Get to Know State Rep. Candidate Laura Fine
Get to know the candidates for Illinois State Representative in the 17th District, who will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. Patch sat down to talk with Laura Fine (D), who will face Kyle Frank (R).
Patch sat down recently with the two candidates running for Illinois' 17th District state representative seat, Democrat Laura Fine and Republican Kyle Frank to get information on their views. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Daniel Biss, who is running for the Illinois Senate.
Our questions, and Laura Fine's answers, follow. Click here to read our Q&A with Frank.
Patch: How would you approach pension reform if elected?
The state has made progress on this, but I believe that more needs to be done and done soon. For example, we need to ensure that those individuals working their final days at an inflated salary do not exploit the pension systems by unfairly boosting their pensions. Additionally, we need to find a way to roll back pension perks instituted by political insiders for their own personal – and considerable – gain.
As to the benefits for the tens of thousands of honest state workers paying into the pension systems, some may argue that changing benefits for current employees would punish them for the sins of past legislators and previous administrations who failed to make the state’s contributions to the pension systems. But to do nothing would result in a far greater punishment – draconian cuts to many critical public services – and that’s not acceptable.
This will not be an easy fix for the state, but I believe that if we continue to work together, as the General Assembly has done with recent budgets and education reforms, progress can be made. It’s important that when addressing these changes, we have all parties at the table working toward a solution.
I also wish to clearly state my position on the proposal to shift a portion of the pension burden from the state to local governments – a subject of great discussion lately. Local taxpayers already pay their fair share of taxes and anything more would just increase financial burdens upon them. And in a time when many families are struggling to make ends meet, this would be irresponsible.
Let’s remember why we’re even having a discussion about whether to shift the pension burden to local governments: past legislators and previous administrations shirked their responsibility to public workers and retirees by grossly under-funding the state’s pension systems. Having done that, it would be doubly irresponsible to dump that liability onto already struggling local governments.
Patch: What distinguishes you from your opponent?
I don’t know much about my opponent except that he aligns himself with some far-right-wing extremist groups like the Tea Party, and I don’t believe that is the kind of representation our district wants or deserves. As I go door to door, I hear from residents saying we need to work together to fix things, not destroy them. We all agree that our state needs to be reformed but we need to do it in a way that can still benefit those that rely on the state’s services the most.
I am not a career politician. I’m a mother and teacher and I have just grown tired of the status quo and the business-as-usual mentality that has plagued Springfield. The residents and businesses of the 17th District are relying on the General Assembly to reform the state’s budget, alleviate the state’s debt and backlogged bills, provide the resources necessary to support critical services, and vest local officials with the power to make the decisions that are best for their own communities. As a legislator, I will advocate for these common sense values.
Patch: What would you do to bring jobs to the 17th District?
First and foremost, the state needs to have a consistent and reliable regulatory and tax policy – not one that results in winners and losers based on preferential treatment. Beyond that, the state needs to reprioritize spending and reduce spending on unnecessary programs to reduce its overall tax burden on Illinois businesses. By improving the business climate in Illinois, you're going to see revenue growth in the form of corporate income taxes and state payroll taxes relating to newly hired employees. Plus, we’ll see the positive economic impact resulting from newly hired employees consuming products and services in their local communities. Getting the state’s budget in balance and providing stability will decrease the anxiety that business leaders have relating to whether the state will raise taxes and fees to deal with the budget crisis. Ultimately, having the state in a secure financial position would provide confidence to business leaders that Illinois represents a worthwhile investment.
One of the fields that I would like to see our state make progress in would be the development of green technology and jobs. I support the development of renewable energy technologies to capture solar and wind power to help lessen our dependency on foreign oil, reduce asthma-causing air pollution and jumpstart our state’s economy with new green jobs.
Patch: What issues are specific to the 17th district voters that you plan to address?
Going door to door in our communities, I hear about a number of issues ranging from education to property taxes, but no one issue comes up more often than our state’s budget. In order for our state to improve its credit rating and get people back to work, we need to construct a budget that eliminates waste in government and funds the vital services that so many rely on. If elected, I want to review the budget line by line to find any unnecessary perks that we may eliminate to stem the flow of red ink. Cutting items like the state’s automobile and air fleets, and cutting the salaries of state legislators, for instance, can all add up to savings for the taxpayers.
Patch: On your website, you state that you would like to make state legislators take a pay cut. How do you propose to accomplish that?
Currently, legislators are allowed to approve their own pay raises by voting for them. What other profession allows you to decide if you deserve a raise, especially one that is being paid for by the taxpayers? I don’t think that is fair and it is irresponsible.
I would support legislation that would leave the decision about whether or not lawmakers and other elected officials deserve a raise up to the voters. That would allow those whose work makes those salaries possible, Illinois taxpayers, to take into account legislators’ job performance, the fiscal health of the state and the general direction of the economy when deciding whether any additional compensation is merited.