On Thursday, September 27, 2018, DeKalb County political candidates spoke at the Red Roof Inn DeKalb and fielded questions from moderator, Michael Embrey, and the audience in attendance.
This is a report of what was said by state-wide candidates, David Simpson and Paul Stoddard, as well as the statement read on behalf of current State Representative for the 70th district, Jeff Keicher.
David Simpson, Democratic Candidate for State Senator, District 45
He’s lived in the Shabbona area for twenty years—the entire time he’s been married. He has a son who is in the Air Force in Texas and a daughter who’s a 5th-grade teacher in Milwaukee.
The reason he decided to run for office is because of what’s been happening over the last several years in the State of Illinois with the budget crisis, education funding, and decreased social services all over the state of Illinois.
“I think it’s a tragedy that we keep losing services in such a great state,” said Simpson. “We’re one of the largest economies in the U.S., and yet we have the reputation of going down and down and down. That can’t keep happening.”
He believes in moving towards a graduated income tax plan and funding education equitably throughout the state. He would like to see education funded more by graduated income taxes and less by property taxes to remove some of the burden off property owners and lower/middle-income families.
He would like to see the environment being taken care of. He pointed out that, by law, we need to be 25% renewable energy by the year 2025 in the State of Illinois and we’re only 7% there right now. That’s something we need to work towards.
Simpson cited the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability as giving some ideas on how to fix the state pension crisis.
He favors allowing medical marijuana, but would be cautious in legalizing the drug for recreational use. It would “have to be responsible to the resident citizens of the state and be taxed correctly,” said Simpson.
He wants election reform, such as setting limits on spending and raising money per constituent.
“There is far too much money in politics,” said Simpson.
Sharon Holmes, representing Jeff Keicher, Republican, State Representative, District 70
Jeff Keicher was appointed to finish the term of Robert Pritchard, who resigned in July.
“Jeff is unable to be here tonight. He’s had a longstanding obligation with his job that took him out of the area today,” said Holmes. “I am going to read a statement that Jeff prepared.”
“Today, as we approach the 200th birthday of our state, I can’t help but feel that those who came before us felt many of the same things we feel today. Will our families have opportunities? Will our cities be safe? Will our leaders keep their own power in check? Will we have an environment where companies will come to settle and create jobs?
“I have great optimism that Illinois will right itself and do the hard work to fix what ails us. We have a legacy that perseveres.
“We have come to dedicate our lives to bettering the conditions of those that call Illinois home, and those that we hope will call Illinois home years from now.
“We owe it to the past and the future to operate with integrity while we hold our collective future in the balance. We need leaders with integrity who are able to seek, to understand and communicate. Leaders who show up to do the work of the people without regard to self interest. Leaders who are in it because of the burden of the leadership they feel, not the personal gain they seek.
“I recommit publicly to each of you that my work here will be focused on protecting the taxpayer, creating jobs and economic development, supporting the world-class education and workforce development, restoring fiscal stability, balancing the budget without raising taxes, and rebuilding Illinois infrastructure.
“I want you to each know how honored and humbled I am for your support for my family, and most powerfully, for your encouragement.
“Let’s recognize that Illinois has a bright future when thoughtful decision makers are willing to work together to do what’s in the best interests of the people.
“Thank you all, from a position of profound humility. Thank you.
Jeff Keicher, State Representative, 70th District.”
Paul Stoddard, Democrat, Candidate for State Representative, District 70
He recently retired from Northern Illinois University and will be devoting himself full-time to being State Representative.
“I’m running because, Frankly, I’m very tired of the way we do politics in this state,” said Stoddard. “I’m tired of the way we do it across the country, as a matter of fact.”
He has several ideas about how to improve our political system. Some of these he’s already been able to get passed on the DeKalb County Board.
“The [DeKalb County] Board works a lot more non-partisanly now than it used to,” Stoddard said. “We don’t argue about R’s and D’s at the back of a name. We listen to each other. We hear each other. We work together to solve the county’s problems.”
Part of that is due to what he calls “committee sharing.” Instead of the majority party controlling every committee, they split them proportionally to their representation. This gives the minority party a stake in successful governance, so they’re no longer purely an opposition party. It gives them a chance to enhance their own agenda and bring issues important to them up for a vote to the full board in front of the public.
He said that this change has worked very well and has survived both Democratic majorities and Republican majorities.
He wants to move to strictly local funding of campaigns to get rid of big money, corporate, and political outside interests.
He want to move towards splitting the leadership of the parties and the government. If you are the Head of the Party, you shouldn’t also be Speaker of the House. He thinks that’s too much power in one place.
He would support term limits on leadership. He thinks 30 years as a leader in Springfield is way too much. He is not in favor of term limits, though, because people have the right to elect who they want to represent them.
He is also for ending gerrymandering. He favors independent redistricting commissions.
He is also for reinvesting in Illinois. He said studies have shown there are two investments you can make in a state that guarantee a positive return—education and infrastructure.
Having an educated populace and, thus, an educated workforce will attract more companies and better jobs to Illinois. Also, an educated consumer base tends to have more money to spend, which also entices more businesses to come here.
Finally, Stoddard said, we need to rework our tax structure, because we rely way too much on property taxes to fund K-12 education. “We have an excellent allocation scheme,” said Stoddard. “We don’t have an excellent funding scheme.”
“When we rely on local property taxes, we have an inherently unfair educational system, and we’re going to deprive large populations of a good education and a chance to break the poverty cycle,” said Stoddard. “And we put way too much pressure on homeowners.”
He has spoken to many retirees and senior citizens who say they are not going to be able to stay in their homes that they worked for 30 years to buy because of the high property taxes.
He wants to move to a graduated state income tax, do a tax swap, and reduce property taxes.
He said he thinks the goal would be if you’re making $50,000 or less, your taxes would go down. If you’re making $50,000 to $150,000, your taxes would stay where they are. And if you’re making over $150,000, you’re taxes will go up.
Stoddard also said that we need to reinvest in higher education to help stop tuition increases that are driving students out of state.
“We need to demonstrate that we are serious about higher education in Illinois, that we value it,” said Stoddard.
He also feels that administrative bloat is a real issue at the universities and that is something we really need to address. He would like to see a breakdown for the last 15-20 years for universities of how much of their budget goes to academics and how much goes to administration. He wants to figure out what a reasonable level is and fix it there.
“The mission of a university is not to administer people; it’s to educate people,” said Stoddard.
When asked about balanced budgets for government, he referred to the analogy some people make between government and families. He pointed out that families borrow money to purchase cars, homes, or pay for college tuition. So for things that are important enough, that are investments, it is ok to take on debt.
He said that the only way we can justify borrowing money is for things that are good investments in our future.
To fix the negative net outflow of people from Illinois, Stoddard said we need to promote the reasons why people come here, such as the City of Chicago being the largest economic engine in the region, as well as address the negative effects of why people have been leaving.