OCCUPATION: I am a fourth-generation family farmer, recycling business owner, and State Senator
EDUCATION: I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Agribusiness from Illinois State University
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I am new to elected office, but public service is in my blood. My parents served the area in the Illinois Senate many years ago, and I have been involved locally in the election process my entire life.
I am a small business owner and family farmer who has seen the struggles with our rural and agricultural families. When my daughter passed away from leukemia, I had to make sure families could afford quality health care. When University Park and Pembroke Township struggled with water and natural gas challenges, I stepped in to help fix them. I’ll continue to solve problems as State Senator.
What is the biggest challenge facing the 40th District?
Property taxes are weighing down the 40th District with an unfair burden. For too long, the state has not adequately funded our schools, putting the pressure on local governments to raise taxes to meet the needs.
We have taken some important steps in Springfield to increase school funding from the state, particularly for schools that don’t enjoy as much local support. I stand with Gov. J.B. Pritzker and my colleagues in the Legislature for another budget this year, where we live up to our ward and provide more funding for our schools. I am continuing to work on the Property Tax Task Force to find meaningful solutions. Over time, closing the state education funding gap will make a difference. As state funding takes on more of the job, local property taxes can be rolled back, and homeowners in the 40th Senate District will keep more of their hard-earned money to spend locally. Our residents will be able to keep their homes for longer. Our local businesses won’t be driven out of Illinois any longer because of high taxes, and lower taxes will make it easier to attract the residential and commercial developments that will further drive our recovery.
What is the biggest challenge facing Illinois as a whole?
Our biggest challenge facing Illinois is political dishonesty about our finances. Politicians in Springfield have passed state budgets year after year that they claimed were balanced, but they quickly fall apart and Illinois are distrustful of the empty promises. Legislators have used tricks and loopholes and gimmicks and pretend revenues — how many times did they budget based on the supposed one-time sale of the Thompson Center in Chicago?
I ran for public office to say enough is enough. Let’s truly balance the books, make sure our revenues match our spending and be upfront with our constituents. They deserve nothing less. And when we did this year, let’s not treat it as a reason to celebrate — let’s do it again and again until we have a new habit of fiscal responsibility and good budgeting in Springfield year after year. Until we commit to better budgeting, we have little chance of restoring our reputation and putting our economy back on track for the long term.
How should the state address the pension crisis in Illinois?
Our pension woes were not created overnight. We will not fix them overnight. But that does not mean we should wait until tomorrow to do the hard work that should have been done yesterday. Our past politicians took the easy way out too many times in the past. They could have set aside funds to meet those pension benefit obligations and then changed course when it became clear they could not meet their pension payments. Instead, they covered up the problem by delaying, deferring and sometimes even skipping pension payments. Each time, the problem grew until it could no longer be ignored.
Today, about one quarter of our state’s General Revenue Fund spending goes to fund pensions. Fortunately, we take a bite out of our problem each year we do what past generations couldn’t in Springfield: fully fund our pension obligations. No more kicking the can down the road.
But we also have to work smarter on solutions. We saw a good example of this in one of my first votes as a legislator from the fall veto session, with the consolidation of police and fire pension funds to maximize investments. Gov. Pritzker, legislators and stakeholders got it right:They sat around the table to fully discuss the problem, analyze each solution and pick a path forward that preserves employees’ earned benefits without bankrupting our state in the process. We should look at government consolidation and new revenue sources from cannabis and sports betting to help ease the pension load.
What do you believe is causing the resident exodus from Illinois?
There are many causes, but none more painful than the unfair tax burden in Illinois. Nearly every resident I talk to as I go door to door throughout the 40th District complains they pay too much and receive too little. And for too many, they’ve reached the breaking point and choose to live, work and raise their families in Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri or much farther away. It will take time to reverse this trend, but we can do it. Leading this state in a new direction is why I ran for state Senate.
When we get our fiscal house in order in Springfield — match our revenue to our spending, pay off our debt, stop fooling ourselves with gimmicks and fake math — we will take an important first step down the road to recovery. Gov. Pritzker and the leadership in the House and Senate are serious about making progress: decreasing the bill backlog, approving a long-needed capital bill to improve our infrastructure, promoting fair taxes and entrepreneurial revenue through cannabis and sports betting.
When we adequately fund our schools with state money, our property tax bills will decline. Residential and commercial developments will follow, putting people to work locally in good-paying careers. They will spend money at small businesses locally, and the rebound cycle will grow. It will take time, but if we meet our obligations in Springfield, Illinois will bring people back and once again be the crown jewel of the nation’s Midwest states.