Robyn Gabel, a resident of Evanston, is the Democratic candidate for State Representative of the 18th District. She has served as State Representative of the 18th District since April 2010 and has served on many legislative committees. Before that, Ms. Gabel was the executive director of the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition for 20 years. She has a bachelor’s degree from Beloit College, an M.S.P.H. in public health from University of Illinois-Chicago and an M.J. in health law from Loyola University Law School.
Jobs: At a conference she co-hosted at Northwestern University to discuss job creation, Ms. Gabel said two ideas stood out: First, business wants a stable economic environment. Second, they need a skilled workforce. “The key for improving Illinois’ economy is developing a sensible budget that is balanced,” she said. “I also believe that it is important to pay down our past-due bills to stabilize the economy. Increasing predictability can also be accomplished by having a simple and transparent regulatory structure. We need to identify areas of regulation that need simplification. Also, education is important to attract employers and generate new businesses.”
Pensions: “We need to stabilize our pension system. Otherwise we risk a time where current employees who have contributed into the system may not be paid their benefits,” said Ms. Gabel. “I support a new hybrid plan that some industries have already adopted. This hybrid plan would combine aspects of a 401k program and a defined benefit plan resulting in shared risk.” In order to provide stability for the long-term, pension reform legislation must require the State to pay its pension obligations each year on time, she said.
Income Taxes/Budget Controls: Ms. Gabel said it is premature to decide now on whether to defer the phase-down of the 2011 increased rate in income taxes, which is scheduled to begin in 2014. She said if revenues have increased moderately, but not to pre-recession levels, by 2014, another option might be to consider a graduated income tax that would provide tax relief for working families.
As vice chair of the Appropriations for Human Services Committee, Ms. Gabel said, she participated in making “very difficult decisions” to cut the budget by almost $1 billion in 2011 and another $300 million in 2012. She said she has sponsored a bill to cut legislators’ pay. Other ways to reduce the legislators’ budget include reducing the state fleet of vehicles and consolidating or eliminating State offices, she said.
Education: “This legislative session, the General Assembly passed landmark bipartisan reforms to our public education system,” said Ms. Gabel. “The reforms focus on identifying and retaining talented teachers by giving more weight to teacher performance. Seniority would no longer be a deciding factor in determining layoffs, hiring and certification, and the rules for tenure are changed to account for teacher performance.”
Ms. Gabel said there is much more work to do to improve the education system. She said she would like to reduce class sizes, expand educator mentoring programs, ensure that the State fully funds special education, expand after-school tutoring and increase the State’s role in funding education and reduce the reliance on property taxes.
She said transferring teacher pension costs to school districts “should not be done at once but gradually over time. …”
Ms. Gabel said her priorities include making Illinois a national leader in early childhood development, continuing to protect and preserve the environment and improving quality health care for everyone.
Eric Lieberman, 61, is the Republican candidate for the 18th District. He is an Evanston resident, was a news reporter, has practiced law, served as the chief executive officer of a software company and now does consulting. He served as chairman of a zoning board of appeals in Warrenville, Ill., and was a Democratic candidate for State’s Attorney of DuPage County in 1988. He obtained a degree in economics from the University of Illinois-Chicago and a law degree from Loyola University.
Jobs: “Illinois must create an environment which attracts new businesses and retains the current businesses,” said Mr. Lieberman. “Creating this environment is by far the best way to create jobs.” To create a business-friendly environment, he said, Illinois must do a number of things, including taking steps to convince businesses that the State has a sustainable economy (e.g., eliminate waste and duplication in government); spending only what the State can afford, instead of burdening future generations with debt; and reducing taxes, including the elimination of corporate franchise taxes and the reduction of high sales taxes.
Pensions: “Illinois must respect the sanctity of contract it has with its older employees while taking the hard steps to adjust the retirement packages of younger employees,” said Mr. Lieberman. “I favor: shifting to a private (401k) defined contribution plan, cutting spending to raise funds to meet our commitments to pension beneficiaries, shifting pension liability to the local entities that hire the pension beneficiaries.”
He said he would support changes to police and fire pension rules that might require them to work longer or pay more toward their pensions.
Income Taxes/Budget Controls: He said the State’s 2011 income tax rate increases must be repealed. He adds that the State constitution should be amended to permit a graduated income tax. This change is one of the things the State must do to attract and retain the businesses and people who will make the economy sustainable, he said. “Illinois can, with the right leadership in place, learn to stick to its budget without tax increases or more passing of debt onto future generations,” he said.
Ways in which he would control or reduce spending include creating key performance indicators or targets based on best practices for State performance, establishing a pay-for-performance plan that rewards legislators for achieving spending goals, eliminating unnecessary and redundant agencies and enforcing the requirement that a taxation impact statement be attached to each bill that requires spending.
Education: “Government should play as small a role in education as possible,” Mr. Lieberman said. “Parents and children should have a right to choose the schools they attend. State education money should follow the student, including through vouchers and grants. Competition among public, charter and private schools would improve the educational opportunities for our children.”
He supports requiring school districts to start paying toward their teacher pension costs.
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.