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Turelli Defends Neerhof Attack on Medicaid Cuts

58th District Representative candidates answer questions at forum.

 

Mark Neerhof and Lauren Turelli may be both Republicans running for the 58th District seat, but they split when it comes to the issue of Medicaid.

Neerhof, a doctor who practices at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, is running in his first election. He has lived in Lake County for 21 years, including 15 in Deerfield and the last six in Lake Forest.

Turelli has lived in Lake Forest all of her life. She currently serves on the Lake Forest Parks and Recreation Board and as an elected Republican township precinct committeeman.

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.

 

  • Is the new state income tax working, why or why not? What is your solution for paying the state’s bills?

Mark Neerhof:

"If you want to lose jobs in Illinois, it’s working. Since the tax increase went into effect last year, we’ve lost more than 100,000 jobs. People are moving to other states. Instead of working, it’s counter productive. We’ve already spent the money just on pensions we took in, and we probably won’t take in as much money as we expected to. Should we consider a progressive income tax? The answer is absolutely not. If we want to be further injurious, that’s what we should do. The idea here is to be fair to everyone, increase tax revenues and grow businesses. Keep the taxes as low as possible."

Lauren Turelli:

"The tax increase was enacted to bring in needed revenue to the state and we are still behind in our bills. So that tax increase didn’t even cover our bills. I’m not in favor of a tax increase. I would vote to repeal our tax increase. We’re driving away businesses. We need to encourage businesses to come. In addition to tax decreases, we also need to change workmen’s compensation. We need to get jobs here so that revenue becomes more positive. We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. Because of the tax rate to corporations and individuals we are in the midst of it."

 

  • How would you reform Medicaid? Specifics please. Cut services? Cut compensation? Cut access?

Lauren Turelli:

"Given the financial condition of the state, Medicaid and everything needs to be on the table. There have been several pieces of legislation passed into law, but not enacted by the government. This includes things like identity cards, using ID cards to track users. It also includes eligibility requirements. Under the Blagojevich administration, the Medicaid rolls expanded by millions in terms of dollars and tens of thousands of patients. First thing we need to do is roll back eligibility and ensure that those who are on Medicaid are those who it is intended to serve. Right now, Medicaid is No. 2 expenditure on our budgetary list in Illinois."

Mark Neerhof:

"The fundamental problem is the state government is not a health insurance company and needs to stop acting like one. And because it is, it’s extremely ineffective and inefficient. That’s why costs are spiraling out of control.  Of the $8 billions dollars of bills not paid, $2.5 billion are Medicaid. That results in physicians not accepting patients on Medicaid, lack of access to care and poor outcome. Ms. Turelli went on record with a press release earlier this week that she agreed with Gov. Quinn that we should cut some more and cut some more again. What that will do is add to the lack of access to the care because bills will not be paid. That will hurt people. We need to make Medicaid a program where we provide premium assistance that is needing space so people can get their own private health insurance."

Lauren Turelli:

"I did comment last week and support Gov. Quinn on almost $2 billion in cuts from Medicaid. That’s almost 20 percent of the state budget. I support that because the Republican side of the house has been talking for years about cutting Medicaid expenses. I absolutely support that idea. Unless we start to cut and put everything on the table, we are going to be far down the road as far as costs and money we don’t have to support those needs."

Mark Neerhof:

"We are already not paying our bills. If you add a $2 billion cut, that just means $2 billion more of unpaid bills. That makes no sense. It will harm access to care and harm the patients."

 

  • What are your top three legislative priorities?

Mark Neerhof:

"No. 1 is Medicaid reform. No. 2 is pension reform. No. 3 is eliminating the Democrats tax increase. Keep taxes as low as possible for individuals and corporations and make Illinois a better place to do business by enacting real workmen’s compensation reform. And eliminate fees and regulations as much as possible to make Illinois a better place to do business. You heard from our Democrat senate candidates before saying Illinois is a good place to do business. That would come as some surprise to the hundreds of thousands of employees who have left Illinois because it is such an unfavorable work environment."

 Lauren Turelli:

"My priorities include Medicaid and pensions, comprehensive reform to both. There are five different pension systems in the state and each one needs to be looked at differently because of contribution levels and sizes. We also need to look at COLA levels. We may need to cap them. Jobs, jobs, jobs. Creating jobs and enacting reform so jobs come to the state rather than leave us. And education reform."

 

  • Many elected officials have outside jobs that can create a conflict of interest. Do you plan on being a full-time public servant or will you keep another job?

 Lauren Turelli:

"One of the beauties of state government is that we have experts in various fields that become elected to go to Springfield to serve in the citizen legislature. I want to go to serve the interests of my neighbors, my community, and to do what’s right for the state. I will need to do whatever I need to do to serve the interest of the entire district. We’re all in this together. I do have two business, and partners in those businesses who are willing to share the burden while I am in Springfield."

Mark Neerhof:

"We were intended to be citizen legislators. We have gotten away from that. We have to start thinking differently. I think it’s important that legislators work for a living so they know the impact of the policies that they pass. If you are in Springfield full-time, you get your pension from Springfield, you have every motivation to do whatever you can to keep your job. I have every motivation to do the right thing. If I come back from Springfield and I didn’t vote the way someone wanted me to because I did the right thing, I can live with that, and I’ll be happy practicing medicine."

 

Do you favor the expansion of gambling into Lake County?

Mark Neerhof:

"No, I do not. We have to look for real sources of long sustained revenue. We need to make this a much happier place to do business so employers are coming here and not leaving, and that their employees’ income taxes are providing a steady stream of revenue. For us to continually want to expand gambling and casinos is ill-guided. We need to have a single economy, a single workforce. That’s where our focus needs to be. Not on gambling."

Lauren Turelli:

"I agree. The expansion of gambling has been a financial band-aid and the adhesive has worn off. We have more than 10 gambling facilities in this state. I don’t think we don’t need another one. We need to turn to real concrete solutions to get out of this financial hole and budgetary mess rather than casinos and gambling."

 

  • Specifically, how will you help small businesses grow? What legislation can be introduced or resources expanded to do this?

 

Mark Neerhof:

"We need to get out of the way. We need to create a favorable business environment for everyone. To treat Motorola and Sears differently than we do small business is morally wrong. 90 percent of the businesses in Illinois have 5 employees or less. And where do they go when they are mistreated? The answer is no different than for small businesses or large businesses. Everybody should be treated equally."

Lauren Turelli:

"I agree with everything Mark said. I would also like to add that the businessmen I have talked to, they would like to see some sort of public-private partnership. They have jobs available, but don’t necessarily have the candidates to fill those jobs. Some can’t read. Some can’t follow a instructions on a manufacturer’s piece of equipment. The University of Illinois has had some of the best examples of private-public partnership leading to pharmaceuticals and hybrid seeds. I would like to see our community colleges put to use as retraining devices in partnerships with companies like Abbott or even with the small Mom and Pop organizations. I think we are missing an opportunity by not putting those two together."

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