The candidates in the race for the 58th Illinois Senate District agree that the largest issue facing the state is the budget, but they differ on how to fix the state's attempt to avoid bankruptcy.
State Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, is challenged for the Nov. 6 election by a newcomer, Michael Bigler, D-Anna.
"We have a spending problem more than a revenue problem," said Bigler 33, saying he would eliminate Central Management Services but keep the Tamms Correctional Center open.
Luechtefeld, 71, agreed that the budget was a major concern and said that he would continue to extoll the seriousness of the state's dire financial situation.
Due to the state's tendency to borrow from the pension plan and borrow from the road budget, the state has inched closer to bankruptcy, Luechtefeld said.
"Each budget over the last 10 years has not been balanced," he said. "Every year it gets deeper and deeper.
"I will continue to try, as I've done -- I think I've probably been the most vocal voice -- that this is serious, that this is not something that we can push off any longer."
Luechtefeld, who has served in the Senate minority, said that other leaders are finally acknowledging the budget woes: "I did notice in the last session of the legislature, there was at least a recognition that we were in bad shape.
"This is something that will take a long time to fix," he said. "You have to hold the line. We're not going to spend more than we did last year," Luechtefeld said, explaining that in a roundabout way that would be cutting the budget, because spending would not increase while the cost of living does.
"This is something that we should've started a long time ago," Luechtefeld said. "I think this problem is so great that we can't ignore it."
Bigler said the state needs to do more to grow revenue.
"We must become a more business friendly state. The factories and companies that shut down here are leaving Illinois and to set up in neighboring states," he said.
Bigler listed a couple of specific changes to spending that he would fight for, if elected.
"We can cut in reasonable ways," he said. "Tamms prison, to me, is an unreasonable cut because it's a public safety issue."
Bigler said Tamms Correctional Center, a supermax prison in Southern Illinois, is where unruly inmates are sent after misbehaving in lower security prisons.
"It's a deterrent," he said.
Luechtefeld also is on the record as being against closing Tamms.
Bigler cited another, specific cut that could help save the state money. He said eliminating the Department of Central Management Services, while redistributing those employees to various other state departments, would save the state money by eliminating the surcharges that CMS charges.
For example, at the Illinois Department of Transportation, where Bigler works as an administrative manager, employees order new vehicle parts through CMS, which charges a 10 percent surcharge, according to Bigler. If departments were able to order their own parts, it would eliminate those extra charges, he said.
"We need to dismantle it and bring those employees back to the departments that they could help," he said.