GENEVA – Illinois House and Senate candidates talked taxes, pensions and job creation Monday at a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County.
Candidates for the 25th Senate District – Republican Jim Oberweis and Democrat Corinne Pierog – and for the 50th House District– Republican Kay Hatcher and Democrat Andrew Bernard – fielded questions from a small audience at Geneva High School.
When moderator Patti Lackman asked a question about whether they would support a graduated income tax, candidates disagreed about how that would affect taxpayers.
Oberweis is opposed to a graduated income tax, saying it would drive companies out of Illinois. He said if the state has more jobs, it has a bigger base to tax, but higher tax rates will “drive businesses out of this state.”
Pierog disagreed, saying that for someone who makes about $25,000 annually, 5 percent is pretty high. But for someone who is a multimillionaire, 5 percent is not as much of a burden.
Bernard said he’s a huge proponent of implementing a graduated income tax rate because he doesn’t believe taxation should be “a one-size-fits-all policy.” Hatcher said she thinks the tax system in place brings more stability, and she mentioned a study that showed 85 percent of the population would pay more taxes than now if graduated income taxes are implemented.
Then the candidates were asked how they would create jobs.
Pierog said many major corporations locate to Illinois because of its strength in education and transportation.
“They come here because of the environment that supports business,” she said, adding that the biggest restrictions for companies in Illinois isn’t the tax rate but government regulations.
Oberweis said Illinois has high tax rates – from real estate to corporate taxes – and also needs pension reform.
“Companies don’t want to locate here and take on a piece of a very big liability,” he said. “There’s an attitude from Springfield that says you are not welcome here.”
Hatcher agreed with Pierog, saying entrepreneurs will thrive if government gets out of their way. She also called for reforming workers’ compensation laws.
Bernard called for lowering the corporate tax rate.
As for pension reform, Oberweis said he wants to find a solution that is “at least tolerable” by all. He said he’s open to switching to a defined contribution for new employees and is open to putting a cap on pensions based on current salaries.
Pierog said Illinois can’t give state workers a choice between their cost-of-living benefits and health insurance. She said legislators should look at nonpartisan solutions to make sure state workers’ promised pensions are protected, and that Illinois is no longer allowed to raid the pension fund to support services.
Bernard agreed that pension reform should be a bipartisan effort and does not support making modifications to contracts that are already in place because it’s unconstitutional. Hatcher said legislators have to be very careful to not “cherry-pick” and make sure all pensions are reformed at the same time.