NORMAL — State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, and his Republican primary challenger David Paul Blumenshine fielded a dozen questions ranging from ethics and budget issues to term limits and taxes during a debate Thursday night at the Illinois State University Alumni Center.
Blumenshine, who ran unsuccessfully against Brady in the 2018 primary, said term limits and a freeze on taxes are needed to turn the state around.
Brady said term limits would take decisions out of the hands of voters and defended an increase in the gas tax to finance the a state construction bill, noting it hadn’t been raised since 1990.
Brady said the gas tax revenue is in a “lock box” and can only be used for capital projects, but Blumenshine said, “If you believe there’s a lock box in Springfield, wow.”
About 100 people attended the 105th House District debate, sponsored by the McLean County League of Women Voters and WGLT-FM radio, which broadcast the debate.
The winner of the March 17 Republican primary will face Democrat Chemberly Cummings in the November general election.
Blumenshine said, “Illinois has not had a balanced budget since 2001, Rep. Brady’s first year in office.”
Brady noted his first year in office was “the last time we had a Republican majority in the Senate.”
Regarding the state’s budget deficit, Blumenshine said it’s a spending issue not a revenue issue.
“Revenue increased last year yet it didn’t do a thing,” said Blumenshine. “What needs to happen is we need to cut taxes. We need to freeze them. We need to cut spending.”
Brady said the budget that was most recently passed was “a reasonable compromise that put Illinois on a path to fiscal responsibility,” invests in infrastructure and creates jobs.
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On pension reform, Brady said one of the challenges is passing legislation that will withstand a constitutional challenge in the state Supreme Court. He said a bill proposed by House Republican leader Jim Durkin, which Brady supports, “holds great potential.”
Blumenshine said lawmakers in Springfield “continue to dance around” pension reform and noted of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker: “Not once did he mention the pension crisis in his State of the State address.”
In answer to a question on what to do to reduce gun violence, both candidates said they support the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms.
Blumenshine said, “I believe we should encourage legal gun ownership.”
Brady said there are many layers of background checks already and existing laws should be enforced before passing new ones.
Regarding declines in Illinois population, Brady said one way to reverse the out-migration is to pass laws to make the state more attractive to business — both those already here and those thinking of moving to Illinois — so they will create more jobs. Blumenshine said the problem is “we’re being taxed to death” and Republicans voted for a budget “that was laced with corruption.”
Neither candidate directly responded to a question referring to climate change that asked what Illinois should do to reduce carbon emissions.
Blumenshine said, “There’s so much conflicting information out there” and “This country is hitting on all cylinders because of fossil fuels.” Brady said action is needed to protect consumers and stabilize rates and “energy companies shouldn’t be the ones writing energy bills.”
Asked what each would do to ensure evidence-based funding for K-12 schools is fulfilled, Brady said the budget that was passed puts $375 million into the evidence-based funding formula and “that’s a major start” that helps “level the playing field” among districts in different parts of the state.
Blumenshine said he supports school funding and getting more money into classrooms, but “unfortunately that’s not where the dollars are going” and instead, too much is going into administration and bureaucracy.
In response to a question of what each would do to support ISU, Blumenshine said, “This is my alma mater” but he added, “We need to go back to some of the alums for some of these projects” such as the fine arts center and Bone Student Center renovations.
Brady said he worked with the majority party to help students reduce debt by increasing funding for Monetary Award Program grants. “I helped ISU by brokering $40 million for deferred maintenance.”
Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota