Editor's note: The News-Gazette asked candidates to answer questions regarding themselves and the office they seek.
Chad D. Hays
604 Webster St. Catlin, Il
Education: A.S., Danville Area Community College
B.S., Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
1. What should the Legislature do to resolve the enormous pension funding shortfall? Do you believe lawmakers can constitutionally reduce benefits? Can some of the pension costs be shared with local government? Are there any other methods of addressing this problem?
The Constitution is pretty clear in relation to the prohibition of reducing pension benefits. The cost shift currently on the table shortchanges downstate communities and school districts, as Chicago already gets a hugely disproportionate share of overall K-12 funding. The overall funding formula needs to be reconfigured to even entertain a shift. To sustain current levels it is pretty clear that current employees will have to contribute more and retirement age will need to be examined. All stakeholders must be engaged in this discussion.
2. Do you think the state income tax increase passed in 2011 should remain in full effect, or should it be reduced, as scheduled, in 2015? Why or why not?
I favor the tax increases that passed without my support in 2011 being reduced commensurate with the statute in 2015. One of my primary concerns at the time the increase passed included the lack of a detailed plan to re-engineer how we deliver services as a state. In essence the taxpayers were asked to "send more money now" and hope that the state becomes a better fiduciary steward at some later date. The increase was sold to the public in part as a mechanism to pay down the huge backlog of unpaid bills. Over a year later, the volume of unpaid bills is higher than when the bill passed. A comprehensive plan to reinvent how we deliver services in our state, including a long range plan on how we plan to do much more with less in the same fashion as the private sector is still absent from this discussion. Simply stated, we have to live within our means. Actions speak louder than words. Evidence of a long term commitment to fiscal discipline is in order and starts with sunsetting the temporary portion of this tax increase as promised.
3. What more must be done to draw down the enormous backlog of bills (aside from pension obligations) that must be paid?
The 2012-2013 budget does allocate current year budget dollars to begin to pay down the backlog. This is a start. Budgetary discipline, meaning not expanding existing programs or spending surplus revenue on anything but paying down bills, is necessary. A thorough review of interest being paid on current bills vs. refinancing the debt load during unprecedented low interest rates is a worthwhile exercise.
4. Are more Medicaid spending cuts needed than those enacted in the last two years?
Medicaid is an area of spending that has undergone some significant reforms in both 2011 and 2012. To date, however, most have yet to be implemented. I proposed another $1 billion in Medicaid reforms and savings that were not part of the 2012/2013 budget, reforms that fundamentally change how we approach delivering services. These reforms are not the short-sighted quick fixes that the governor supports, including simply slashing reimbursement to hospitals, nursing homes and physicians. They include implementing best practices from around the country that aim to reduce costs in the areas of long-term care, pharmaceuticals, readmissions, as well as implementation of previously passed reforms.
We must establish priority areas for the state budget to include education, roads and bridges, public safety, natural resource areas, and human services limited those with pronounced physical or mental challenges. Others programs need to have rigorous, measurable outcomes standards and will be limited to participation on a short term or temporary basis. Spending in areas outside of those articulated here would be open for reductions or elimination.
5. What areas of state government need to endure more budget cuts than they have thus far?
The budget must start with the tier one priorities: education, roads and bridges, public safety and those most in need, starting with those with pronounced physical and mental challenges. I strongly advocate zero-based budgeting as it forces managers to truly manage, prioritize and bring in a budget. Rigorous, measurable outcomes standards for remaining programs, actually budgeting as a road map. We just allocate money.
6. Do you favor limiting the disposal of PCBs and chemical wastes at the Clinton landfill? If so, what can the Illinois Legislature do to restrict that disposal?
Historically PCBs have been extraordinarily problematic and have had longterm negative ramifications. Rigorous standards must be enforced and implemented to protect the public from toxins.
7. As a cost-saving measure does the Legislature need to act to reduce the number of school districts in the state?
The Classrooms First Commission addresses this dynamic. The forced situation is always a bloodbath in our rural areas. A more productive approach would be the state being a trusted partner and rewarding the reorganization of districts with financial incentives including building funds for coops, consolidations, et al.
8. Do you think Illinois state government is inherently corrupt? If so, what can be done?
Insider dealings for those who "pay to play" has defined the recent history of Illinois government, including two consecutive governors landing in jail. Questionable use of the legislative scholarship program, a member of the House of Representatives being expelled for the first time in over 100 years continues to illustrate a culture that invites corruption.
We must send representatives to our state's capital who are above reproach in terms of personal integrity, trustworthiness and service above self. Limiting in a very substantial way the time frame between being a legislator and being eligible to be a lobbyist would be a good start. Make the waiting period five or seven years. Reforming rules of engagement that freeze out the notion of actual democracy by rendering the Speaker of the House the only and final arbiter of how, when and if legislation is addressed would add transparency to the process. A bill with a prerequisite number of co-sponsors should get a committee hearing, or even a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives or Senate. People feel disengaged from the process currently as it is controlled by a monied few.
9. Are there reforms, changes needed in Illinois' tax structure that should be enacted to bring in more revenue?
A discussion on the potential of revenue from certain services is productive. Our tax code is from a bygone era, as is our telecommunications act, incentives for business, et al. The larger issue is an attractive business climate that is conducive to new investment and reinvestment. Business needs predictability.
10. Are you concerned about the potential use of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in Illinois? Should the practice be banned in Illinois, or limited in some way?
Sen. Mike Frerichs passed a bill, SB 3280, that was agreed to by the Illinois Petroleum Council, the Illinois Oil and Gas Association, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Manufacturers Association, the Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois EPA, et al. It passed 54-0 in the Senate. It was hijacked by the Speaker and Rep. Jakobsson in the House and loaded up with taxes, etc. The Frerichs bill in its original form should be called for a vote.
11. What can the Legislature do to limit tuition increases at public universities, and should the Legislature act to limit tuition increases?
The state of Illinois cannot pay its own bills, or send the money we owe to our universities and community colleges. I am hesitant to tell organizations that do a much better job than the state how to run their day to day. Two out of three Illinoisans accessing higher education do it through our community college system. They only get 12 percent of higher education funding. This must be addressed.
12. Do you favor expanded gambling in Illinois, including casinos in Chicago and Danville? How about slot machines at racetracks?
Yes, Danville is in my district and the economic consequences are significant, I personally worked diligently to pick up 11 new votes in the Illinois House for this measure. The bill fails without slots at the track, or some accommodation for the tracks.
13. What can be done to lower workers compensation costs in Illinois?
The reforms of 2011 are half-baked and largely inconsequential. The issue of primary causation must be a point of real reform. Workers compensation and tort reform go hand in hand. The issue is a Tier 1 issue for business, particularly manufacturing. Costs in my border district are three, four and fives times higher than in Indiana and other states.
14. Would you favor a conceal-carry law in Illinois? If so, what sort of public safety provisions should be part of the legislation?
Yes, the legislation that garnered 67 votes in 2011 has many safeguards including registration, mandatory training, prohibition from carrying in churches, schools, bars, universities, et al., and mental health restrictions on access. This is not a matter of if, but when.