On Jan. 26, state Rep. Jeanne Ives met with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked her why she’s running for the Republican nomination for Illinois Governor in the March 2018 primary:
My name is Jeanne Ives. I’m a three-term state representative from Wheaton. I served on the Wheaton City Council prior to becoming a state representative and that is my background right now. My top priorities is to bring fiscal sanity to the state of Illinois. We need to signal to businesses and to residents that we’re going to get our finances back on track and, to that endeavor, we are going to implement a balanced budget once and for all and solve some of our biggest problems, which are our pension obligations that are destroying our ability to fund other things in the state. My main cause is really to represent the taxpayers that have been abused by politicians for decades.
The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Governor a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois. Ives submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
TOPIC: Key challenges
QUESTION: What are the two biggest problems facing Illinois and what would you do about them?
ANSWER: There are two. Fatalism. Political leadership.
The most difficult thing to do is turn around public sentiment. And right now, Illinois families are borderline despondent about the direction of this state and our ability to course correct.
There is no bigger indictment of the failures and betrayals of the political ruling class in Chicago and in Illinois than the fact that half the people here say they want to leave and 85%+ say Illinois is headed in the wrong direction.
We either get serious about structural reform of a state government that is not financeable in its current form–systemic change–or we will feed the fatalism that quickens Illinois’ economic death spiral with businesses and families continuing to depart.
Those advocating ever bigger government at ever greater expense–in both parties–have had the run of Chicago for 100 years and the run of state government for at least the past 50. How’s it going?
It is time to completely rethink, re-engineer and reintroduce a state government keeps its promises, balances its books, focuses on its core responsibilities in terms of the provision of services and the setting of the rules of the game.
Illinoisans have a choice. They can stick with the same politics that’s failed them again and again. Or they can make a change. I represent that change. I’ll be a champion for Illinoisans and their communities.
Running for: GOP nomination for Illinois Governor
Political/civic background: State Representative 2013-present, Wheaton City Council 2011-2012
Occupation: State Representative
Education: Bachelor of Science, Economics from United States Military Academy 1987
Campaign website: ivesforillinois.com
TOPIC: Red ink and taxes
QUESTION: Even after raising the personal state income tax rate to 4.95 percent, Illinois has $9 billion in unpaid bills. The state also must pay billions of dollars over the next 12 years to service the debt on $6 billion borrowed to cover previous unpaid bills. That’s a problem. What’s your solution? Under what circumstances, if any, would you support a higher income tax?
ANSWER: Illinois already has the highest combined state and local tax burden in the country. Illinois has the highest property taxes in the country.
The notion of more structural tax increases to feed the spending addiction of Springfield junkies is absurd, just as was the 32% tax increase passed last year with the backing of the bipartisan collection of spending junkies of whom I speak.
We need a TABOR law in Illinois to cap annual state spending growth at no more than the rate of inflation + population growth. If we stop digging, we can climb out by paying down our obligations.
There is nothing moral, compassionate or enlightened about making spending commitments you cannot finance. In fact, it is malicious when politicians promise constituencies, like our social service providers, resources they don’t provide creating a reliance from which those constituencies cannot recover when the promises are unfulfilled–or effectively unfulfilled through interminable delays.
The solution is simple: the state must stop spending more than it takes in.
The state has run a deficit for more than 15 straight years, according to the Illinois Comptroller.
And the legislature is already running a $1.7 billion deficit this year despite last year’s massive $5 billion tax hike. The legislature and its leadership have no respect for the state constitution or the people of Illinois. That has to stop.
As governor, I will give Illinoisans the respect they deserve. I’ll do that by bringing the cost of government in line with what taxpayers can afford.
I’ll meet the constitutional requirement of proposing a balanced budget to the General Assembly, something my opponent failed to do. I will also hold the General Assembly accountable to meeting its constitutional requirement of passing a balance budget. And my first proposed budget will contain enough reforms and spending reductions to balance the budget and still leave some revenues to gradually begin paying down the state’s bill backlog.
I will not, however, support a higher income tax in Illinois under any circumstance. Illinoisans are already overburdened. Too many Illinoisans have already left. I will not harm the state’s tax base further.
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TOPIC: Underfunded pensions
QUESTION: Illinois has $130 billion of unfunded pension liability. Do you support re-amortizing this debt? Do you support a constitutional amendment that would reduce the liability? Please explain.
ANSWER: One of my primary efforts as governor will be to end the pension problem once and for all.
Everyone loses under current system. Retirees have lost their retirement security. Younger workers are paying into a plan that will fail them. Struggling taxpayers are pouring more and more money into a broken system. And Illinois’ most vulnerable are seeing service cuts as pensions consume more than a fourth of the state’s budget.
As governor, I will push for fundamental reforms by ending pensions going forward. Without fundamental reforms, re-amortizing the debt does nothing but kick the can.
First, I support a move to 401ks for all new workers. Illinois already has a successful and functioning 401k-style plan in its public university retirement plan – we just need to roll all new workers into it.
Second, I’ll push for a shift of the annual pension costs for teachers and universities workers back to where they belong – with their employers. The state shouldn’t be subsidizing the costs of workers who are not their employees. It has only led to corruption and mismanagement.
Third, I’ll work with labor to renegotiate the existing pension plans with Illinois’ unions. The state’s current leadership isn’t being honest with workers about just how bankrupt their plans are. Too many pension plans in Illinois are approaching insolvency, whether it is Chicago’s police and fire plans or those in Danville. Without a plan in place, pension checks will eventually be cut.
I’ll also support giving local governments full control over the type of retirements they offer, as well the option of bankruptcy as a way for them to reorganize their debts.
If all those reforms become a reality – if lawmakers actually reform entire system – then the need to re-amortize debt and will be dramatically decreased. We need the courage to fix these problems once and for all.
TOPIC: Gun laws
QUESTION: Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Should family members be empowered to petition the courts for the temporary confiscation of guns from mentally or emotionally disturbed people who may be a danger to themselves or others?
ANSWER: The above laws will do little to improve the safety of Illinoisans. Instead, their primary effect will be to harm law-abiding recreational gun owners, duplicate existing laws and raise the cost of doing business in Illinois. The state does not need more onerous laws, but rather better enforcement of those already in place.
And I don’t support the seizure of property from individuals, especially for those that have not been convicted of a crime.
QUESTION: As governor, how would you ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program? Do you support continued Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act? Should the state continue on a path toward managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries? Should everyone be permitted to buy into Medicaid?
ANSWER: Medicaid in its current form is not financially viable. Worse, it is failing to properly serve the constituencies the program was conceived to serve: pregnant women, indigent children, the developmentally disabled.
We need to finish the redetermination of the Medicaid rolls that has been started and stopped to remove people who don’t qualify. We need to incentivize the able-bodied to provide for themselves. A helping hand for a time, yes, but not for a lifetime.
No one wants to be dependent. No one wants to be on Medicaid who can otherwise provide for themselves. So let’s no incentivize them to stay in a place they don’t want to be.
Now, Medicaid is collapsing under its own weight even though it consumes nearly one-quarter of the budget. Medicaid is a poor deliverer of services too. The Oregon study, reported in 2013, clearly proved Medicaid recipients had no better health outcomes than poor people not enrolled in Medicaid, that emergency room visits increased for those on Medicaid, and that Medicaid recipients spent significantly more on healthcare.
My goal as governor is to help get people off of Medicaid. What Illinoisans need are more jobs and better pay. Nothing will do more for Illinoisans dependent on the government for health care than a thriving economy and more jobs. With fewer people on Medicaid, Illinois can once again focus its Medicaid resources on poor families, the disabled, and the elderly.
I will ask for more Medicaid waivers from the federal government. Our doctors and hospitals are savvy enough to develop better ways of delivering services to those in need and I want the flexibility to make that happen. For example, Illinois dentists have come together to offer free dental services at various locations (we have one in Wheaton). They give those in need a dental home and the staff donate their time. Yet none of the overhead or supplies can be covered by Medicaid. Access DuPage is a successful program delivering medical care to those below the 200% poverty line. These innovative ways of delivering care are more cost effective and responsible and should be expanded and supported.
TOPIC: Affordable Care Act
QUESTION: Under the ACA, 650,000 Illinoisans gained health insurance coverage. If the program is abolished or diminished by Congress, what action would you take, if any, to maintain health insurance coverage for these Illinoisans? Where would you find the money?
ANSWER: My biggest priority as governor when it comes to Medicaid will be protecting the most vulnerable among us – families in poverty, the disability, and the elderly. That’s where our focus should be.
Unfortunately, the addition of 650,000 single, able-bodied adults to the program means even less resources for those most in need. More than 25 percent of Illinoisans are now dependent on Medicaid and not private insurance.
If the Medicaid expansion is abolished or diminished, my role as governor is to help these single, able-bodied adults back into the workforce. We need more working- and middle-income jobs.
Our goal should be to improve Illinoisans’ economic circumstances so as few residents as possible need Medicaid in the first place – especially single, able-bodied adults.
TOPIC: College student exodus
QUESTION: Illinois is one of the largest exporters of college students in the country. What would you do to encourage the best and brightest young people in Illinois to attend college here at home? Does Illinois have too many state universities, as some have argued?
ANSWER: We are going to set goals for our colleges and universities: either bring your tuition in line with your conference peers or we’re going to bring the state support in line with that enjoyed by your conference peers. We’re not going to double whammy IL families on the tax side and the tuition side.
Illinois is bleeding students because higher education tuitions in Illinois are too high. In 2015, Illinois public university tuitions cost, on average, 50 percent more than those in neighboring states. And that’s despite the fact that Illinois appropriates, on average, 70 percent more to higher education than neighboring states do.
The reasons are clear. Illinois universities are bloated with administrators. Over the past decade, the number of university administrators has grown 25 percent even as the number of students has fallen by 3 percent.
Overly-generous pay and pensions are also to blame. Pension costs now consume more than 50 percent of the state’s yearly appropriations to higher education. It’s why so little state funding makes it to students.
Universities also have a problem with programmatic overlap. That drives up costs and decreases educational excellence.
As governor, I’ll push for Illinois universities to favor their individual competitive advantages. I’ll cut administrative bloat. And I’ll champion pension reform to allow more state dollars to go toward students and classrooms.
TOPIC: University oversight
QUESTION: Failed or fired public university presidents have received big payouts. Do you have any plans to consolidate or otherwise reorganize governance of the state’s university system?
ANSWER: Higher education in Illinois needs an overhaul. Abuses of power by those in charge have become commonplace. From the College of DuPage scandals of 2015 that are still being litigated to the recent reports of fake certificates of completion and fake graduation rates at City Colleges of Chicago and the scathing OEIG report on Northern Illinois University that resulted not in a firing of the university president but a buyout of $600,000 – higher education is ethically challenged. Our flagship institution, the University of Illinois, had its own scandals in the recent past.
We need higher education consolidation and accountability. I led the reform effort on the legislative side to clean up College of DuPage. Many of the reforms I suggested for community colleges were also adopted to all higher education including auditor general investigations and limits on administrator contracts. It is not enough. Chicago State University should be shut down. ts failure to attract more incoming freshmen than my middle school cross country team is embarrassing. Its failure to graduate more than 2% in 4 years means taxpayers and students are spending big money and getting nothing in return.
I would call for a consolidation of university systems and their governance boards. I would call for clear contract provisions for administrators based on results. I would ensure that those found violating our procurement laws, our FOIA laws, and knowingly falsifying reports would be held accountable instead of enriched.
TOPIC: Clean air regulations
QUESTION: The Rauner administration has proposed scrapping limits on the rate of air pollution from a fleet of eight coal plants in central and southern Illinois owned by Dynegy Inc. Instead, the state would impose annual caps on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emitted by the fleet. Do you support this softening of emissions standards? If not, are you concerned coal plants could be closed and union workers could lose their jobs? Also, how would you support the adoption of clean energy, such as wind and solar, and energy conservation?
ANSWER: Illinois is rich in energy resources – especially fossil fuels. Our production mix is nuclear – 54%, coal – 32%, Gas -8%, and renewables – 4.4%. We are an energy exporter as we produce 40% more energy than we use; we export 20-25%, leaving some power in the system for exigencies. Since energy is the master resource for the production of nearly everything, we should be a leader is using this resource to the fullest extent possible to attract business. This means we need a sensible energy policy that capitalizes on our natural advantage. The state energy goal of having renewables be 25% of our portfolio by 2025 is a fantasy and would create much higher power costs which would work against us in attracting business. If renewables work, end the subsidies. The federal production tax credit for wind has been in effect for 25 years. The industry should be viable enough to stand on its own. Even Warren Buffet admitted the reason to invest in renewables is because the tax credit makes it profitable.
I opposed the massive bail out of Exelon. We gave a company whose annual net income was over $2 billion a $2 billion subsidy – that makes no sense. Nuclear power is important and I support it, but not at any price.
Conservation only works at the user level. Any shifting of money that gives away free light bulbs or conservation technology is nonsensical. If users want to save energy, they have a natural incentive to do so because it saves them money.
I support following federal guidelines regardless of which party is in power or what the topic is, this includes regulations related to coal production. Given that Illinois has vast coal reserves, I respect the right for coal companies to mine coal and yet, I would hold them accountable for compliance with our laws regarding property rights, slurry impoundments, worker safety, and restoration of mined land.
TOPIC: School funding
QUESTION: Under the state’s new school-funding model, Illinois will need $6.2 billion more to fully fund K-12 schools. Will you commit to full funding? Where will you get the money?
ANSWER: I opposed the state’s new education finance model. It permanently bails out the corrupt, mismanaged Chicago Public School system at the expense of all Illinoisans. And it forces Illinoisans to pour billions of additional dollars into education without changing how effectively or responsibly those dollars are spent.
Illinois doesn’t need to hit up taxpayers again and again to increase funding for classrooms. Instead, it needs to free up the billions of dollars that are tied up in Illinois’ education bureaucracy and its overly-generous pension system.
As recently as 2015, pension costs consumed nearly half of the state’s appropriations to education. And Illinois’ bloated and duplicative 860 school district system is siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars that could instead go to classrooms and programs. Between 1992 and 2009, the number of district administrators in Illinois grew by more than a third, 2.5 times faster than student enrollment.
Executive-style pay is also a problem. When superintendents like Troy Paraday, from Calumet City, pull in more than $400,000 in 2016, the system is ready for reform. More than 8,000 school administrators and staff received total compensation greater than $100,000 in 2016.
To get more funding for schools in need, I’ll promote reforms that move new workers to 401(k)s. I’ll work on converting all districts into unit districts. And I’ll scale back administrative growth and executive pay. What I won’t do is hike taxes.
TOPIC: Wage equality
QUESTION: What is your position on the vetoed Illinois Wage Equity Act?
ANSWER: I voted against the original proposal as well as the House override of the governor’s veto. While I strongly support wage equality, this bill was not the right way to achieve it.
Illinois job creators don’t need more burdens and restrictions, especially if many equal-pay laws – from the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Illinois Equal Pay Act of 2003, and the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 – already exist.
Illinois’ labor force has already shrunk by nearly 275,000 workers since 2000. More harmful, costly, yet ineffective laws will only make Illinois less business friendly. Rather than imposing more laws, the state will be better off improving the enforcement of existing laws for equal pay.
TOPIC: Roads and bridges
QUESTION: How do you plan to address Illinois’ huge backlog of infrastructure construction and repair needs, including for roads, bridges, waterways and mass transit? Do you support an increased gas tax — and/or other taxes and fees — to finance infrastructure improvements, including public transit?
ANSWER: I do not support an increase in the gas tax. If anything, it may make sense to have a higher fee on electric vehicles that use our roads but do not pay gas taxes to the same level as regular cars. That said, I do not support mileage trackers.
Our infrastructure is an important economic engine and needs to be prioritized in the budget. It is the one item for which bonding is appropriate because it is a long-term investment. We need to make infrastructure a budget priority, stick to our schedule of improvements, extract some concessions on prevailing wage rates from unions, and enforce the constitutional lockbox on infrastructure spending.
TOPIC: Displaced workers
QUESTION: Jobs in Illinois are being lost to high-tech automation and artificial intelligence. It won’t even be long before cars drive themselves. Meanwhile, many other jobs, notably in the retail sector, are being lost to online alternatives. Do you have a plan to help guide displaced workers into new careers?
ANSWER: Illinois biggest problem with displaced workers isn’t new technology. Instead, it’s the state’s own restrictive labor policies, punishing tax burdens and unfriendly business policies that are killing jobs.
Since 2008, Illinois’ labor force has shrunk by nearly 275,000 workers. Many of those people have given up looking for jobs. Future automation is sure to have an impact on Illinois, but our bigger concern today has to be that much of Illinois’ workforce crisis is self-imposed.
The nation’s 7th-highest workers comp costs are chasing companies right over Illinois’ borders. High property taxes are already squeezing profits – and massive pension debts mean even higher taxes are on the way. And companies will invest less in shrinking cities and a depopulating state.
The best solution we can have for displaced workers is ensuring Illinois is ultra-competitive. A thriving Illinois will attract people and businesses. More businesses means more jobs, better pay and more investment. It creates a virtuous cycle of job creation – rather than the vicious cycle of job destruction we are currently experiencing.
TOPIC: Manufacturing jobs
QUESTION: Since the recession ended in 2009, neighboring states have added tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs while Illinois has not. What will you do to spur Illinois manufacturing?
ANSWER: Too many Illinoisans have simply seen their manufacturing jobs disappear. Illinois’ punishing labor rules, its worker comp costs and its property tax burdens have chased out Illinois manufacturers for years. Since 2007, Illinois has lost 100,000 manufacturing jobs, or 15 percent of its manufacturing total.
While Illinois continues to stagnate, all of its neighbors are re-growing their manufacturing base. Michigan has added 150,000 manufacturing jobs since the depths of the Great Recession. Indiana has added 90,000 new jobs. Wisconsin, 42,000. Illinois, in contrast, has added just 10,000 manufacturing jobs since it bottomed in 2010.
Those states are growing because they’ve all passed numerous pro-jobs reforms since 2008. Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri passed right-to-work laws. Indiana enacted a major tax cut in 2013. And Iowa is considering sweeping changes to its collective bargaining rules.
Illinois is an outlier that refuses to reform its labor laws, reduce its tax burden or lower its workers comp costs. Illinois manufacturing simply can’t compete in spite of competitive energy prices in our state. It is overly burdened by the policies imposed by the state’s current leadership.
As governor, I’ll work with the legislature to cut the nation’s 7th-highest workers comp costs. I’ll support a property tax cap and a roll back of many of the state mandates that fuel the nation’s highest property taxes. With those reforms, I’ll push for a major reduction in property taxes.
The best way to spur economic growth is to create more jobs, grow incomes and bring confidence back to the people of Illinois. That effort starts with protecting and growing middle- and working-class jobs.
TOPIC: Election funding
QUESTION: Record amounts of money are pouring into top judicial races in Illinois and across the country. Is this a problem? Do you favor the public financing of judicial races?
ANSWER: Despite a considerable money disadvantage in the Governor’s race, I do not believe in public funding of elections. Giving to political campaigns and causes is, and should remain free-expression. Money isn’t everything, either. Often candidates who self-fund, do not win. In my own race, for example, I only need a threshold amount of money to get my message out and let people know who I am in order to win.
TOPIC: Opioid crisis
QUESTION: What role does a governor’s power to commute sentences play in the overall effort to improve the quality of criminal justice in Illinois? Do you believe sentencing may have been overly harsh — or not tough enough — during the earlier years of the so-called “war on drugs.” And we now face a renewed war on drugs — this time opioids. Is the greatly increased use of opioids a criminal crisis or public health crisis?
ANSWER: As Governor, I will carefully review commutation of sentences, but the power to commute sentences has only a small impact on the quality of justice overall.
The entire criminal justice system was reviewed by the Illinois State Commission of Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform and a final report published in December 2016. Some of the recommendations have been followed up on including the de-criminalization of marijuana, making small amounts of possession a misdemeanor. No other topic has received as much bi-partisan conversation and support than the topic of criminal justice reform in the last couple of years in Springfield. As always, prevention is really the answer when it comes to reducing criminality. And there is no better prevention than strong families and a strong economy that provides access to quality educational and employment opportunities.
The opioid crisis is a criminal and public health crisis. Fortunately, the experts in the field are heavily involved in arresting this growing problem. Demand for accountability to prevent over prescribing by requiring better tracking of prescriptive opioids will help. Physician dispensing of opioids, common in worker compensation cases, is being investigated and bills have been filed to limit it. Schools and county health departments are educating parents and youth about the dangers of opioid use. From my perspective, much attention is being focused on this problem. Law enforcement should pursue maximum sentences on those found illegally selling any style of opioids and the medical and pharmacology communities should come up with best practices for dispensing and monitoring of these highly addictive drugs.
Finally, treatment for drug addictions is important, but costly and ineffective if the user doesn’t really want to quit. The social cost of drug addiction and rehabilitation must be balanced against incarceration costs. In some cases, limited incarceration until an addict can get clean, may actually save life.
TOPIC: A model gov
QUESTION: Which past governor of Illinois do you most admire and why? Which governor from any state would you most like to emulate?
ANSWER: I admire Governor Richard Yates who held office during the most consequential time in our history, the Civil War from 1861-1865. He was known as a “soldier’s friend” caring for troops under his command. I admire his anti-slavery stance and his vote against the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in spite of a district that history says was pro-slavery. He also understood the importance of working with the then President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, to bring federal support to the state.
Our profiles on other candidates in this race: