Chicago Tribune Candidate Questionnaire
Education: Bachelor of Science in Economics from the United States Military Academy, 1987
Occupation: State Representative, Bookkeeper
Home: Wheaton, Ill.
Previous Political Experience: Wheaton City Councilmember Republican Committeewoman
Responses to our questionnaire
Q: What should Illinois do to encourage job creation? Do you support individualized tax incentives for the business community? What is the best path forward to ensure fairness in awarding tax incentives? Please explain.
Illinois must arrest its debt, budget, and regulatory problems. Despite offering tax incentives, companies are not locating to or expanding in Illinois because there is so much uncertainty as to further costs for business and their employees in this state. CEOs ranked Illinois 48th in a survey of ‘Best Places to do Business’ according to Chief Executive Magazine. High taxes, high regulation, and high costs of living were cited for the low ranking. With our natural advantages of abundant energy, extensive transportation networks, and rich farmland we should lead economically in the region. Consider this, Rob Bradley, founder of the Institute for Energy Research, stated, “Energy is the master resource.” And Illinois is blessed with all types of energy that should attract manufacturing. Given our agriculture, Illinois is in a unique position to leverage its strengths and position itself for a viable and successful future in feeding the world’s need for food and fuel. And Doug Whitley, Illinois Chamber of Commerce President stated in a recent article, “Illinois is the transportation hub of America, where waterways, interstates, railroads and global air travel converge.” Illinois – so much potential, held back by decades of political games that scare good business away. Government must get leaner and that means a hard look at labor reform bills that provide relief to both business and government. My office received a resolution from a small town seeking relief from the new law about “responsible bidder” requirements which do nothing but drive up costs for taxpayers. The latest AFSCME legal action to alter the MAXIMUS contract is a prime example of the need for reform. I voted against EDGE credit tax breaks for specific companies. It encourages rent seeking behavior and is inherently unfair to the 1.1 million small business owners in Illinois and the individual taxpayers. A 2009 report from the Illinois Department of Revenue said this about EDGE credits (the most controversial business credit) “… there is no reliable way to measure the impact of EDGE on employment (and individual income tax revenue) because it is unclear what the net effect of favoring certain firms and industries over others will have on the longer-term employment prospects of Illinois. By encouraging investment in these firms and industries, the state may be crowding out investment in other firms or industries that could create an equal or greater number of jobs.” We have a habit of ignoring our own reports. In the absence of comprehensive tax reform that would lower rates, reduces or eliminates all special credits, and lower the reliance of property taxes to fund local government, I am working with a group of lawyers to write a separate bill that gives EDGE credits to all companies without approval by DCEO, similar to filing any other tax schedule as part of your tax return. This strategy levels the playing field and takes the politics out of the tax credits. Jobs will return when we arrest our budget problems, decrease regulation, and get rid of cronyism.
Q: The legislature passed a pension reform bill in December that will change the benefit structure going forward. If you are an incumbent, did you support or oppose the bill, and why? If you are a challenger, how would you have voted on the bill?
The pension reform bill signed into law in December does not solve the problem. In fact, that bill is an immature response to the $100 billion problem that is weighing this state down economically. Legislators voted for marginal reforms that put retiree pensions in jeopardy, are unaffordable for taxpayers, and erode our ability to balance budgets fairly. I voted for the original version of SB1 pension reform as a first step to further reform. This revised bill though is not a first step and asks taxpayers to fund generous pensions for government workers still retiring before the age of 60 while asking employees to contribute less to their retirement. Rhode Island faced their pension problem head on and made substantial reforms. Illinois, with the worst funded pension systems in the nation, must do the same. To say this is the best Illinois can do is the worst of political statements on this issue and a disservice to taxpayers. Not only did I vote with others to pass the original pension bill as a first step, I, along with Rep. Tom Morrison, filed a pension reform bill that immediately moves all current and future employees to a 401K style plan while giving them the defined benefits they earned to date at retirement as well. We need to modernize our retirement system to align with private sector retirement plans. These plans are more evenhanded, giving consideration to taxpayers; provide employees control over their retirement; and still provide generous retirement income to government employees.
Q: To be effective, the new pension law will require discipline from the General Assembly. As a legislator, how will you ensure the state doesn’t fall back into the habit of skipping required payments into the funds?
On the last day of regular session in 2013, CPS came to Springfield to ask for a pension holiday. As a freshman legislator, I stood up and challenged the Democrat lead sponsor on that bill reminding her that she had stated to a newspaper she was very sorry she voted for a similar pension holiday in 2005. The CPS pension holiday bill was expected to pass, but it failed dramatically that day. So, I already have a record for not letting government skip payments and speaking out about it when they try to. In the future, voting against the budget bill may be interpreted as a vote to not fund pensions, if the budget is passed in one big bill. I have little control over that process right now. One thing is certain, we need further “heavy-on-savings” pension reform. Our state cannot continue to spend 4 times more as a percent of our budget than most states spend on pensions and expect to take care of infrastructure, our court system, and the truly needy. As a side note, 42 percent of the current unfunded state pension liability is due to underfunding of pensions. The rest of the unfunded liability has to do with the uncontrollable factors of defined benefit systems – that’s why companies moved to 401k plans for their employees. There are huge uncertain costs in the out years. Taxpayers should not have to pay for risk-free pensions that are on average 3 to 5 times more generous than average social security recipients receive.
Q: Would you support changes to police, fire and local government pensions that might require those workers to stay on the job longer or pay more toward their retirements? Please be clear.
Last January one of the mayors in my county stated that by the year 2022, under current projections, 100% of the property taxes they collect will only go to pay pensions – that is local police, fire, and IMRF pensions. There is no doubt we must have pension reform at the municipal level. I do not know of a city that does not need reform in this area. Pension levies for police and fire can easily exceed 30 percent of the salary costs. Chicago, alone, has $20 billion in unfunded police and fire pension obligations. In fact a Barron’s report from October of last year, clearly shows the dire debt bomb Chicago is sitting on. They are as insolvent as our state and in worse shape than Detroit according to Barron’s when you look at debt as a percentage of the city’s GDP. Municipal pension reform is one of the top issues, along with arbitration reform, that my city officials bring up to me. The list of reforms desired by municipalities is already prepared. They include increased retirement age, increased contributions, COLA adjustments, changes to pension board administration, and use of different accounting methods for the funds. I have been working with staff on a package of bills that will address some of these reforms. This issue, I suspect, will be the hottest topic in the upcoming 2014 legislative session. If it is not, then we are once again not facing reality and the depths of our problems.
Q: The General Assembly voted to raise personal and corporate income tax rates in 2011. That hike will roll back in January 2015 unless lawmakers vote to keep it in place. Would you vote to keep it in place? Why?
We need to keep the promise we made to the taxpayers when we enacted the 2011 tax increase. It should sunset as required by law. Illinois has taken in record amounts of revenue over the last two years, $7-8 billion more per year. But, instead of using that new revenue to pay down back bills (approximately $7 billion), the state has added new spending and has had to increase pension payments. Those choices have made it very difficult to sunset the tax increase without creating a deficit. Keeping the promise to taxpayers to sunset that increase means Illinois needs to decrease spending from $4-5 billion from our general revenue. The most prudent way to do this is to make structural reforms. None of the choices are easy but in a state with one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation, and projected to have the least amount of job growth this year than any other state, raising taxes in not an option either. The lame-duck legislature in 2011, on a strictly partisan vote, raised taxes to address its $8.5 billion backlog of unpaid bills. The additional revenue went mostly to pension payments, while the state’s unpaid bills backlog grew before at the end of 2013 still exceeds $7 billion. We have broken the public’s trust already by not using the tax increase as promised.
Q: If you support rolling it back as scheduled, where would you find the money in the budget to make up the difference? How would you balance the budget, specifically?
Stronger pension reform could shave off $700 million more, moving Medicaid to a premium support system for our most needy could save around $1 billion, and making retirees pay the average health insurance premium other state worker’s pay in the nation could save an estimated $600 million. More controversial, is shifting spending back to local governments where there is more control and closer accountability by the taxpayers. The debate for spending is best done at the local level. Getting it back there will be laborious, but worth it in the end. Any spending shift must give complete local control over the spending shifted, be phased in over time, and give taxpayers protections over excessive property tax increases. We can save money in education by moving on School Choice, re-doing the school funding formula, and relieving local districts of unfunded mandates. We must redesign every aspect of the budget, allow managers to manage, and hold them accountable for their budgets. I favor privatization of government services similar to the Medicaid Maximus contract. The redetermination of Medicaid eligibility will now cost taxpayers more since a lawsuit by the public sector unions caused that work to move back to public sector employees. This decision moves against the cost saving initiatives we need in Illinois.
Q: Do you support a graduated income tax for Illinois? Explain your answer, please.
No. What’s not graduated about the current way we tax? The more money one makes, the more taxes government collects even under our current flat rate. This is not about tax fairness, this is a money grab by politicians and unions to support more spending. The proposed graduated rate begins at $18,000 in income, far from a tax on the wealthy, this is a tax on the lower and middle classes as well. It is important to note that since 1990 state spending has increased 3 times faster than inflation and population growth combined. Illinois has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.
Q: If you are an incumbent, what cuts to the state budget have you supported during the last five years?
I have only been in office one year. I supported cuts in my education appropriation committee that did not make it out of committee. Nearly all the cuts agreed to in the final days of our committee meetings were restored by Democrat leaders in closed door sessions that we were not involved in. I otherwise supported every cut that came before the house on the floor such as elimination of the Lt. Governor position and eliminate benefits for boards or commissions. I co-sponsored legislation to reduce legislator pay and office allotments, eliminate pensions for various state officials, and reform labor practices that would save money at all levels of government. These initiatives are small and what is really needed are big changes on Medicaid, education, and labor.
Q: Do you support school vouchers? If so, in what form?
I favor parental choice in the selection of schools for children. If Senator Meeks’ school choice bill had passed four years ago, children caught up in the CPS closures of last year would have already had the opportunity to attend private schools and they would not have had such disruption in their education. Every year we deny school choice to those trapped in under performing and overcrowded public schools, those children lose one more critical year in their development. NAEP results for 2013 show that two-thirds of 4th graders in our state do not read at a proficient level. The legislature should act this year to pass a school choice bill that allows educational opportunity to any child in the state of Illinois that is stuck in an under performing or overcrowded school. I am very involved with various groups to make this happen.
Q: Do you support the expansion of charter schools? If so, how?
I favor school choice. Charter schools can be viable alternatives to traditional public schools that find themselves bogged down with traditional public sector union rules that make it more difficult for teachers and principals to provide innovative solutions to meet individual academic needs. Charter schools should be expanded throughout the state and chartered for both traditional and virtual learning. As public schools they should meet all state requirements or be subjected to penalties as are other public schools.
Q: Should local school districts be required to start paying toward their retired teachers’ retirements or should the state continue to pay that cost? Explain.
Illinois cannot continue to have a disconnect between the salaries that are handed out at the local level and the pensions based on those salaries that are determined by and handed out at the state level. This conversation will not be easy and must include a full discussion of a new school funding formula that is not skewed to the advantage of Chicago, more robust pension reform, or better yet, complete local control of pensions, a phase-in period, and protection of local property taxpayers. In the absence of all those components, I won’t vote for the pension shift because my district will be the ones on the short end of the deal.
Q: What support, if any, are you receiving from your party and its leaders, including staff help, advice, legal assistance and resources? Be specific.
My party prepared my petition papers before circulating, reviewed my petition packet, and filed my packet with the State Board of Elections. Our legal staff looked over my opponent’s filing packet for a potential challenge. To date, I have not received any direct financial support from the “party.” I mange my own campaign and it is staffed with my own volunteers.
Q: What have you done to change the status quo of state government?
I have done my homework on policy from pensions to tax credits to concealed carry. Understanding policy is critical to getting Illinois on track . I have shown the courage to speak up in committee and on the house floor. I question the status quo and require proof of results before agreeing to previous programs. When elected I promised to be an advocate for families and taxpayers. I have not retreated from difficult votes, conversations, or decisions. My emails are unique and focused on the problems at hand and on giving voters an understanding the policy choices being discussed and how they will impact them.
Q: If you are an incumbent, give at least one example when you worked across the aisle on an important issue during the last legislative session.
I voted for a number of bi-partisan bills, including the first version of SB1, fracking, concealed carry, and restorative justice. I have spoken in favor of bills sponsored by my colleagues on the other side when they did not expect it. The one that comes to mind is a bill concerning control of local water systems. The bill passed. My comments in committee and my insight of the legislative impact of bills on cities has helped shape and modify legislation for the better.
Q: If you are an incumbent, give at least one recent example of a time you did not vote with your party on a significant issue.
The issues in the state are many times more regional in nature than based on party. Many of the major votes of last year like fracking and concealed carry were supported by all in my party. Other major votes like various pension bills and special spending for projects in certain districts or tax credits for certain businesses were divided votes in both parties. I look at the policy and the impact on taxpayers when taking a vote. I have a defined set of principles which guide my decision making. There were votes where I was one of the few to vote either for or against a bill. For example, only 13 legislators voted for a school choice bill sponsored by Rep. Ford.
Q: If you are an incumbent, how many bills did you chief sponsor during the last year?
I sponsored 23 bills last session. I filed legislation that will make a difference in Illinois. My legislation ranged from correcting the egregious unfairness of Special Services Area taxes, labor reform, government transparency, term limits, true balanced budget requirements, and real pension reform. My legislation has been highlighted by major newspapers around the state and my comments in committee have been noted as well.
Q: Tell us a little about your family.
Married for 26 years. Five children ages 22 to 9.
Ives’ Statement on Pension Reform Vote
December 4, 2013 – Wheaton, Illinois - I voted for pension reform. I voted in May for SB 1, a bill described as imperfect, but a first step. I voted for and have introduced other smaller pension reform bills. I provided the dissenting argument for a pension holiday for the City of Chicago that would have allowed them to skip pension payments for 2 more years. I am also a co-sponsor on a pension reform bill that would truly reform our state’s pension system. During my time in office, this crisis has been the focus of my attention.
On November 20th, the Chicago Tribune called for leaders to GO BIG on pension reform because we cannot tax, borrow, or invest our way out of a debt this big. The editors included the following statement, “The legislative leaders need to come up with a solid, substantial, heavy-on-savings reform plan for the state’s pension funds. Then they need to use that as a template for the cities, school districts and other government agencies that face their own pension crises. All that debt is on the taxpayers. It grows and grows.”
Numerous reports have stated that Illinois’ budget is not fiscally sustainable; that Illinois is insolvent; that its budgetary challenges are daunting, and is among the worst states in the nation with regard to its fiscal condition; that our credit rating is the worst in the US. And, when Illinois goes to the market to borrow, we pay over three times more in interest costs than the next worst state.
This bill was not the solution. State funded pensions remain in jeopardy. We cannot continue to spend 20% of general revenue funds on public pensions – when most states spend only 5% – and remain an attractive place live and do business. Doing so will lead to tax increases or drastic cuts to services or both; businesses not locating or expanding here; and taxpayers fleeing to better economies.
Yesterday, legislators voted for marginal reforms that put retiree pensions in jeopardy, are unaffordable for taxpayers, and erode our ability to balance budgets fairly. We do need pension reform immediately, but not just any pension reform – and certainly not this brand of reform.
Under Illinois Democrats, the state’s fiscal security, free-market productivity, and ability to provide necessary services are in a freefall. I remain more committed than ever to advance policies that will bring Illinois back from the brink of insolvency and restore economic opportunity to the many good citizens of this state.
Immediate Policy Objectives
- True Pension and Tax Reform
- Allow the 2011 Tax Increase to Sunset
- End to Legislator Pensions – I will not sign on to the pension system if elected and I do not need state health insurance.
- School Choice
- Audit All State Spending
- Pro-Growth Business Policies
The following are excerpts from survey questions given to me by various organizations. I thought you would want to know my policy ideas on these critical issues.