Charlotte "Char" Kegarise
Republican candidate for Illinois House (56th district)
Responses to our questions
Why do you think it has been so difficult for Springfield to get a balanced budget passed and signed?
For decades, Springfield politicians have kicked the can down the road, choosing to protect the status quo rather than make meaningful, and sometimes tough, changes to state government. Our spending and pension debt are on autopilot, while our tax base dwindles and lawmakers refuse to enact the job-creating reforms that are essential to turning our state around. From the lack of term limits, redistricting reform, or a balanced budget requirement, the whole system is designed to protect the political class at the expense of Illinois taxpayers. There is not much accountability, and it's difficult to make meaningful change when elections are typically preordained. Essentially, Springfield has been rigged against the taxpayers, limiting their voices in state government.
Do you believe the state budget can be balanced going forward without new sources of revenue?
I believe it is possible to balance the budget without tax or fee increases. Illinois taxpayers were recently hit with another tax hike, and we were told it was necessary to balanced the budget. We were lied to. It's clear that lawmakers have refused to keep our spending and pension obligations in check with tax revenue, letting our state's finances deteriorate over many years. We need real spending cuts and major reforms to create jobs and change the structure of state government if we want to get our state back on track.
What new sources, if any, would you support? Please be specific.
I do not support new revenue sources,
Do you support a constitutional amendment favoring a graduated income tax? Please explain.
I do not support a graduated income tax. More tax hikes on Illinois families and businesses will only make our problems worse.
Please list five areas where you would cut spending.
- Pension reform that protects current benefits but makes changes for future hires.
- Consolidation of state government offices and agencies.
- Procurement reform.
- Changes to public assistance programs, such as waste and fraud associated with Medicaid or unemployment insurance.
- Reform to higher education bureaucracies.
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?
A promise made should be a promise kept. It is of the utmost importance that any pension reform protects the benefits of current and retired workers. Our state constitution and Supreme Court precedent are abundantly clear — we cannot reduce retirement benefits for workers. As it relates to current workers and retirees, any changes made must involve voluntary cooperation, such as a lump sum payment or transferal into a pension plan tier. For future workers, a new tier should be made with hybrid features that combines aspects of both defined benefit and contribution plans. Workers deserve retirement security and peace of mind, but at the same time, we must consider risk Illinois taxpayers assume with defined benefit plans.
Should all new state workers be moved into defined contribution plans?
State workers should not be forced into a retirement plan they do not want to participate in. They should have a choice. New Illinois state workers should have the option to choose what type of pension plan they would like to participate in, whether that is a defined benefit, hybrid, contribution plan. Pension benefits must remain competitive with the private sector and neighboring states so Illinois can attract educated and talented teachers and workers.
What should the governor do to control pension costs during union contract talks? What would you do?
It's important to strike a balance between state workers and taxpayers. To maintain our state's talented workforce, pension benefits must be in line with other Midwestern states and private sector employers. At the same time, we definitely need various forms of pension reform so we can get our unfunded pension liability under control and preserve the solvency of our state's pension system. Failure to act would devastate our state's finances while also imperiling the retirements of current and soon-to-be retired state workers.
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?
Illinois has a terrible out-migration problem because politicians continue to choose tax hikes over reforming the status quo. Our property taxes continue to skyrocket and Springfield politicians led by House Speaker Mike Madigan recently enacted a 32% tax increase that didn't even balance our state's budget. All the while, lawmakers have refused to pass any meaningful reforms to state government that cut spending or create jobs. Illinois needs to embrace reform and be friendlier to taxpayers if we are to reverse out-migration problem.
What should Illinois do — via tax policy, spending or other policy means — to keep residents from leaving?
State government needs a hard cap on spending so we can get our state's finances under control and reduce our tax burden responsibly over time. Homeowners deserve a property tax freeze so they aren't faced with property tax increases year after year. Additionally, that freeze should be empower counties, towns, and school districts with less mandates so they can cut costs, while voters have a say in what the tax levy should actually be.
Perhaps most importantly, we need good government reforms that fight against corruption and restore voter faith in state government, through policies like term limits or redistricting reform. If voters feel like they actually have a say in what happens in Springfield, they will be more likely to stay in Illinois and actually work to change the system, rather than pack up their things and move to other states.
What should Illinois do to promote job creation?
Other than lower the tax burden, as previously mentioned, Illinois should reduce regulations on small businesses and entrepreneurs. It should be easier to form and operate a business. That means less red tape and lower costs associated with running a business. One of the biggest costs associated with running a business is worker's compensation insurance. Illinois has some of the highest work. comp. rates in the nation, and businesses and units of government, large and small, often cite it as a large cost. Those regulations should be brought in line with our neighboring states, but also be kept at a level that could adequately compensate injured and disabled workers. That particular reform can make Illinois competitive while also saving taxpayer money at every level of government.
Did you support the education funding reform bill that the governor signed in 2017?
I believe there were many aspects of the education funding reform compromise that ought to be applauded. The new school funding formula, which was years in the making, ensures that every public school in Illinois, regardless of location, receives the funding it needs to ensure an adequate education for every student. The new formula also sets guidelines for increases in funding for public schools. Increased funding from the state to K-12 educational institutions is hugely important to ensure that all schools have the resources they need to provide an adequate and successful education. Increased funding from the state also relieves the pressure to increase property taxes on local homeowners.
What, if anything, should the legislature do to help Chicago Public Schools?
Chicago Public Schools should not be treated any differently than any other school district in Illinois. There were certain aspects of the school funding compromise which benefitted CPS at the expense of all other schools, whether they be suburban or downstate schools, and that manipulation of the new formula encourages bad financial decisions. Under no circumstances would I support any bailout of Chicago Public Schools.
Do you support opportunity scholarships included in the funding reform bill? Or will you try, if elected, to eliminate that program?
I would not have supported the opportunity scholarships as they were written into the new school funding reform bill. Before state government directs resources to those types of programs, I believe it is important to ensure that our public pre K and K-12 education institutions are adequately and fully funded so as to ensure a good education for all children. That being said, I would not eliminate the program. Doing so would unfairly take away the education of scholarship recipients and could unnecessary inflict hardship on the students.
Should Illinois do more to regulate campaign fundraising? If so, what?
Increased transparency, rather than limits on free speech, is where lawmakers should focus. Illinois voters should have increased access into the specifics of what a political committee actually spends their money on. For example, reporting rules do not require committees to disclose receipts and other expenses. Regulations should also be enacted to ensure that political committees are not being used to finance lavish lifestyles of public officials.
What help, if any, are you receiving from your party and its leaders, including staff help, advice, legal assistance, money and resources? Be specific.
My campaign for State Representative is a grassroots campaign focused on meeting and talking to as many voters as possible, particularly while going door to door. I'm supported by voters across the political spectrum, and I look forward to representing my entire community in Springfield, not party leaders.
If you are an incumbent, give an example of a time you worked across the aisle on an important issue.
N/A not an incumbent
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 not an incumbent
Do you support term limits? If so, will you commit to sponsoring legislation and/or lobbying your colleagues on behalf of a constitutional change?
I believe term limits are an essential part of turning our state around. Politicians should not be in Springfield for more than a decade. Every elected official in Springfield, from Governor on down to State Representative, should be term limited. I enthusiastically support a constitutional amendment to enact term limits and look forward to persuading my State Representatives on both sides of the aisle to do the same as well.
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 support Fair Maps. Redistricting should not be influenced by the partisan whims of Springfield politicians, regardless of who is in charge. Redistricting should be an independent process that establishes legislative districts that preserves the integrity of communities, based on both geographic, racial, and cultural considerations.
Tell us a little about your family.
I have been happily married for 46 years, with three wonderful sons, one talented grandson and a daughter in-law who we are proud to have as family.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
We spent the first two years of our married life living in the Philippines where our oldest son was born. The cultural experience of living abroad gave us a true appreciation of our country and the opportunities available to us. Upon our return to the United States, after we were discharged from the United States Air Force, we elected to help make wherever we lived a better place to raise our family. To that end we became very active in our local schools, athletics associations, and civic groups.