Distinguishing themselves

Distinguishing themselves

Democratic contenders for retiring Rep. Naomi Jakobsson's House seat attempt to delineate their differences

CHAMPAIGN — The two Democrats hoping to succeed state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson in the Illinois House addressed a score of issues Friday night at a candidate forum inside the packed Champaign City Council chambers.

As in past debates, candidates Carol Ammons, an Urbana City Council member, and Sam Rosenberg, a Champaign attorney, agreed on many issues, including support for a graduated state income tax, term limits, abortion rights, bringing high-speed rail service to Champaign-Urbana and increasing state funding for education.

Nearly every seat in the 150-seat council chambers was taken, and many people stood at the rear of the room. Among those in attendance were Jakobsson, D-Urbana, and her husband, Eric.

Ammons and Rosenberg again sparred over a 50 percent cut in the state corporate tax rate that has been proposed by House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

Rosenberg added Friday night, though, "that I support such tax cuts if it is done in conjunction with making sure that a progressive income tax is implemented and additionally that it is at the very least increasing the revenue by a small margin in the state of Illinois." He said that "effective tax reform" would create jobs.

But Ammons again voiced opposition to the idea.

"To create a continued deficit at about a billion dollars for our already indebted state is absolutely preposterous. We cannot afford to cut taxes. We have to maintain our current tax, but we also have to pass the progressive tax rate as well so that those tax breaks don't get exchanged for another," she said.

The two also disagreed on a proposed constitutional amendment that would require that legislative districts be drawn by an independent commission. Ammons was opposed; Rosenberg was in favor.

"Right now, I would say that I'm not in favor of the redistricting amendment as proposed," she said. "I don't believe there is such a thing as nonpartisan maps."

Rosenberg said, "I am in favor of nonpartisan maps, even though it would put many seats that are currently held by Democrats ... in jeopardy."

Asked about increasing the minimum wage, Ammons again called for gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, beginning with an immediate increase to $12 an hour.

"It may take us 15 years to actually get there, but the reality is that the stagnant suppression of wages has been happening since 1968, and it's important for us to keep the minimum wage growing as the cost of living continues to grow," she said.

But Rosenberg said he supports a minimum wage increase to $10 an hour. He called it "a good step in the right direction" until a higher, federally mandated minimum wage is enacted.

Asked about an increase in the state motor-fuel tax, Ammons instead called for "the complete overhauling of our tax system."

"Before I would increase the motor-fuel tax, which is sometimes very difficult on low-income families, I would like to look at the entire taxing structure and build a structure of fairness and equity," she said.

Rosenberg said the state needs "comprehensive" tax reform, including the motor-fuel tax. If an increase is enacted, "we need to make sure that if we are implementing it, it goes specifically to help rebuild our roads."

Both endorsed term limits, although they offered no specific idea.

After the debate, Rosenberg declined to suggest a number of years or terms; Ammons said she thought eight years for legislators and statewide elected officials was an appropriate number.

"Eight years is what I initially proposed," she said. "And for the governor, I think two terms, similar to what the presidency is."

Friday night's forum, part of a series this week, was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Champaign County, the NAACP Champaign County and The News-Gazette.

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