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Benjamin L. Stratemeyer

Republican candidate for Illinois Senate (54th district)

Benjamin L. Stratemeyer

Benjamin L. Stratemeyer

Republican candidate for Illinois Senate (54th district)

Four degrees: Three undergraduate, and one graduate degree MBA, Specialization in Finance M.S. Engineering Management (not complete) B.S. Finance B.A. Accounting B.S. Business Economics Certified Quality & Reliability Engineer Certified Six Sigma Black Belt Certified Public Accountant
Current: Certified Public Accountant, Radio Broadcaster (self); Former: Finance Director, City of Salem; Financial Analyst / Quality Engineer & Product Group Manager, Rockwell International (A Fortune 30 Company)
Past Political/Civic Experience
Marion County GOP Chair Marion County Public Administrator (Gubernatorial Appointee) Illinois South Tourism Bureau, Marion County Representative South Central Transit Authority Trustee SIU College Republican President

Responses to our questions

Why do you think it has been so difficult for Springfield to get a balanced budget passed and signed?

The majority party holds a supermajority in the Illinois Senate and a significant majority in Illinois House. I believe the problem is and has been that many of the current, professional politicians are unwilling to admit and own their past fiscal and policy mistakes, and it is easier to shift the responsibility of governing on to future General Assemblies.

Do you believe the state budget can be balanced going forward without new sources of revenue?


What new sources, if any, would you support? Please be specific.

I support no new sources of revenue, on the net, without other revenue sources being eliminated. So, for a new source of revenue to be supported, an old revenue source would need to be repealed. I am willing to consider new sources that have not yet been discussed, with the conditions noted above. One example I could support is to increase tourism revenue through the state parks system. This may include opening up or even constructing locations for concessions and other attractions to private vendors in order to draw in more tourism.

Do you support a constitutional amendment favoring a graduated income tax? Please explain.

No. Other states such as California, New Jersey and New York saw an increase in middle class taxes with the implementation of a graduated state income tax.

Please list five areas where you would cut spending.

The answer to Illinois' fiscal woes are not as simple as a reduction of services, as some have proposed. While there may be programs needing evaluated and/or cut, there is significant savings in cutting expenses, and thereby decreasing the overall cost of government. I believe the difference is significant, because excessive cuts can lead to further expense and catastrophic consequences. There are, however, expenditures that can be cut in order to lower the cost of state government overall, just as a business must tighten its belt in lean years. Areas for cut/reform:

  1. Cut duplicative services and agencies
  2. Consolidate local Public Aid offices
  3. Increase Medicaid copays/coinsurance
  4. Decrease costs associated with state office leases. Terminate or consolidate where necessary to lower cost structures.
  5. Raise the age of pension eligibility annually for new hires, to an actuarially-determined level, that mimics social security ages.
  6. Eliminate prevailing wage on many government construction projects.
  7. Set online fees lower than in person fees. For example, to pay many state fees online there is an added charge (i.e. license plate renewal stickers, corporate annual reports, etc.) I believe cuts can be made as a responsible business would make: planned and incremental and consistent, in conjunction with designs for a percentage increase in productivity and value for the business of government.

Since the Illinois Supreme Court's 2015 decision tossing bipartisan pension reform, what can and should the legislature do to control pension costs, if anything?

The state legislature should allow the citizens to decide on a change to the state constitution related to pension reform and put it on the ballot. Also, to the extent possible, the legislature should raise the age of pension eligibility annually for new hires, to an actuarially-determined level, that mimics social security ages.

Should all new state workers be moved into defined contribution plans?

Yes, if the constitution permits it. We should also not limit ourselves to just defined benefit options. We should explore all options for new hires.

What should the governor do to control pension costs during union contract talks? What would you do?

The executive branch (Governor, regardless of political party) should have the tools needed to negotiate a fiscally responsible contract. The legislature's responsibility is to vote on the overall cost of the negotiated agreement.

Illinois lost more residents than any other state in 2016 and the trend appears to be holding for 2017. What is the No. 1 reason, in your opinion, for the exodus?

Due to personal and business taxes and the regulatory environment, the loss of jobs and the movement of jobs out of state is the #1 reason for the exodus. Another important reason is the cost of housing due to property taxes specifically.

What should Illinois do — via tax policy, spending or other policy means — to keep residents from leaving?

The first step is the political elites in charge need to admit there is a problem with the number of people leaving Illinois. Too often, the political elite scoff at the notion that there is even a problem. People are leaving because taxes are too high and our political leaders do not care what their policies are doing to the people they represent. The cost of government and government services is simply too expensive. When citizens are "nickel-and-dimed" by taxes, fees, and burdensome regulations, they feel cheated, and will react accordingly.

What should Illinois do to promote job creation?

Coupled with business reforms and tax cuts, we need to enact policies to encourage new business formation, self-employment opportunities, and encourage people to form additional part-time businesses. Also, Illinois must first target industries where it has a distinct natural, competitive advantage, such as production agriculture, transportation industries and industries that utilize rail, river and barge transportation, and industries that need large amounts of water.

We need to roll back business regulations and we need to end the practice of crony capitalism where government picks winners and losers. Too often, political insiders get perks no one else gets. If we lowered taxes, rolled back regulations, enacted lawsuit reform, made workers' compensation rates more affordable — we would have a level playing field for everyone and we would not have to give out special perks and privileges to get companies to locate here.

Did you support the education funding reform bill that the governor signed in 2017?

Yes, I would have voted for it.

What, if anything, should the legislature do to help Chicago Public Schools?

If anything, Illinois should demand academic performance and cost performance standards. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and downstate school funding problems start with depopulation. Addressing the job losses and depopulation will help all school districts in our state. CPS students deserve a quality education just like everyone else in this state, but CPS must be accountable and must be better stewards of the taxpayers' money.

Do you support opportunity scholarships included in the funding reform bill? Or will you try, if elected, to eliminate that program?

I support the concept of opportunity scholarships and/or vouchers, but do not support the tax credits as currently drafted. Low income families are going to benefit from this new law but middle class families are not going to see much of a benefit. My preference would have been to do something for families on the lower end of the income spectrum but also to help middle income families too. In the end, I would have probably voted for the proposal, because it is a step in the right direction.

Should Illinois do more to regulate campaign fundraising? If so, what?

No. The current system is necessary, but cumbersome. Adding more regulation would increase costs to administer and oversee the regulation, which we cannot afford. We need to make the process of running for office less complicated. Adding more burdensome regulations is only going to make it more difficult for the average citizen to get involved.

What help, if any, are you receiving from your party and its leaders, including staff help, advice, legal assistance, money and resources? Be specific.

I am receiving no help from the Illinois Republican Party and its leaders in this campaign. The only help I am receiving is from precinct committeemen and other grassroots supporters.

If you are an incumbent, give an example of a time you worked across the aisle on an important issue.

N/A - I am not an incumbent and have not held elected public office.

If you are an incumbent, give at least one example of a time you did not vote with your party on a significant issue.

N/A - I am not an incumbent and have not held elected public office.

Do you support term limits? If so, will you commit to sponsoring legislation and/or lobbying your colleagues on behalf of a constitutional change?

Yes. I support term limits and would commit to sponsoring legislation and/or lobbying my colleagues in the State Senate on behalf of a constitutional change in this regard.

Do you support changes to the redistricting process? If so, will you commit to sponsoring legislation and/or lobbying your colleagues on behalf of a constitutional change?

I am generally supportive of the Fair Map initiative. Illinois residents have not been well served by the gerrymandering in our state. We need legislative districts that make sense and respect historic district boundaries. We have too many small counties that are carved up and represented by multiple lawmakers. We need legislative districts that make sense.

Tell us a little about your family.

I have been married 28 years to my high school sweetheart, Celeste (Smothers) Stratemeyer. We have two daughters: Audrey is in nursing school at Kaskaskia College, and Natalie is enrolled at the University of Illinois College of Business. My parents are both deceased.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I am the Marion County GOP Chairman. My brother, Sam, is the Massac County GOP Chairman. He is running for State Representative-118th District this year as well. We live 110 miles apart.

Candidates for Illinois Senate (54th district)