John O’Neill’s Answers to the Chicago Tribune Questionnaire

Republican Party State Representative candidate John O’Neill has released his replies to the Chicago Tribune’s questionnaire. It follows:

John O'Neill shows off baby Jerry.

Illinois’ pension system has unfunded obligations of $80 billion or more. Unfunded retiree health obligations total many additional billions. How would you resolve these shortfalls? Should Illinois reduce benefits going forward, and/or increase the retirement age, for current employees?

Let’s face it, if we do nothing and the state goes broke, nobody will receive any benefits. Something has got to be done. I don’t begrudge the workers, teachers, firefighters and police officers their benefits, however the union bosses who have played the game of pitting one municipality or school district against another, threatening strikes if they don’t get their way has got to come to an end.

In an era where the taxpayers are seeing loss of jobs, pay-cuts, loss of benefits, and cuts or even loss of their retirement benefits, it is time for those who receive state pensions to face the reality the rest of us are already facing. I support a 401(k)-type retirement program for state pension recipients; credit them for their years worked and establish an account for them where they contribute to their retirement account and their employer, the state or municipal department, agency, or district will make a match, much the same way the taxpayers who fund state pensions contribute to their own retirement accounts.

Medicaid spending has risen 35.6 percent since 2001. The number of Illinois residents enrolled in Medicaid doubled from 1998 to 2008: The program now serves one in five Illinoisans. How can the state contain Medicaid spending? Should Illinois change eligibility requirements and if so, how? Would you change payment levels to providers? If so, how?

The first action to be taken will be a forensic audit of the entire budget, searching line-by-line for waste, fraud, and abuse. I believe the main reason for the 35.6% increase in Medicaid spending and the doubling of residents enrolled in Medicaid is the fact that Medicaid administers the All Kids insurance program which, as its charter states, “All Kids is Illinois’ program for children who need comprehensive, affordable health insurance, regardless of family income, immigration status or health condition.”

Since All Kids does not consider Immigration Status as a condition for enrollment, the State of Illinois has become a magnet of illegal immigrants seeking no-cost insurance for their families. I shudder at the idea of denying healthcare to children, however Illinois State Law already mandates that hospitals must provide care for all patients regardless of their ability to pay.

At the heart of the Medicare funding issue is the illegal Immigration issue; we must make our state unattractive to illegal immigrants in order to get a handle on Medicare spending.

Illinois has ranked 48th in job creation, trailed only by Ohio and Michigan. What should Illinois do — via tax policy, spending or other policy means — to promote job creation? Offer three ideas and, if they would cost the state money, explain how you would pay for them.

The first action to be taken will be a forensic audit of the entire budget, searching line-by-line for waste, fraud, and abuse. Second, we need to reduce the stifling taxes, restrictive regulations and formidable fees which have driven employers out of the State of Illinois. In the past ten years many of employers who have left the state have remained in the Midwest, relocating to states such as Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, and Iowa.

These states have benefited from the Chicago Political Machine and Speaker of the Illinois House, Michael Madigan’s Agenda of Higher Corporate Taxes, Regulations, and Fees. We need to make our state more attractive to employers in order to bring more employers back to the State of Illinois and McHenry County. Third, once we’ve brought more jobs back to our state as President Reagan had shown us in the 1980’s, with lower tax rates and more people working we will become more prosperous as a state.

Do you support or oppose Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposal to raise the state’s personal and corporate income tax rates? If you do want changes: To what percentages should those rates rise or fall? Should Illinois adopt a graduated income tax? Apply the sales tax to services? Impose other taxes? Can Illinois balance its budget without a tax increase?

I will oppose any tax hike, any taxation of services, and any creation of new taxes. We will balance the budget without a tax hike; the first action to be taken will be a forensic audit of the entire budget, searching line-by-line for waste, fraud, and abuse.

As President Reagan had shown us in the 1980’s, with lower tax rates and more people working we will become more prosperous as a state.

Please list — and explain — five specific areas where you would cut state spending. Want to suggest more? Be our guest.

I’ll hold off answering this question until we get an audit of the books completed, however I would say that services to illegal immigrants and any programs which stifle growth and foster dependence on government would have to go.

How can Illinois improve the performance of public schools? Should the state eliminate the cap on the number of charter schools? Do you support the Meeks proposal to provide tuition vouchers for 30,000 children in Chicago’s weakest schools? Do you favor or oppose eliminating tenure and implementing performance pay for teachers? Why or why not?

We will improve performance in public schools when we begin paying for performance rather than simply rewarding longevity and mediocrity. I support the opportunity for parents to use their own tax dollars to send their children to the school of their choice rather than simply the geographically closest school to their home.

Some legislators have awarded state university tuition waivers to children of friends and political supporters. Should the program be abolished? Why or why not?

This is symptom of the Chicago Political Machine’s Pay-to-Play politics of the past which has gotten us into so much of the trouble we are in as a state. Of course it needs to be abolished and should be replaced with a program to reward high achievers from low-income families with state university tuition waivers.

CTA train heading down the center of the Kennedy Expressway.

Free rides for all senior citizens cost Chicago-area transit agencies $68 million a year. Should free rides be abolished? Explain in detail.

Do all Senior Citizens need free rides through area transit systems? Wouldn’t our community be better served with a needs-based program rather than a blanket “free rides for all senior citizens” program?

Illinois has 7,000 local governments, more than any other state. What governments can consolidate or sunset? What should lawmakers do to make this happen? Cite specific levels of government.

Certainly we should look at consolidating governments which overlap services. A good example would be school districts; many areas have separate districts for the high schools and grade schools in the same town. This is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The General Assembly passed a law last year that limits contributions by individuals, corporations, unions and political action committees—but not on contributions and transfers by political parties and committees controlled by House and Senate leaders. Did you support or oppose this legislation? Would you vote to impose comparable limits on legislative leaders? Why or why not? Are there other ways Illinois should regulate, or require more disclosure of, contributions?

It is astonishing that legislative leaders, political parties, and unions are given free rein to hand money over to candidates, yet taxpayers are limited in what they can contribute to the candidate of their choice. Personally, I see the issue as a Free Speech issue; if a taxpayer is limited in the amount of money he or she can contribute to a candidate, state or federal, that taxpayer’s freedom is being curtailed.

What have you done to change the status quo of Illinois politics and government? Incumbents: Tell us about occasions when you have voted against your party’s line and explain your vote on those issues. Challengers: On what issues is your party leadership mistaken? Answer in detail.

I entered this race in large part because Conservatives have been underrepresented at all levels of government in Illinois. I have considered myself an Independent Republican for years because so few Republicans actually live-up to the ideals of the Republican Platform. Some areas where I believe the Illinois Republican Party gives lip service to but not much else are included in the following quotes taken from the 2008 Illinois Republican Party Platform.

  • End the taxpayer subsidy for abortion.
  • Require a doctor to involve a minor’s parents before aborting her unborn child.
  • The Illinois Republican Party opposes the fostering of utilitarian experiments which sacrifice human embryos in what appears to be a futile search for medical cures.
  • The Republican Party endorses a constitutional amendment protecting our Defense of Marriage Act and enshrining in constitutional law marriage as it is defined in our “DOMA.”
  • Illinois Republicans urge reversal of “sanctuary city” policies, which bar our law enforcement officers from aiding Immigration & Customs Enforcement agents.
  • Enactment of “Concealed Carry” legislation offering permits to properly trained, law‐abiding citizens to bear concealed weapons for personal protection.

What state, county or municipal officeholders, if any, should be subject to recall? Be specific. Do you support term limits on statewide officials, legislators, committee chairmen, House and Senate leaders? Explain.

I support recall for ALL elected officials from Governor to the proverbial “Dog Catcher.”

I support term limits for ALL elected officials. If the good people of McHenry County entrust me with the solemn responsibility of representing them in the Illinois General Assembly, I will personally limit myself to a maximum of 3 terms as State Representative. More than that and an elected official may run the risk of becoming complacent and too cozy with the lobbyists.

As for House and Senate leaders, take a look at the mess our state is in and tell me that Chicago Political Machine Boss Michael Madigan who has been House Speaker for 22 of the last 24 years is doing a good job. Of course, my 12-year incumbent opponent has voted for Madigan as House Speaker every chance he gets.

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