Democratic Hopefuls Take on State Budget Crisis
Two Democrats are seeking their party's nomination for the 59th District state House seat in the Feb. 2 primary election. They are incumbent state Rep. Carol Sente of Vernon Hills and Buffalo Grove Village President Elliott Hartstein.
The winner will advance to the November election to face the winner of the Republican primary.
The Daily Herald asked the candidates several questions related to the primary. Here is what the hopefuls had to say when asked about the state budget crisis.
Q. Lay out your plan to solve the state budget crisis. What programs are you prepared to cut for how much in savings? What's your position on taxes? Would you veto any tax increase or are some needed? Be specific. Do you support an expansion of gambling?
Hartstein. I believe any realistic plan to solve the state budget crisis requires a combination of changes, reforms and cuts and some new revenue for the short and long term.
Changes, reforms and cuts: Every agency of the state government needs to see where significant cuts can be made without jeopardizing both the delivery of services to citizens who need to be served and the federal stimulus funds or matching funds that we cannot put at risk. We need to analyze spending and improve our procurement process. We need to reduce our low-risk prison inmate population with more home release and electronic monitoring. We need to see if there are consolidations that can be made to bring down costs. We need to see which of the 300-plus commissions of the state may not really be needed and whether some of their functions can be consolidated. We need to reform and restructure aspects of our pension system and Medicaid delivery system, which are both major components of our structural debt, knowing that savings will take time to build up. A new approach for new employees could reap savings for pensions and managed care could bring down costs for Medicaid. Another big-ticket item that needs to be brought under control is need to increase the amounts that are contributed by employees toward health insurance, which need to be phased in fairly and reasonably. Other areas that can have an impact and which need to be considered are possible elimination of the GA scholarships and eliminating the member initiatives where millions are given out to legislators without real evaluation of the merits for state funding, despite the fact that some items may be worthwhile projects. Not including pensions and Medicaid which are more long term, I believe with the above concepts we can find close to a billion or slightly more in savings in each of the next few years based on estimates of the Taxpayer Action Board report issued this past June.
New revenue: The extent of current deficit which will be $13 billion in short order needs to be closed and cannot be fully addressed with cuts and reforms, many of which may take some time to reflect significant savings. In the short term, I believe that to be honest and candid some type of income tax increase will be needed under our current tax system. Such an increase must be done equitably by increasing exemption levels or other measures to compensate for the regressive nature of our tax system along with some form of significant property tax relief like increases in the Homeowner and Senior exemptions. …