Morrison Places Emphasis on Job Creation; Sumption Adds in Fiscal Discipline, Education
Candidates answer questions at Sunday forum in Lake Bluff.
The 29th Senate District, which encompasses Deerfield, Highland Park, Glencoe, Glenview, Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, Niles and Northbrook, has a choice in the March 20 primary between two Democratic candidates: the current Deerfield Township supervisor and a Lake Bluff business consultant with a business, finance and governmental background.
Julie Morrison, of Deerfield, has been the West Deerfield Township supervisor for 15 years. She received the endorsement of the person currently holding the office, Susan Garrett, who announced her retirement in July.
Sumption joined the race in December, but recently picked up the endorsement of U.S. Senator Tom Daschel. The Lake Bluff resident worked for Daschle as a legislative assistant, and holds an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School along with more than 15 years working in finance of businesses.
The two candidates answered questions in Sunday's candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters-Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Area (LWV) and Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Patch at Lake Bluff Elementary School. The questions were drawn from the LWV, Patch and audience members. Here is a cross-section of those questions and their responses.
- Do you favor the expansion of gambling, a casino in Lake County?
“I would have opposed the gaming bills that were proposed last year in Springfield. I don’t believe the state legislature did any kind of market study for those bills. What was proposed, all of different gaming including in Lake County, was far more capacity than this market could have absorbed. It would have hurt the existing properties and made the new ones suffer as well. I think we should focus economic policy on other industries that offer growth including technology, health care and alternative energy. I would be open to considering other proposals on gaming.”
“Gaming offers a new stream of revenue for communities and states. I would have the decision made on a site by site basis. Casino needs to be placed in a community that has the will of the community to have it in. There has to be tremendous oversight so we aren’t getting the kind of corruption or bad neighbors that can come in with organized gaming. Let’s figure out where we are going to put the revenue. It should be specified as to where it’s going and then tracked very carefully. Lottery was a good example. That money was supposed to go to schools, it didn’t.”
- How do you plan to fix Medicaid? Do you support cuts to providers or cuts to service?
“Not too long ago, I sat down with Julie Hamos, who is the director of the Dept. of Health and Human Services. We talked about Medicaid. It’s a huge budget item for the State. It’s going to be a program that grows. We need to figure out ways to control the cost and make it very efficient and effective. Fraud is one very easy way that we can begin to control it. Julie told me that when she sent post cards or mailings to all the Medicaid recipients in Illinois, six percent came back as non-deliverable. That means those people were either dead, didn’t live here or maybe have never lived here. That is a very good place to start on Medicaid reform."
"I believe obviously Medicaid and Medicare are important services that citizens of the state need. We need to figure out how to continue providing those services. In terms of managing future Medicaid/Medicare expenses, health care costs are growing far too fast. We need to figure out how to manage those costs. One, eliminate waste and abuse. There are hundreds of millions of dollars potentially that we could save in terms of waste and abuse. Look at the type of care being provided. We need to focus on wellness programs and other testing to make sure people under those programs are staying well, and avoid not getting treatment when they need it and then ultimately going to the emergency room. That’s the most expensive care we can provide. We need wellness programs."
- What areas of pensions would you reform, such as police, fire, teachers and public employee pensions?
“Pension reform is probably the question people ask me the most. If we don’t reform pension now, there won’t be pension availability for those people who have already earned it. We’re really at the breaking point. The viability of the system is absolutely in our face. If I was state senator right now and had the power, I would put the unions, legislative leaders, someone from governor’s office in a large room, with no windows and one door, and have everyone sit there until there is consensus. No one is going to walk out of there happy. Everyone is going to give a little something. We are absolutely at critical mass. Everything is on the table, and everyone is going to have to give something.”
“The huge pension estimate is at $86 billion. My first comment is it’s egregious, sinful, and immoral that the State legislature did not fund pensions year after year after year. If I go fortunate to go to Springfield, I am going to stop that type of irresponsible practice. It’s just simply immoral. In terms of fixing, I think putting people in a room and locking them in there is not necessarily a solution. We do need to sit all parties down, we need ideas from both sides of the aisle, and we need to come up with a long term solution that is fair to employees and the taxpayers and one that is sustainable through all economic cycles. One of my proposals to find the revenue to fund the pensions is through public-private partnerships.”
- Do you support either an increase in the state income tax or a constitutional amendment allowing a graduated income tax as a partial solution to Illinois pension funding crisis?
“On the state income tax, I wouldn’t favor any increase from where we are right now. A year ago as I’m sure you are all well aware, state income taxes increased from 3 percent to 5 percent. What was lacking in that measure was any kind of real budget cuts. In order to balance a state or federal budget, you have to have not only some increased revenue but also meaningful budget cuts. The bill also lacked any mechanism to impose fiscal discipline on the state legislature. We need that. We need some fiscal discipline. In terms of a graduated income tax, I would support amending the constitution to have a progressive tax system in the state.”
"I agree with a lot of what Milton said. We need to reign in our budget. That’s first and foremost. I have 15 years experience in balancing a budget. That’s just discipline and priorities, and sticking to it. I would be in favor of looking at a graduated income tax. I think it will more fairly balance the financial responsibility the state has gotten into."
- What are your top three legislative priorities?
“First would be jobs. I think the whole economy will improve once more people are back at work. I have done some work in this area at the township level. We brought together public and private groups. I did an employment clinic. We had a staffing agency providing job coaching, Chamber of Commerce was present and a Rotary who would provide assistance in paying for classes. We had College of Lake County there. There are skills that people can get from community college s for jobs that are open today. We need to have relevant training for jobs that are open now.”
“First, I would agree with Julie, fixing our economy and creating jobs is critical. I have spent over15 years in the private sector in business finance. I understand economic policy. I understand what is important to companies when they are looking at a location to do business, and developing policies that will facilitate economic growth. Secondly, imposing some fiscal discipline in Springfield. We need to get our budget balanced and find a solution to the pension mess. Third, education. I am sitting before you because I have been blessed with a great education. I believe we need to provide a great education to our children. They will need it to compete for jobs in the 21st century.”
- Utilities are currently often unresponsive. Telephone systems are hard to negotiate. Local offices are often not available. It’s almost impossible to reach a human being. How could you improve matters?
“I was one of those people like you were who lost their power. ComEd , what a disaster that was. Our current legislators have done a pretty good job of taking ComEd to the mat. There are state regulations over utilities. We need to hold their feet to the fire and make them accountable to us, the consumer. It was absolutely ridiculous the way people were treated. There was no response time that was acceptable. A state senator should not be the one calling ComEd so you get your line re-established. That being said, I love to mix it up with people like that. Taking care of the constituents needs is really important. Constituents’ services are something I will really seek my teeth into.”
“I believe ComEd needs to do a much better job servicing customers. We need to hold companies like ComEd accountable. They are essentially a monopoly here. They operate at the privilege of the people of Illinois. I, too, would work extremely hard on constituent services. When I worked in Washington, D.C. for U.S. Senator Tom Daschle, that was my focus. Helping constituents in the state navigate the federal bureaucracy to get the services they need. I would certainly go to the mat for people in the district in dealing with companies like ComEd.”
- What can be done to ensure the state does not go after financial resources at the local government level to pay its bills?
“Springfield is looking for revenue wherever it can find it. We need to come up with more creative solutions rather than go to municipalities to find revenue for programs for things like funding pensions. To find other revenue sources to help fund, for example pensions and balance the budget, we need to look at private-public partnership to generate royalty revenue that can be dedicated to meeting the state’s funding needs. We need to work on growing our economy and create jobs, if we have an expanding tax base in the state, that will generate revenue to meet the state’s needs. We need to be very conscious of our municipalities and their needs.”
“I bet that question was aimed at school districts. There is a concept that school districts are a place that the state might be going to in paying teacher pensions that are not fully funded. I was at a meeting in Highland Park last week and I heard the school district representative stand up and yell, no, we can’t afford this. As a local municipality who has a budget, who has a levy and an extension, I think the state should not be looking at local municipalities to make up for their mistakes.”