminate at least some of the religious-based opposition to the rights of gays and lesbians to enjoy the same legal protections and social standing as straight people, which is the main objective. But this qualifier is a philosophical one, and not a point of political principle. Whatever the State chooses to call the legal bond between two consenting adults who enter into a committed relationship--a "civil union," "marriage,"or some other term--the same name and the same rights and obligations should apply to gays and straights alike, in full measure.

There is another aspect of this. Gays and lesbians are not the only categories of people advocating for civil unions. There are also some in the disability community and among the elderly who are raising it as an issue, insofar as marital status can affect their qualifications for certain kinds of benefits. Any law that penalizes people for having a committed relationship and mutual obligations is a law that needs to be changed. This problem may be addressed more effectively on the federal level but if the state can assist in the meantime, I would support any measure to do so.

As governor, would you lift the moratorium on the death penalty or continue it-

I would continue it -- until the death penalty is abolished altogether, which is something I advocate.

List your educational background

J.D., Magna Cum Laude, Southern Illinois University School of Law, 1996; B.A, Communications, Michigan State University, 1977.

Please list civic, professional, fraternal or other organizations to which you belong

ACLU; Illinois Coalition for Peace, Justice and the Environment; Health Care for All Illinois; Illinois Single-Payer Coalition; Big Muddy Independent Media Center; Greenpeace; Midwest High-Speed Rail Association; National Association of Railroad Passengers; Illinois Ballot Integrity Project; Nuclear Energy Information Service and Citizens Utility Board. The Illinois Green Party is part of the Responsible Budget Coalition, which I support.

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

I have served as Chairperson of the Platform Committee of the Illinois Green Party, served on its Coordinating Committee and served as Chairperson of the Shawnee Green Party, my local party affiliate.

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

Years ago I was employed as a teaching assistant and research assistant at SIU School of Law. One of my daughters is currently employed by Southern Illinois University.

Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed

I don't have all the information at my fingertips but this is close: Roy Singham, $5,000; William P. Kreml, $4,500+; Ron Meissen, $1,500; Kip Robbins, $1,000; David Christenson, about $800.

Please paste a brief biography here

I was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, grew up in Connecticut and New Jersey and went to Michigan State University in the 1970s, where I first learned to say, "Go Green!" I have lived and worked in Oklahoma and California. I worked as a political journalist for some years, then decided to go to law school at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1993. My wife Paula and I liked the area so much that we decided to stay. Our oldest daughter stayed in California, our younger daughter and son finished grade school in Illinois and are now out in the work world on their own, although Jessica lives in Carbondale and is helping with the campaign.

In my legal practice, I represent working people in employment law, including discrimination cases, civil rights and criminal defense. In collaboration with former SIU law professor Donald W. Garner, I was involved in nationwide legal battles to regulate tobacco advertising, on behalf of the public health community, including the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and Public Citizen. I have also taken on challenging and sometimes controversial cases to protect First, Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, combating political patronage in employment, harassment and unjust firings of coal miners, prison employees, police officers and many other workers.

I have been involved in the fight to build a viable and genuine progressive political party in the United States my entire adult life. I have long been politically active in support of the labor, environmental, civil rights, women's, single-payer health care, social justice and antiwar movements. I am one of the founding members of the Illinois Green Party and wrote a good portion of the Party's platform. In 2002, I ran for state representative for the Party in the 115th District, winning enough votes to make the party a legally "established" party in the District. In 2006, I served as the Party's first ever candidate for Governor, winning over 360,000 votes, about 10.5 percent of the total, more than enough to make the Green Party an "established" party under Illinois election law.

Meanwhile, I continue to be actively involved in local political battles to protect the environment and resist urban sprawl, as well as the ongoing effort to oppose the illegal, immoral and obscenely expensive U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. #Comments_Container, #Comments_Container1,#commentsonly,.StoryInteract{display:none;}

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