clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Illinois Senate 26th District Democratic nominee: Tom Georges

Democratic nominee Tom Georges is the Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the 26th district Illinois Senate race. He is challenging Republican incumbent Dan McConchie.

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the nominees for Illinois Senate a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state.

Georges submitted the following answers to our questionnaire. Watch the video above to hear him explain why he’s running for office.


Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.

Georges: I always will prioritize the support for our Military and Veterans – Caring for and giving credit to those who have served to maintain our freedom and defended our rights as citizens of the United States.

1. Getting the Budget Back on Track – Economic development (Working and investing in tomorrow and the future). Illinois must plan for and invest in the future and operate more like a business to create alternative forms of income. Infrastructure improvement/repair, lottery, and responsible recreational marijuana legislation are a few options. The development of new and safe forms of renewable energy is potentially a huge untapped market for job growth and economic development. Illinois must plan today for what is expected tomorrow and become proactive rather than reactive.

2. Protecting Women’s Rights – Correction of past injustices (To do what is right and move forward as one entity). As we evolve over time, we must ensure that our legislators remain current and their voting records reflect the people they represent today not in a way which pushes Illinois 35 years into the past. Legislative votes should reflect equal rights. Legislators should ensure measures are taken to preserve the environmental beauty of our lakes and lands. Legislators should raise themselves above their personal and religious beliefs and do what is best for all individuals they represent, rather than that of the big donors who fund elections.

3. Providing Checks and Balances with Property Tax – Providing checks and balances with property tax. Current fiscal responsibility (Dealing with current financial situation). Illinois must meet financial obligations and identify measures to help its people while gradually eliminating expenses, prioritizing and determine necessary operating and capital expenses. All politicians can talk about lowering taxes but is that realistic with Illinois in such a financial crisis. We need to cap current property tax rates, develop a check and balance system more than just the equalization process, and grow in the Illinois economy. Pushing the debt to tomorrows generations is not a solution. Spending cuts must start from the top and work down which should include staffing needs, and reduction in the many levels of Illinois government, to possibly include reducing the number of state legislators (with independent redistricting).


Who is Tom Georges?

His legislative District: IL Senate District 26

His political/civic background in his words: Service. Leadership. Commitment. Integrity.

This is the first time I am running for office. My background includes:

Village of Mundelein, Planning & Zoning Commission

Cub Scouts, Pack 60, St. Joseph Catholic Church, Libertyville, IL

Foster Parent

U.S. Army, Colonel (Retired), active & reserve service for 31 years

I grew up in the NW suburbs of Chicago and graduated from College of DuPage and Northern Illinois University. After college I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the US Army Reserve. After attending my basic course at Fort Huachuca, AZ, I returned home and began working at a family business and became a real estate broker and appraiser.

Born and raised in the Chicago area

After 10 years, I was offered an opportunity to work full time in the Army where I acquired leadership experience as a company commander, battalion commander, and director of an organization. During this time, it seemed there was rarely a month that I didn’t hear about something negative in Illinois on the national news.

Previous Licensed Real Estate Broker and Appraiser

After retiring as a Colonel, I returned home and began researching my elected officials. I found they were not relevant and did not represent the values of the people within the District. After looking into the voting history, it was apparent that our state legislators worked for the large dollar donors. Talking with numerous people throughout the district, I found that the current elected officials did not have the moderate conservative approach with the receptiveness to the socially progressive changing times.

U.S. Army, Military Intelligence, Colonel (Retired)

I listened to people telling me how they were treated when they questioned their legislators and I checked their legislative voting history and it was apparent our legislators put their personal beliefs ahead of the safety and welfare of the people. A politician must separate themselves from their personal beliefs and religious education and do what is in the best interest of their constituents.

Education in Applied Administration, Organizational Development and Business (Opponent has education in Christian Thought and Bible Studies)

My opponent voted against the Federal Equal Rights Amendment and not voting for equal rights is like taking Illinois back 35 years into the past. Our children don’t want to return home to our district after college because there are newer, thriving, and growing areas developing elsewhere. This mindset of the past is what needs to change as we have current major financial, and educational issues to resolve. For these and many other reasons, I am running for Illinois State Senate in District 26.

His occupation: Retired Military (Colonel), Real Estate Management

His education: Master of Applied Administration, Organizational Development

His campaign website: https://tomgeorgesforillinois.com/


Please list three concerns that are highly specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to some local issue that must be changed.

Georges:

1. Economy & District 26 Development. It is important that all Illinois legislators work together and regularly pass a state budget. The lack of an approved budget hinders the progress of development within Illinois and District 26. Illinois finally has an approved budget, but it is still one of the lowest rated states in the nation. I think it is difficult to resolve education, pensions, and property taxes without increasing income or other outside-the-box approaches to increase income. Progressive Income Tax, Increased Gaming and/or the investment in Clean Energy are options. The budget of Illinois does not operate like a family budget. Unlike families, state governments build, manage and/or maintain highways, parks, and universities; and provide services to help with health care, shelter and other basic needs. Also, to a varied extent, state government regulates business, helps stimulate the economy and must be prepared to act in times of disaster on a community scale. Just like a business, if we stay stagnant, we will not keep up with the constant changing times and long term, we will not remain competitive as a community. So, property values will decrease while taxes remain high to cover expenses (just like they are today). Illinois residents, to include our college aged children, are moving away from our community as they are attracted to newer areas which are more robust, growing and offer greater opportunity. As we should adjust and stay ahead of change, we need to plan and manage expenses. We need to stimulate the local economy, promote growth to attract and retain people, business and ultimately attract our graduating college students back home to a thriving area. Either we grow, update, and adapt to changing times, or we regress and become a stagnant district. Illinois must plan for and invest in the future and operate more like a business to create alternative forms of income. Infrastructure improvement/repair, lottery, and responsible recreational marijuana legislation are a few options. The development of new and safe forms of renewable energy is potentially a huge untapped market for job growth and economic development. Illinois must plan today for what is expected tomorrow and become proactive rather than reactive.

2. Roads / Transportation: District 26 has continually grown yet our transportation system is antiquated. After decades of talk and no action, it is increasingly difficult to build the Route 53 extension at its current proposed location. However, I do believe that something like a Route 53 extension is needed and should be built at a new agreed upon location farther West. A highway extension farther West should limit interference to higher populated communities, wildlife and lakes while providing the much-needed jobs, growth, and increased infrastructure to attract people and businesses and potentially, the development of new suburbs. I think the expansion of Route 83 (which already connects to Route 53 and Interstate 355) and/or the expansion of Route 31 (which already connects to Route 12 in Wisconsin and Interstate 90) are the best options.

3. Politics within District 26. The district has developed into a very polarized area and individuals of the far ends of the political spectrum have migrated to the political positions. Having a military and business background, I have a conservative approach and favor republican issues; however, socially, I favor most democratic issues and have been endorsed by the Independent Voters of Illinois. I support legislator leadership term limits. Unless a person is appointed to an office and/or is in a district in which there is no challenger, running a campaign is very difficult. If the political system changed where it would attract the best people to run, term limits may not be required; until then, term limits should be created. As much as possible, redistricting should better follow county, city, village lines with communities of like interest. Pockets of communities should not be identified and included in districts to better the odds of incumbents remaining in office. Politicians must adjust to the times and reflect the constituents they represent.


SUN-TIMES 2018 ILLINOIS VOTING GUIDE


What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?

Georges: Budget – The State of Illinois is in major financial debt and we must change the way we do business or we will fail. Many differences exist between me and my opponent, some of which are a follows:

I favor a progressive tax and my opponent does not. Last breakdown I see lists seven (7) states which have no income tax, two (2) tax partial income, eight (8) states have a flat tax (to include Illinois) and 33 states use a progressive tax structure. Yes, I am in favor of a graduated income tax structure for Illinois. I would support a bi-partisan approach for qualifiers and brackets which would be equal to the income tax brackets currently in place for 95% of all people. The progressive tax structure would only affect the top 5% of Illinois income earners; essentially, I am in favor is what is called (but not agreed on regarding tax structure) the millionaire’s tax. My opponent talks about staying within our budget. He has proposed a budget which shaves off unnecessary expenses and reducing funding by approximately 10% for various departments. If balancing a budget was easy (like my opponent states) this may be a simplistic approach to a household budget; but, Illinois does not operate like a household budget. This simplistic approach may work on the surface if Illinois was not $131 Billion in debt. Shaving off expenses is not going to satisfy the debt.

Taxes – The level of property taxation is a major problem in Illinois. Many talks about taxes have occurred over a period of years but it is a continual topic of discussion. Taken from the Illinois Department of Revenue PIO-16 (R-03/16), “In fact, until the depression of the 1930s, property tax was the main source of funding for state government. Today, however, only local governments levy and collect property tax.” Most state income comes from Income Tax, Sales Tax and Federal Aid while property tax is most effected by county officials. Voters must look at the elected officials who have been in office for the last many years and vote for change at the county level for property tax. My opponent has proposed legislation which supposedly places the amount of tax a property owner pays at the property owners discretion. A state legislator that doesn’t have all the facts and is not up to date on all the requirements of local municipalities, who attempts to enact legislation which limits lower level elected officials from doing their job, is not acting in the best interest of the community. I do agree with capping current property tax rates and developing other methods of generating income to offset the requirement of raising property taxes in the future.

Illinois is the 6th highest populated state yet the income tax is low ranked 42nd lowest in nation. We need to equalize where funds are received so the property owner is not penalized for ownership. Local and state legislators must work together to provide relief to property owners while taxing those who rent and/or work in Illinois but live in a neighboring state, yet, still use and benefit from all the services which Illinois provides to the people.

Equal Rights – My opponent voted against Equal Rights. Not voting for equal rights is like taking Illinois back decades into the past. All people deserve equal pay if the people are doing the same job. Using the military as a basis, all individuals in the military wear the same basic uniform regardless of all the various differences which people originate. All are working toward a common goal and set of objectives which move the organization forward. We operate and get along as a team.

Abortion – I am told that I am taking the Kennedy approach to Abortion as I believe a legislator represents all people within the district and in doing so, must remove themselves from their independent thought, and that of respective religious beliefs and religious education; and afford the opportunity for all individuals and groups to exercise their rights. It is not for one religion to impose their beliefs on others within a community, and I believe in the separation of church and state. Whichever decision regarding abortion is made by a woman and/or couple, with the help of family, church and the many other support groups, I believe it is the responsibility of the state to ensure a safe, and clean environment in which to support a decision and allow all people to exercise their individual rights.

Marriage Equality – A family is who we choose to be with and those we love, to include the choice of a spouse.

Education – The education system within the state needs a major overhaul. An educational system with the separation of charter schools and private schools is like having kids in a household having a different set of rules and guidelines in which they must follow. Competition is good and no child should be left behind but all should follow the same set of established guidelines.

Green energy part of Illinois’ future – The development of new and safe forms of renewable energy is potentially a huge untapped market for job growth and economic development. Illinois must plan today for what is expected tomorrow and become proactive rather than reactive.

$15/hour minimum wage for all. My opponent doesn’t think public officials deserve a raise or set minimum wage to $10/hour. In order to attract and maintain the best quality workers you must treat them fairly and respectfully. Property taxes increase, cost of living increases and so should public official’s salary based on COLA. Don’t raise expenses I can understand no COLA increase otherwise there is less incentive to remain a state employee. Also, minimum wage to $10/hour is not a wage which individuals can comfortably live. I agree with a work program for students and/or a probationary period for employees entering a new job but after an agreed time period is over, I think large businesses should be required to a $15/hour minimum wage. Some exceptions may occur for the very small businesses which support or are attractive to high school students or temporary employees.

Right-to-work zones. Considering the overall comparison of RTW vs union, RTW benefit from unions without passing on the benefits to the workers. In addition, many aspects of the work environment are questioned to include: safety of work environment, craftsmanship, education, and insurance, as RTW zones do not have the built-in cost of quality control and enforcement standards of unions.

Illinois is now the sixth-most populated state, down from No. 5, after 33,703 people moved out between July 2016 and July 2017. What must the Legislature do to make Illinois a more desirable place to live?

Georges: Illinois must have a thriving economy to support workers, growth and prosperity. It is important that all Illinois legislators work together and regularly pass a state budget. Illinois finally has an approved budget, but it is still one of the lowest rated states in the nation. I think it is difficult to resolve education, pensions, and property taxes without increasing income or other outside-the-box approaches to increase income. Progressive Income Tax, Increased Gaming and/or the investment in Clean Energy are options. The budget of Illinois does not operate like a family budget. Unlike families, state governments build, manage and/or maintain highways, parks, and universities; and provide services to help with health care, shelter and other basic needs. Also, to a varied extent, state government regulates business, helps stimulate the economy and must be prepared to act in times of disaster on a community scale. Just like a business, if we stay stagnant, we will not keep up with the constant changing times and long term, we will not remain competitive as a community. So, property values will decrease while taxes remain high to cover expenses (just like they are today). Illinois residents, to include our college aged children, are moving away from our community as they are attracted to newer areas which are more robust, growing and offer greater opportunity. As we should adjust and stay ahead of change, we need to plan and manage expenses. We need to stimulate the local economy, promote growth to attract and retain people, business and ultimately attract our graduating college students back home to a thriving area. Either we grow, update, and adapt to changing times, or we regress and become a stagnant district.

In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?

Georges: Budget and development of the economy. It is important that all Illinois legislators work together and regularly pass a state budget. Illinois finally has an approved budget, but it is still one of the lowest rated states in the nation. I think it is difficult to resolve education, pensions, and property taxes without increasing income or other outside-the-box approaches to increase income. Progressive Income Tax, Increased Gaming and/or the investment in Clean Energy are options. The budget of Illinois does not operate like a family budget. Unlike families, state governments build, manage and/or maintain highways, parks, and universities; and provide services to help with health care, shelter and other basic needs. Also, to a varied extent, state government regulates business, helps stimulate the economy and must be prepared to act in times of disaster on a community scale. Just like a business, if we stay stagnant, we will not keep up with the constant changing times and long term, we will not remain competitive as a community. So, property values will decrease while taxes remain high to cover expenses (just like they are today). Illinois residents, to include our college aged children, are moving away from our community as they are attracted to newer areas which are more robust, growing and offer greater opportunity. As we should adjust and stay ahead of change, we need to plan and manage expenses. We need to stimulate the local economy, promote growth to attract and retain people, business and ultimately attract our graduating college students back home to a thriving area. Either we grow, update, and adapt to changing times, or we regress and become a stagnant district.

In 2015, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled the proposed legislator changes to pension reform to be unconstitutional. I do not agree that legislators should propose changes to pensions which were offered to employees at time of hire and I agree with the Illinois Supreme Courts’ decision. Illinois may change the current pension system, but a pension and compensation package should be consistent throughout employment period and based on date of hire. The benefits of pensions and salaries must be weighed between what Illinois can afford and the experience of a person which accepts a position. At the time a position is offered, an individual must determine if it is in their best interest to accept or deny working in a position. Benefits of an individual should not change after time of hire. As figures may vary, Illinois average teacher’s salary is ranked 11th while the per capita education expenditures are ranked 49th. Shifting pension obligations from the state to local school districts is just the transfer of an expense from the state to the local school district without considering follow on order of effects. Where will the local school districts receive the money to cover pensions? School districts receive their money from property taxes, so if you do not want your property taxes to drastically increase, the shifting of pension obligations to the local school districts is not a good idea.

From 2000 to 2016, the number of Illinois residents who enrolled as college freshmen outside the state increased by 73% (20,507 to 35,445). Why are so many more Illinois residents going to college elsewhere? What should be done to encourage more of them to go to school here?

Georges: I believe education is very important and cannot over emphasize the importance of a quality education. The education system within the state needs a major overhaul. An educational system with the separation of charter schools and private schools is like having kids in a household having a different set of rules and guidelines in which they must follow. Competition is good and no child should be left behind but all should follow the same set of established guidelines. Our state universities must work together, acquire a better reputation and have a much better return on investment. Graduate tuition at state universities should be much more affordable and education for the first two years of undergraduate work at community colleges should be free for resident students. We need to return to the emphasis of the trades and the first two years of trade schools equivalent to the undergraduate level should be state funded.

What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?

Georges: Illinois needs sensible gun legislation. As a 31-year military veteran, I support the Second Amendment. Weapons can become second nature to a trained, experienced, law abiding, registered citizen, occurring over time, not initially to the enthusiast. That said, we choose to live in a suburban environment where additional restrictions exist in many areas and topics for the safety and benefit of the public. I do not support military assault or automatic weapons in a large populated area.

On-demand scheduling software now helps large retail companies determine how many staff members they will need on a day-to-day or even hour-to-hour basis. The downside is that employees may not receive their work schedules until the last minute. Oregon and a number of cities have responded by adopting “fair scheduling” laws. Would it be appropriate for the Illinois Legislature to pass a “fair scheduling” law? Please explain. What would such a law look like?

Georges: Yes, I think it would be appropriate for the Illinois Legislature to pass a fair scheduling law. I do not think it is fair that an employee should receive their work schedule at the last minute. On-demand scheduling may benefit the large retail companies staffing requirements vs. demand, however, it seems to go against the personal and caring nature of a employee – employer relationship. I don’t know the specifics which companies in Oregon have faced, but I can envision a employee shortage and difficult to hire (and hire quality employees) if a employee doesn’t have the stability and trust in their employer.

Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.

Georges: I am in favor of a state-controlled legalization of recreational cannabis use in Illinois in limited amounts. This would have to be discussed in detail and mutually agreed upon bi-partisan approach. All items require discussion to include: laws, distribution, amounts, growth, support groups, taxation, law enforcement, and other areas as they become topics of discussion to ensure it is approached in a complete manner. As law enforcement may oppose such legislation, medical professionals support. I’m sure law enforcement did not want prohibition to end in 1933 but it was the will of the people in changing times. Drug use has occurred for thousands of years and it has only become worse regardless of all the law enforcement efforts. If anything, law enforcement is promoting gang activity, illegal drug sales, increased major violence, and developed an underground economy. Drug usage is not going away. Just like prohibition, we must get the driving factors of religion out of politics. Both drugs and alcohol are addictive. Just like a business, we must adjust to changing times, and manage an issue; strategically guide the current drug epidemic to a socially acceptable outcome. Legislators must wake up to a major and growing problem.

Opioid overdoses and fatalities continue to rise in number. In Illinois in 2017, there were 13,395 opioid overdoses, including 2,110 deaths. What should the Legislature do, if anything, about this?

Georges: Increase education across the board and at an earlier age and in schools. This is a social issue which required a social approach for resolution. Promote assistance and introduce resolution through common everyday interaction with community services and businesses alike.

The Future Energy Jobs Act, passed in 2016, is generating job growth in renewable energy and improving energy efficiency. Do you agree or disagree with the objectives and substance of the Act? What more — or less — should be done?

Georges: Agree. I think the energy sector is a huge untapped business sector which Illinois should investigate and seriously consider promoting and/or becoming involved directly. I think legislators should ensure measures are taken to preserve the environmental beauty of our lakes and lands; but, in this area, it can become profitable as well, making it a win-win situation.

What would you do to ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program? What is your view on managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries?

Georges: Aside from federal assistance, I think we need to develop the economy to ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program. As there are benefits to competition, I think a Medicaid program must be in place and in the future a better system can be modified and competition can exist with bi-partisan support which could benefit patients. At this point, a single payer system should be in place with set sound rates and adjustment based on cost of living.

Underfunding at the Department of Corrections has led to troubling findings by the auditor general that many inmates don’t receive services or opportunities for work while incarcerated. Is this a legitimate concern? What should the Legislature do?

Georges: Yes, I think the lack of opportunities for work while incarcerated is troubling and is a legitimate concern. I think work programs should be emphasized and promoted. Yes, the incarceration of individuals is for negative actions taken but society should prepare inmates for reintroduction into society in a way to be productive and where it is less likely for incarceration to occur in the future. Income produced by inmates should be given to family support, payment of debt, education expense and other expenses.

Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?

Georges: Yes. I support parole for individuals sentenced to long terms if they have been determined to be well down the road to recovery; depending on the offense. Aside from state savings, either restoring or instilling a persons will, drive, motivation, and purpose is important for the reintroduction into society.

RELATED

ENDORSEMENT: Tom Georges for Illinois Senate in the 26th District

Illinois Senate 26th District Republican nominee: Dan McConchie

Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.