Education: graduate, University of Illinois, bachelor of science in ag education and ag economics, some graduate work
Occupation: State representative since 1993
Prior elected office: Knox County Treasurer, Knox County board member/chairman; Knoxville alderman, Oneida mayor, Oneida alderman
Family: wife, Carolyn; three grown children
Name: August "Gus" Junior
Education: Annawan HS, Black Hawk College
Occupation: HVAC Technician and Installer (more than 10 years)
Elected office: mayor of Atkinson, Atkinson trustee
Family: Significant other, Mary Hansen
Republican Donald Moffitt, of Gilson,seeking his 11th term as state representative in the 74th District, faces a challenge from AtkinsonMayor August "Gus" Junior, a Democrat.
Each was asked to discuss three of the major issues facing the GeneralAssembly.
Rep. Moffitt said changes that must be made include employees working to an older age before they collect pensions, the state ending the practice in which it skips payments on its pension obligations and requiring larger contributions from employees who want the same benefits.
The changes would not affect current retirees. "Those that are retired, I believe we must keep our word," he said.
He also noted lobbyists have abused the system by working one or two days as substitute teachers and then collecting from the Teachers Retirement System.
"That's wrong," he said. "We've closed a door for them to do something like that." He added there is another situation with people getting a high salary for a short while, then trying to collect on state pension. "So there are some loopholes to close," he said.
Mr. Junior listed the five steps he supports.
1. Cap all state pensions at $75,000 a year for everyone eligible.
2. Switch new hires to a "defined contribution" plan moving forward.
"We should honor all benefits for current employees," he stated. "Money should have been there in the first place. Fifty years of underfunding guarantees is what got us here, not the employees."
3. If Illinois switched to a "defined contribution" plan, Illinois should be able to increase wages for new hires.
Illinois would be able to focus on the present wages, not the future pensions. He said he believes this will simplify our budget.
4. Raise employee contributions. This would be for current employees. This may be preventable if the state only has to address future pensions in the short term rather than long term. A "defined contribution" plan should eliminate the long term.
5. I will decline my own pension as state representative. I do not support a (teacher pension) cost shift to local districts. It will weaken already fragile downstate school districts as it is. I do, however, feel local school districts should be held more accountable for letting salaries and pensions balloon.
"This has not been the fault of the employee, but the fault of our lawmakers underfunding pensions for over 50 years. Anyone that worked and retired under certain past conditions should have those conditions honored," he said.
Catching up on the bills
Rep. Moffitt said the state needs to stop digging the deficit hole deeper. He said the legislature designated $1.5 billion annually for paying back-due bills, which means the state would work its way out of the $9 billion backlog on the general fund in six years.
"It's at least a first step. Finally we've at least stopped making the problem worse," he said.
He noted Medicaid reform passed this spring should address fraud and abuse by having an independent consulting firm go after those who aren't even qualified and perhaps aren't even Illinois citizens.
Rep. Moffitt said two-thirds of revenue to the state's general fund comes from two sources: state income taxes and state sales taxes, so increasing jobs increases the number of people paying. He said he gets calls from people wanting to start businesses regarding the state's relatively cumbersome permitting process compared to neighboring states.
"What takes weeks or months there will take years in Illinois," he said.
He said he voted against increasing the state income tax and he thinks it should be allowed to sunset.
"It was sold to residents of Illinois based on being a temporary tax, so I think we should keep our word. Letting it sunset sends a positive message to citizens and corporate that we keep our word. If we reduce expenditures accordingly, it shows we keep our word and makes us a more attractive place to do business."
Mr. Junior said it's time to "buckle down."
"We need a priority list of needs and not wants. If certain projects in the state can get by for a
few years or more, they should wait. If we can patch things up to get by for a little while and use our funds to pay down our debt and save thousands or millions in interest, that's what we should do. Those thousands and millions of dollars are jobs.
"There is no point in paying interest to me. It's a complete waste of our taxpayer money. We must, bring back manufacturing to Illinois! If we can find a balance, between what Illinois taxes businesses and lowering that tax to bring in more business/manufacturing, we can bring in the same amount of tax money and provide many more jobs here in Illinois. More jobs will result in more income tax for Illinois and a better standard of living for our citizens.
"I would let the income tax increase expire. We should focus on creating a more business-friendly atmosphere here in Illinois to bring in more jobs, thus more income taxes to offset the expiration of the temporary increase."
Making Illinois border communities attractive new residents with a choice of states
Rep. Moffitt pointed out agriculture is the No. 1 industry in the state, with tourism coming in second. He said the state needs to help those two industries and do "everything we can" to encourage them.
"We're not an island," he said, If tax structures are lower on the Iowa side, he said, it can have a tendency to pull residents and corporations away from Illinois.
Mr. Junior said he would work on Illinois' services.
"Illinois has great schools, fire departments and rescue services. Illinois is a transportation hub in the USA with highways and rail. Updating infrastructure will make it even stronger. Our parks are some of the most eye-catching and relaxing in the nation. We can build Illinois into something greater than it has ever been, and these services will continue to help!"
State Representative's office: Salary: Base $67,836 per year, with $132 per day per diem when legislature is in session. Leaders get additional pay. Responsibilities: constituents' issues, local government, economic development and nonprofit organizations, legislation, budget process