Joe Neal: Candidate Profile

31st District Senate (Republican)

  • Joe Neal, running for 31st District Senate

    Joe Neal, running for 31st District Senate

Updated 9/21/2012 4:41 PM




Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.

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City: Wadsworth


Office sought: 31st District Senate

Age: 44

Family: Single

Occupation: Professional Civil Engineer and Navy Civil Engineering Corp Officer

Education: Attended College of Lake County before transferring to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale to earn a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering -1991 Attended Illinois Institute of Technology to earn a Masters of Transportation Engineering - 1998

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Civic involvement: Wadsworth Lions Club, Shriner, Navy League of the United States, Wetlands Research

Elected offices held: Precinct Committeeman, 2005-present (Newport Township Republican Chairman, 2007-present)

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Job Creation & Economic Growth Springfield politicians are chasing jobs out of this state and making it too costly for companies to expand or open shop in Illinois. There?s a reason why Wisconsin has an unemployment rate that is almost 3 percent lower than Illinois'. Living in a district that borders Wisconsin, our jobs are uniquely at risk when Illinois adopts policies hostile to job creators. One such policy is the massive 67% income tax hike on individuals and the 46% income tax hike on corporations that the ruling Majority in Springfield passed in the dead of night. This was a short sighted, temporary fix that did nothing to address our long-term deficit spending or poorly run state programs. We must repeal this tax hike immediately and set to work on a uniform tax policy that provides a level playing field for all businesses regardless of their size. If I am fortunate enough to serve as our district's next State Senator, I will fight to help businesses create jobs and work to allow for a more business friendly climate through support for: - Repealing the individual and corporate tax increase immediately - Eliminating the unpredictability of healthcare mandates - Supporting further reforms to worker?s compensation and unemployment insurance regulations to decrease the heavy financial burden on businesses. - Stabilizing the state budget through additional pension and Medicaid reforms so businesses do not feel threatened by the financial calamity facing our state.

Key Issue 2

Balancing our State Budget Our state is racing off of a budget cliff. Spending continues to increase despite a mountain of unpaid bills. And, this comes after the 67% income tax increase that was supposed to help fix our fiscal mess. In the past 10 years, the cost and size of Illinois government has grown 26% while the population growth has only grown at 6%. It?s time to stop relying on short-term budget gimmicks, irresponsible borrowing, and massive tax hikes. We must engage in long-term planning. The answer to solving our debt problem is not to increase our tax burden, which hurts families and businesses, but to create an employer friendly environment competitive with Wisconsin and the rest of the country and to cut spending on wasteful programs. We also must pass substantial reforms to the major cost drivers in our state?s budget, such as Medicaid and pensions. Until we bring these programs into line with what our budget can actually afford, we will continue to face more calls for higher taxes and borrowing. I offer more specifics on how to balance the budget below.

Key Issue 3

Pension Reform Meaningful reforms to our state pension system are absolutely necessary in order to maintain a solvent pension fund and keep the promise made to our state employees. We are in this pension mess in large part because Illinois failed to live up to its obligation to make timely payments into the state?s pension funds. Self-serving politicians used money intended for pension payments to expand government programs and services. This was wrong and Illinois must commit in the strictest sense to making its full pension payment. I supported a 3-tier pension reform similar to the plan proposed in SB 512 because I believed it was the best solution at the time to meet our future pension obligations and ensure that retired workers are not left with a bankrupt pension system. Today, I am open to any solution (such as the offer and consideration model or cap and age model) that solves our pension-funding problem and ensures that the program remains solvent. I do not consider the cost shift to be pension reform, but rather a funding reform discussion. I am certainly willing to discuss funding reform and increased school board accountability, but I do not believe we should let this debate stand in the way of fixing our pension system. Shifting a broken system from the state to the local level ensures property tax hikes while not solving the problem that brought us here in the first place.


Questions & Answers

How would you fix the state's pension gap? Should pension costs be shifted to suburban school districts? Why or why not? Should this issue be voted on in a lame-duck session? Why or why not? How can partisan gridlock be eased to solve the crisis?

As I stated in my previous answers, I believe meaningful pension reforms are absolutely necessary in order to maintain a solvent pension fund and keep the promise made to our state employees. I recognize that the state has failed to live up to its obligation to make timely payments into the state?s pension funds. Self-serving politicians used money intended for pension payments to expand government programs and services. This was wrong and Illinois must commit in the strictest sense to making its full pension payment. I supported the three-tier pension plan as the best idea then proposed to meet our future pension obligations and ensure that retired workers are not left with a bankrupt pension system. Today, I remain open to any solution (such as the offer and consideration model or the cap and age model) that will solve our pension problem. I oppose shifting pension costs to local school districts. This mess was created in Springfield and must be fixed in Springfield. Local real estate taxes are already too high, and shifting the funding burden to the local schools would only put more pressure on the property tax payers. Once we have passed meaningful pension reform, I am willing to discuss funding reform that increases school board accountability and ensures that the entity that sets the benefit pays for the benefit. For example, the legislature should not be allowed to set benefit standards if the school board is paying the full cost. I do not oppose voting on meaningful pension reform in a lame-duck session. With credit agencies threatening another downgrade, we cannot delay action on a bill that legitimately fixes our problem. I am not a politician and this is my first run for the state legislature. I bring to Springfield a pragmatic and collaborative approach to problem solving learned through years in the private sector. My goal is to be an independent voice for reform. Partisan gridlock can be eased if both parties will sit down together with sincere intentions to solve this crisis. In addition, unions must come to the table and recognize their need to contribute to a long-term solution.

How, specifically, would you cut the budget? What does Illinois need to do to fix its status as a "deadbeat state?" How will you vote on future gambling bills? What is your view of slots at racetracks? Casino expansion?

Illinois is now the most bankrupt state in the country and we have a backlog of unpaid bills up to $8.5 billion. Our unfunded pension liability is estimated to now be as high as $130 billion, which is by far the worst in the country. I support the Medicaid Recapture Audit passed in this last session, which has huge potential to save taxpayer dollars through identification of fraudulent or inappropriate Medicaid payments. Some estimates have suggested that as much as 10% of Medicaid payments contain fraud or are inappropriate. Other areas I would cut the budget include: - Moving eligibility levels in some Medicaid programs to the national average so that those truly in need have access to a solvent Medicaid program. - Despite our deficit and unpaid bills, new programs are still proposed and supported in Springfield. I support a moratorium on government expansion until our financial crisis is solved. We cannot keep digging a bigger hole. - There is a bill in Springfield to combine the Treasurer and Comptroller?s offices saving the taxpayers $12 million. This is an easy decision and one that I would support. - I would support an audit of programs and agency departments to root out services that are redundant with other agencies or are already provided by local government. - I support reducing the number of government appointments and commissions. We should reduce the salaries of State Board Commissions by 50%. On the subject of gaming, I will oppose further expansion of gambling in Illinois. While I recognize that gambling is here to stay, I do not believe it is the best way to fund our state budget. To rely on income from gambling puts the state in the position of betting against its citizens. Illinois horse racing facilities must compete with horse racing venues throughout the country that are able to provide much greater monetary awards because they allow slots during their events. I would consider allowing slots at horse racetracks if it would allow Illinois to compete for high quality race venues.

What can you do specifically to help the economy in your district? How can you help create jobs in your district and statewide? What is your view of the tax breaks granted to companies like Motorola Mobility, Navistar and Sears?

I am running in a district that borders Wisconsin and, as such, I believe our communities are uniquely at risk when Illinois? economy falters or our business environment deteriorates. Businesses on the Wisconsin border have easy access to a more competitive and business-friendly environment. The first step in sending a message that Illinois is open for business is to repeal the individual and corporate tax increase. I would also support eliminating business start up fees for a duration up to 5 years and implementing additional worker?s compensation and unemployment insurance law reforms. These steps will help make Illinois competitive again, bring jobs and families back to the district and increase our tax base. It's unfortunate and short sighted for our leaders in Springfield to pursue a tax policy that results in big businesses lining up to request tax breaks. While big businesses can afford armies of lobbyists to argue on their behalf, our small businesses that employ a much larger percentage of Illinoisans are left in the cold. My goal is to create a uniform tax incentive policy that provides a level playing field for all employers to grow or start a business in Illinois.

Do you favor limiting how much money party leaders can give candidates during an election? If elected, do you plan to vote for the current leader of your caucus? Why or why not? Do you support or oppose campaign contribution limits? Please explain.

The campaign finance reform legislation passed last year empowered the legislative leaders by allowing them to contribute unlimited amounts of money to their preferred candidates while, at the same time, restricting individuals and associations to $5,000 and $10,000, respectively. Rather than return power to voters, the finance reform legislation further consolidated power among the legislative leaders. I would favor uniform restrictions for individuals and legislative leaders. Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno is an outstanding individual and contentious legislator. While I am not inclined to vote against her, I must withhold pledging my vote until I can evaluate the merits of other candidates who step forward to lead. I am not aware of any other candidates at this time.

Should gay marriage be legalized in Illinois? Should it be voted on in a lame-duck session as civil unions were? Should Illinois define life as beginning at conception? How would you vote on a concealed carry plan? Should the death penalty return?

Illinois recently enacted bi-partisan civil union legislation. I do not favor going beyond the law as it stands today to re-define marriage. I am not opposed to the concept of passing any legislation in a lame-duck session. New legislators may repeal such legislation if they disagree with it. While I share the conviction that life begins at conception, I believe the energy and focus of legislative leaders must remain on solving our state?s financial crisis. Illinois is the only state in the nation that entirely prohibits concealed carry by law-abiding citizens. I will support a change to this policy if the legislative proposal includes the appropriate safeguards and satisfies the concerns of law enforcement officials. I believe there are crimes so terrible that they warrant the death penalty. However, I would not vote to reinstate the death penalty until I was completely convinced that it would be administered without bias and only when the evidence was overwhelmingly conclusive.