Paul Stoddard: Candidate Profile
70th District Representative (Democrat)
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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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Family: Divorced, no children
Occupation: I've just retired from NIU, where I was an Assoc. Prof of Geology
Education: A.B. Brown University, 1978
M.S. Texas A&M University, 1982
Ph.D., Northwestern University, 1989
Civic involvement: DeKalb County Board (2007 - present)
DeKalb Board of Health (2009-14, chair 2013-14)
Kishwaukee Kiwanis (2007 - present, two terms as president, one as Lt. Governor).
Elected offices held: DeKalb County Board (2007-present)
On the board I've heard several leadership roles, including Vice Chair of the Board
Chair, HHS committee
and I'm currently chair of the Finance Committee.
What needs to be done structurally to make the legislature more effective? Will you vote for your current legislative leader? What is your position on term limits in general and for legislative leaders specifically?
One of the first things I did on the County Board was to successfully push for what I call "proportional committee control" - rather than all committees being controlled by the majority party, they would be split in accordance with the proportional representation of each party on the full board. This ensures that both parties have a stake in the successful governance of the party. I would like to see such a system instituted in Springfield as well.
My vote for legislative leader will depend on who (if anyone) is running in opposition.
I don't support arbitrary term limits in general - I think elections should serve that purpose. Such term limits are for limiting other districts' choices, and I don't think that is appropriate. I would favor, however, term limits on legislative leaders. Fresh blood and new ideas could help ease the log jam.
On budgeting, what should be done to ensure that the state does not again go through a period of time without a budget in place? What will you do as a legislator to help ensure that the spending priorities you espouse during your campaign are reflected in the budget?
The state just recently amended the constitution to dedicate transportation-related taxes towards transportation-related spending. Such a system, expanded to various other sections of the budget, would allow citizens to see how money is raised for specific purposes, and would allow for a more informed debate regarding revenue and spending levels. Too often we hear "cut taxes!" with no mention of what corresponding cuts to spending must be made, or "spend more on X, Y, or Z!" without indicating where additional revenue is to be found. Legislators, eager to please constituents, are pressed to spend more, and tax less. This is obviously a poor way to set budgets. Tying revenue sources to specific expenditures should clarify the debate. In addition, since taxes and fees are still collected in the absence of a budget, these monies would have to go to their intended recipients, instead of becoming bargaining pawns in a budget debate, as we saw in the recent budget standoff. So even though this may not prevent budget impasses, it should mitigate the damage done by such impasses.
The main objection I see to such a scheme would be that we would rob the legislature of the flexibility it needs to address changing circumstances. Frankly, I'm not sure that the legislature has shown recently that they can be trusted with such flexibility. But, some flexibility can (and should) be built into the system proposed here.
Should the legislature approve ballot initiatives either for a constitutional amendment on legislative redistricting or one on term limits? If so, how would you recommend the issues be structure? If not, why not?
Partisan redistricting, in that it allows the party in power to maintain power, is undemocratic. As a constitutional amendment is the surest way to prevent this, I would support, actually sponsor, legislation to start the amendment process.
Term limits, on the other hand, are also undemocratic. The people should be allowed to pick whomever they like as their representative. Term limits (other than elections), are never about limiting one's own representation, but rather are about limiting other districts' representation. I would, however, favor term limits on leadership positions.
What approach do you support in fixing public employee pension systems?
The previous attempt, in addition to being blatantly unconstitutional, was also quite unfair as it placed the entire burden of fixing the system on the beneficiaries, who were the only ones to pay their fair share, in toto, into the system. A fix in which all parties (state, employers, and beneficiaries) share that burden would have a much better chance of success. But the fairest solution would be for the state to make its contributions. I would point out that state employees are typically not eligible for Social Security (or have it greatly reduced) because they are forced to participate in the state retirement system. Illinois made the choice not to participate in Social Security, and the cynic in me, says it was so they could opt to shortchange the annuitants at some future date.
To fix the system, we should essentially re-amortize the the "debt" owed to the system like a 30-year mortgage. This would result in higher payments now, but avoid the unsustainable ramp we are currently on. Funding for the additional payments should come from increased revenues resulting from a "Lasalle St tax," a progressive income tax, and/or a sales tax on non-essential services.
To what extent do you support or oppose legalization of marijuana for recreational use?
I support legalization of recreational marijuana. I have seen no evidence that marijuana is any worse than alcohol. Also, widespread ignoring of marijuana laws leads to a scofflaw mentality among its users. Any money spent on enforcement is money we could much better spend elsewhere, vs. money we could actually make by taxing it. The Colorado model seems to be working well, and I would be probably start there as a model for Illinois.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
I am very concerned with the way politics has interfered with (one might say usurped) governing in Illinois. We too often find ourselves stuck in a battle of egos, to the detriment of the state. I would very much like to do what I can to move us to a the government I believe our founding fathers envisioned - people from different geographic areas, backgrounds, and professions with different concerns and priorities, coming together, bringing their differences and ideas, to address the issues facing Illinois.
Some changes I'd like for us to consider would be 1) end political gerrymandering (discussed above)
2) move towards local funding of campaigns (money raised for a race should come from the district covered by that race)
3) proportional committee control (an idea I successfully proposed on the DeKalb County Board, whereby the committees are split proportionately between the parties, according to the partisan divide of the Board)
and 4) an idea I've just started contemplating - ending candidate petition challenges for races with two or fewer candidates. Such challenges reduce the choice voters have to one candidate - essentially eliminating choice. These challenges, while important to prevent overcrowding on the ballot, in cases with one or two candidates are the antithesis of the democratic process.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
Always be honest
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
A certain romantic misadventure.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
Physics. It led to my (just finished) academic career.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
My father's to me was, never move to Midland, Texas. Mine to my children would be to follow your heart.