With the elections coming up and a state set in a gridlock, both candidates running for representative of the 110th district talked about their plans to rectify the state’s instability and lessen its effect on their district.
Incumbent Rep. Reggie Phillips (R-Charleston) is up against Dennis Malak (D), who is currently the technical director for the Doudna Fine Arts Center.
Both the candidates said the problems the state has are reflected in the district.
For Malak, the biggest issue facing the district is the lack of a full budget.
“We’re still operating on stopgaps, it’s not a way to fund the state,” he said.
Malak said it is hard seeing Eastern struggle month to month when the university has not received their full stopgap budget and other universities received theirs.
Malak said as representative, he would be fighting and calling the Comptroller’s office daily to make sure all funds appropriated to Eastern are released.
To get a full, balanced budget, he said he would start working with other legislators on a budget that will emphasize the five key points a state is responsible for health, safety, education, social services and infrastructure.
“What we need to do as a state is understand we need to prioritize these five basic facets where the government has a contract with its citizens,” Malak said.
Phillips said he is working on bills that would fund higher education, including one that would fund Eastern with an appropriation that would be 10 percent less than the one the university got in 2015.
He said he asked for this amount as former Eastern President Bill Perry said this would be what the school could cut from its budget and still survive on in front of the higher education appropriations committee.
With three community colleges and one university in his district, Phillips said his 2017 goal is to fully fund the universities with this 10 percent cut.
“Funding has been shrinking to universities in the last ten years, however we’ve been increasing the amount we’ve been spending on pensions,” Phillips said. “When you add them together, we’re spending more on the full time equivalent and less on the classroom.”
When it comes to business and the economy, Phillips said multiple structural reforms are needed to get competitive, especially when it comes to worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance and pensions.
He said problems with these are to blame for businesses leaving the state at what he calls “an alarming rate.”
“Unemployment insurance is astronomical in the state of Illinois,” he said. “Businesses, when they see that, they say, ‘Why do I want to do business in Illinois?’”
When writing a check for workers compensation for his 500 employees at Unique Homes, Phillips said he is paying more than he would have to elsewhere.
“When I write that multi million dollar check for worker’s compensation costs, it’s just outrageous,” Phillips said.
Malak said the state needs to broaden its revenue stream.
With an economic downturn, he said, people do not buy as many goods.
“If people lose their jobs, that’s a major cost to the revenue stream,” Malak said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re struggling as a state is because we have a narrow revenue stream.”
The way it is now, Malak said, the state does not have a tax structure that matches its economy.
“My plan has always been to have additional taxes on services,” he said. “We need to broaden tax structure to meet that before we ask those who are already paying to keep state afloat.”
In his constituency, Phillips said though the 110th district does not want new taxes, he would be happy to look at a service tax as long as they are not picking winners and losers.
Malak would want to close corporate loopholes.
“We want to make sure everyone’s doing their fair share, but we don’t want to stifle small business growth either,” Malak said.
Malak anticipates that his challenge will be making sure people in Springfield look past their interests and agendas to do what is good for the state.
“That’s what we don’t have in this state-balance,” Malak said. “And I’m not (just) talking a balanced budget I’m talking a balance in the implementation of policies and bills.”
Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]