Rebel Media: League of Women Voters Candidates Forum LIVE BLOG
6 months, 3 weeks ago
We're a half hour away from showtime here at the Quincy Christian Church and the place is already pretty close to packed.
Sen. John Sullivan and Randy Frese are up first at 7 p.m.
Almost here and it is SRO...
Reminder...this is a live running blog and quotes may not be exact, but will represent the gist of what is being said.
John Sullivan opening statement: Touts infrastructure...336...education...a new school in Cass County...says he's the only farmer in the state senate. Talks about expanded business opportunities...ADM and radio road improvements he said he helped with. Said he represents everyone in his district. Says when people ask him for help he doesn't ask if they are a D or an R. Says he wants to work in a bipartisan fashion.
Randy Frese opening statement: Born and raised on a farm in Adams County and give his ag background. Says he started a small business in 1985 and grew it to five different locations and employed 35-40 people. Then was elected to Adams County Circuit Clerk. Says ag, education, small business and small education have molded his life.
First question is from Iris Nelson of the Adams County League of Women Voters and deals with stabilizing education.
Sullivan...state has to learn to live with the revenue in front of us. Says priorities have to be made and education funding is a top priority. Says he has supported revenue enhancements such as the gaming expansion.
Frese...We've been grossly underfunding eduction and we have a big chunk of debt. We need to pay our bills, but in the past 10 years we haven't done it. We need to cut excessive spending, but fund schools in the proper fashions. He doesn't support gaming expansion. Says the lottery money should have gone to education and it didn't.
Matt Schmidt of WGEM asks if the state should borrow.
Frese...state has to have a plan to pay back the borrowing. Says Sullivan supports borrowing and it isn't a road that the state can continue to go down. The next generation shouldn't stand for it. He says a problem 10 years ago is now a crisis. He says the small business climate must be enhanced and the revenues will come.
Sullivan...decades and decades of pension underfunding under both Democrats and Republicans has been the problem. He says he has a plan to restructure the debt like you restructure your home mortgage and repay it with a plan to repay over the next three years.
Doug Wilson of the Herald-Whig asks about making a dent in pension debt.
Sullivan...repeats the problem has been a bipartisan problem. He says all five systems have to be taken in. They have to be reformed.
Frese...He agrees there is a pension problem...For the past 10 years there's been one party in charge and there have been no solutions..to $83 billion in underfunding.
Sullivan...the last 10 years the state has put $30 billion into the five pension systems and there had only been $8 billion over the 10 years before that. Frese counters that it is the taxpayer who has been putting that money in.
Schmidt...would you consider a compromise to have some of the burden of pensions shifted to school districts?
Frese says not if it includes property tax increases. He says that's not a solution.
Sullivan says the school cannot absorb the cost, but there's a difference in school districts across the state. Says some districts are flush and could absorb. Take into consideration all different aspects of what the districts are doing.
Wilson asks about income tax increase...is it possible for the state to roll it back? How do you make up the money.
Sullivan...he says he did not support the income tax hike proposed by Quinn and he wants it to expire. He says $1 billion was set aside to pay bills. He says long term the cost of pension liability has to be controlled.
Frese...Says tax must be allowed to sunset and it will allow business to grow. Says Sullivan did not vote for the Quinn hike, but he voted for the tax increase in House Bill 174...He wants a competitive advantage for business.
Audience question: How do you work with legislators across the aisle?
Frese...talks about having a big family and owning a business and when you have to do that, he had to work with people and not against them.
Sullivan jokes his family is bigger than Frese's and they only had one bathroom too. He says he works across the aisle all of the time. He is the only Senator with two reps of the opposite parties. He says partisan bickering doesn't work. He says his record shows he isn't beholding to Chicago.
Frese says while Reps Hammond and Tracy are supporting him.
Would you support the ERA?
Frese...says he has three daughters...he's for equalization of pay for men and women.
Sullivan...says he will support the ERA.
Pension reform? Picks a certain bill number.
Sullivan...comprehensive solution...he's not sure which bill it is so he's not going to say.
Frese...he's not sure which bill it is specficially either.
For or against term limits?
Frese...for term limits and for pay freezes. 10 years in the house and 10 years in the senate. He's for the pay freeze too.
Sullivan...says we have elections and those are term limits. He says he has voted to cut his pay. Says its ironic that Frese has accepted pay increases as Adams County Circuit Clerk.
Both men tout their agriculture bona fides.
Frese...says Sullivan's pay has increased. Says his office has finished under budget six of the last seven years.
Frese...started a business, grew a business and made payroll. He says Illinois is losing hundreds of jobs to states such as Iowa, which just gained a new fertilizer plant.
Sullivan...State of Illinois did not put together a package for the fertilizer plant. Says Iowa paid $1.5 million for each job created. Says the state passed laws to create new enterprize zones and a capital bill to create jobs.
Do you have an active FOID card?
Sullivan...yes...killed first deer at age 10 or 11. Proud to support second amendment rights and get NRA endorsements.
Frese...has a FOID card and a conceal carry card from Arizona. Says won't get concealed carry as long as Democrats are in charge of the house, senate and governor's office.
Frese: Lots of similarities with Sullivan...but there are differences...under budget as Circuit Clerk...Sullivan has had budget problems in the state of Illinois. Says we need transparency in legislation...freezing wages, term limits...wants to serve and will not serve more than 10 years and will not take a pension or a pay increase. Think more about the next generation than the next election.
Sullivan: Says there's a stark difference...says Frese's campaign is partisan and Sullivan works in a bi-partisan fashion. Rattles off endorsement. You know him and his reputation. Says he's a voice in Springfield for Western Illinois. Says that's his only agenda. Says he's an independent voice.
DONE Circuit clerk forum is next.
Lori Geschwandner: Clerk's office filed 15,000 court cases last year. Reponsible for updating paper file and computer files. Office collects several million dollars. Says staff works well together. Says they are cross-trained and they work well together. She's been the deputy clerk under Glen Hultz and Randy Frese. Says her election is a seamless transition.
Laura Kent Donahue: Says this election is about experience and her knowledge of government and working with people is what is needed. Says she would not take a county pension or health insurance and that will save the county more than $50,000 over four years. She's an elected official as a union steward. Says its hard to keep employeees if you can't give them raises. She said she spoke against raises for the office while her opponent didnt.
Nelson: What is your management approach?
Geschwandner: She runs the office on a day to day basis and she listens to the employees.
Donahue: Says her experience in running her offices as a senator and working with constituents is key. Says she has been in leadership in the Illinois Senate.
Schmidt: Would you hold expenses in line?
Donahue: County Board is freezing the budgets for next year. We have to live up to the obligation and employees will get 2 percent raises. Says there are areas in technology that can be utilized to reduce storage costs.
Geschwandner: The office will live within its means.
Donahue: Says she will be able to make changes that can benefit all circuit clerks on a state level.
Geschwandner: Says fund distribution isn't a huge issue. Says the monies are out in a day or two. Says the office works efficiently but there are always needs.
Make the office people friendly?
Geschwandner: The employees are the back bone of the office. They should help people who come to the office.
Donahue: Says the mindset must be to help people as quickly as possible. It can be intimidating for people to go to the office of the court.
Donahue: Being a hands on everyday fulltime clerk is important. I want to learn every position and be able to fill in.
Geschwandner: She intends the same thing and she already knows the position very well. She doesn't plan to fill a vacancy until the budget is better.
Geschwandner describes the process of posting bond as Donahue admits she needs to learn that.
Geschwandner says she doesn't feel comfortable putting all court documents on line. Donahue says she has concerns with technology as well.
Donahue...says there are three union deputy clerks. Doesn't have a problem with a union, but when you go to negotiating a contract and Frese had to negotiate with Geschwandner. Says she would perfer the position not be union.
Geschwandner is the union steward. She supports it and it give her a better understanding of how things work. She wanted to be in a union was for job security. Wanted to take party out of it.
Geschwander...salary has been frozen. Donahue...said she would take a pay cut if need be.
Both say courthouse security is adequate.
League of Women Voters let a biased question go through saying Frese is a "part-time clerk". Frese was not mentioned by name, but the implication was certainly there. Donahue defends. Geschwandner says only she will be a full-time clerk.
Donahue: She says its about leadership and she has represented our state and community and she made tough decisions and answered tough questions. Says the office will benefit from her experience.
Geschwandner: She says she is not an experience politician....except for running in the union. She will be a full-time clerk.
Liza Hayashi of the League of Women Voters said the question about Frese being a part-time clerk was a mistake and should not have been allowed. Although Frese was not mentioned by name in the question.