Laura Fine, 45, is the Democratic candidate for State Representative in the 17th District. A resident of Glenview, she currently serves as the Clerk of Northfield Township and is an instructor in the political science department at Northeastern Illinois University. She is on the board of directors of Links North Shore Youth Health Services and a volunteer at the Northfield Township Food Pantry. She holds a B.A. in telecommunications from Indiana University and an M.A. in political science from Northeastern Illinois.
Jobs: To promote jobs, Ms. Fine said, the State needs to have a stable, balanced budget in order to retain the businesses currently in the State and to attract new businesses. By addressing the State’s unfunded pension liability, working to significantly reduce the nearly $8 billion in unpaid State bills and payments to local governments, and addressing unnecessary and wasteful spending, the State will reduce the stress it puts on businesses in the form of taxes and fees. This will help retain current businesses and attract new ones, she said.
Ms. Fine said she supports the development of renewable energy such as solar and wind power to help lessen dependence on foreign oil, reduce asthma-causing air pollution and jumpstart the Illinois economy with new, green jobs.
Pensions: The General Assembly has made some progress in addressing the State’s unfunded pension liability, but more needs to be done, said Ms. Fine. To do nothing is simply an unsustainable path, she says. As examples of what the State should do she said the State needs to ensure that those individuals working their final days at an inflated salary do not scam the system. Additionally, the State needs to find a way to roll back pension perks instituted by political insiders for their own personal – and considerable – gain.
IncomeTaxes/Budget Controls: Ms. Fine said the increase in income tax rates approved in 2011 should be allowed to phase out as provided by current law. She believes Illinois can balance its budget without doing it on the backs of taxpayers by promoting business growth in the State, which in turn will increase tax revenues, she said.
She would cut spending among other ways by reducing legislators’ pay by 10 percent, accelerate the move to managed care in the Medicaid program, reform the public pension program, and devote additional resources to care for seniors and disabled persons in home and community-based settings rather than in institutions, which, she said, is generally more expensive.
Ms. Fine said homeowners should not pay higher property taxes when home values are falling. She said she will work to provide relief by pushing for a new law to freeze property taxes when home values decline.
Education: Ms. Fine said she is a strong advocate for public schools, and that the State needs to make continued progress so that all children, regardless of where they live, receive a high quality education. She says the State should ensure that high-performing charter schools receive the support and resources they need for success, while eliminating low-performing charter schools. She said she does not support vouchers, and does not think the State should shift teacher pension costs to school districts.
Kyle Frank, 48, is the Republican candidate for State Representative of the 17th District. He is a resident of Skokie and an attorney. He earned his undergraduate degree at Northwestern University and his law degree from Vanderbilt University.
Jobs: Mr. Frank said Illinois could promote job growth by cutting the State income tax rate back to 3%, cutting property taxes, and ending the personal property tax on small businesses. He said public transportation needs to be improved between O’Hare and areas other than downtown Chicago. As a starting point to making O’Hare more accessible by public transportation, he said, stations along the three rail lines that pass near O’Hare could be established and paid for with the airline ticket tax.
Pensions: To address the State’s unfunded pension liability, Mr. Frank said he thinks teachers should be required to choose to either forego retiree health insurance or pay more into the system; that Stateuniversity users should pay for the pensions of State university workers, not the taxpayer; and that the State should privatize as many State services as possible, which would relieve the State of some pension liability. He said he thinks Illinois will have to have a referendum on whether to amend the Constitution to decide the fate of teacher pensions and other State employee pensions. He said he thinks it is unlikely the Illinois Supreme Court would uphold the constitutionality of a change in pension benefits, such as a shift to a 401(k)-style system.
He said he would support changes relating to police and firefighter pensions that might require new employees to work longer and pay more toward pensions.
Taxes/Budget Controls: Mr. Frank said he would support repealing the 2011 increase in income tax rates now. He said he supports cutting property taxes.
Some areas where he would reduce spending are to conduct a forensic audit of Medicaid spending to see if fraudulent amounts are being paid to certain individuals, to terminate Medicaid payments to ineligible persons, by reforming pensions, by selling naming rights to interstate highways and public buildings, and by privatizing as many services as possible.
Education: Mr. Frank said he supports a “parent trigger” law similar to the one in California. This would give parents of students the right to give their school to a charter school group if more than a majority of parents approved, he said. In addition, Mr. Frank said he supports vouchers, but only for low-income students residing in areas where there are dangerous schools within Chicago. He also said he believes that all high school students should take a semester course in civics, that they should take three years of social studies, and four years of math.
He said he would like to add additional campuses to the Illinois math and science academy. “We have a shortage of talented scientists in this state. I would take existing funds from the K-12 budget to do this,” he said.
Mr. Frank said he does not support shifting teacher pension costs to school districts for current employees. He would consider a law banning teachers from being able to strike.
The Evanston RoundTable prepared the candidate profiles using information obtained from the candidates’ websites and from information provided by each candidate in response to a Chicago Tribune questionnaire. In the profiles, the RoundTable provides a short summary of the candidates’ views on selected topics, each of which is complex. For a fuller explanation of the candidates’ views and for their views on other topics, readers are encouraged to visit their websites.