Name: Jason Plummer
Office seeking: State Senator, 54th District
City of residence: Edwardsville
Campaign website: http://www.jasonplummer.com/
Why are you running and why should you be nominated? I’m running for the Illinois Senate to be a strong, independent, and effective voice for the people of Southern Illinois who have been forgotten by career politicians in Springfield. This is my home. My family is from here, I was raised here, and we have built our businesses here. Sadly, bad public policy is hurting Southern Illinois families by pricing them out of their homes with ridiculously high taxes and driving businesses to other states. I’m frustrated that the problems our state currently faces are the same ones I was speaking about eight years ago when I ran for Lt. Governor, only worse than before, and that our state is squandering its vast economic potential to the detriment of the people who live and work here. I know that I can be an effective voice for the people of this district and am committed to delivering results that bring greater opportunity, public safety, and growth.
What is the most important issue facing the state? How would you approach it? What I hear from residents across this district is that their taxes are too high and, in many areas, that the lack of quality jobs is leading to an influx of drugs, crime, and blight. Families in Southern Illinois have one of the highest tax burdens in the country and urgently need relief. Simply put, Springfield has a spending problem, not a tax shortage, and I will be a strong advocate, day-in and day-out, for capping and lowering property taxes, repealing the 32 percent income tax increase, and prioritizing our budget around the core functions of government. We also need a growing economy. Without access to a quality job that can support a family, young people are fleeing our state, or being lured into crime. Southern Illinois has great assets: a skilled workforce, strong infrastructure and transportation networks, and an abundance of natural resources like coal and natural gas. As Senator, I will push for changes that will attract and keep businesses in Illinois. There is no good reason why Illinois should be losing jobs to Indiana or Missouri, but we are because we have too many lawsuits, workers compensation costs too much, our taxes are too high, and our government is too unstable. I will work to move the ball up the field on all of these issues and make our state more attractive so that our residents can continue to call Southern Illinois home and be our strongest asset for years to come.
The state’s income tax was increased to 4.95 percent in 2017. Would you try to roll it back? Why or why not? And if so, how would you roll it back? Last year’s tax increase is the perfect example of the failure of leadership coming from Springfield. Our state does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. The total unwillingness of Democrats to prioritize the core functions of government, to cut or reduce spending, and their addiction to drafting new and expensive programs
Illinois is still running a budget deficit. How should it be balanced? If cuts should be made, what programming cuts should be considered? Balancing the budget on the backs of taxpayers will only continue the exodus of residents from our state. In order to address the ongoing budget crisis, Springfield must enact policies that promote economic growth, attract businesses and create jobs. Growing the economy is the only way to drive increased revenue to the state without raising tax rates. In addition, there are a number of program areas where judicious cost reductions should be considered. I have included five below.
1. End legislative pensions. Illinois government was constituted with a part-time legislature, however this designation means little given that legislators earn more than the Illinois median household income and continue earning during their retirement. The pension system is in dire need of reform and legislators can show leadership on the necessity of shared sacrifice by rejecting benefits that by any measure should not be accrued through part-time work.
2. Finalize negotiations between state workers and government that bring the contract in line with existing budget realities, and also with contracts in the private sector. The past years have seen the Governor mired in seemingly intractable negotiations with AFSCME. Each side has accused the other of negotiating in bad faith, however it is imperative that these differences be resolved. State workers, through AFSCME, must be partners in restoring fiscal sanity to the state.
3. Reduce administrative cost. This issue is multi-fold. First, Illinois suffers from an unwieldy procurement system that delays implementation IT upgrades and forestalls projects, raising administrative costs. This system needs reform. Additionally, many administrative functions of the state (particularly those handled in-house by DOIT) could potentially be outsourced off of state time at lower cost and greater efficiency. The state is plagued by deferred maintenance costs on its capital investments (the state fairgrounds, for example, is crumbling) leading to huge, and avoidable, losses to taxpayers. The GA should also give stricter guidance in regard to how agencies craft their budgets. The introduction of zero-based budgeting (ZBB) on a semi-annual basis into state agency budget requests would more aggressively confront waste and inefficiency stemming from past appropriations. Agency budgets continue to be predicated upon maintaining, or expanding, the total appropriation that they receive from year to year. A more aggressive accounting policy would facilitate a comprehensive overview, dollar-for-dollar, of what each government agency spends.
4. Local government consolidation and reform. Consolidate school districts to serve more students and cut administrative costs. Other states, such as Indiana, largely have countywide school districts. Remove requirements that require local governments to adhere to prevailing wage and allow local markets to set wages. Municipalities must spend more than necessary to complete projects and therefore rely more heavily on state funding. Illinois has the most units of local government of any state and the duplicative layers of government increase costs. As numerous investigations have revealed, this status quo also facilitates the spread of graft and lack of accountability. Most voters don’t know who many of their elected officials even are, through no fault of their own, and that is no way to run a democracy. The GA has a strong role to play in guiding these changes and should seize the opportunity to lead.
5. Reverse the Obama Medicaid expansion, which has cost the state billions more than originally projected. The Medicaid program exists to benefit the most vulnerable people in our state, chiefly persons who are disabled, single mothers and children, and low-income seniors. Under the expansion, this program now covers able-bodied persons of working age. The expansion has created a significant administrative burden on DHS, which has to process and prioritize thousands more Medicaid applications, takes the focus of Medicaid away from the people it was created to serve, and incurs a massive financial liability for the state. Additional Medicaid savings may be possible by reducing the time it takes to process a Medicaid application, which is currently highly labor intensive.
Campaign funding has been an issue in the last few months. Should there be changes in the state’s campaign finance rules? Why or why not? If so, what changes would you want to see? I do not support campaign contribution limits. Time and time again, complex restrictions and layers of control have been shown to hamper outsiders and advantage incumbents who not only enacted the rules, but know how to effectively skirt them.