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Election 2012: Jim O'Donnell

Jim O'Donnell is running against Sen. Dan Kotowski for the 28th State Senate District.

Name:

Jim O'Donnell

Position sought:

Illinois State Senate, District 28

Campaign contact information. Please include any or all of the following: website, email address, phone number, Facebook page, Twitter account, mailing address, etc.

Website: www.votejimo.com

Email: info@votejimo.com

Phone: (847) 813-6025

Facebook: www.facebook.com/votejimo

PO Box 674

Park Ridge, IL 60068

Age and Birthdate:

60, June 27, 1951.

 

Family Include as much info as you like (names, ages, number of children, etc.):

I live in Park Ridge, Illinois with my wife Martha. We have been married for 38 years, and we have two sons, Bryan and Conor.

 

Education Include degree(s) and school(s):

University of Notre Dame - BBA in Accounting with High Honors, CPA, Illinois.

 

Occupation:

Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

 

Political Party:

Republican.

 

Official name of your campaign committee (if you have one):

Friends of Jim O'Donnell.

 

Previous Elected or Appointed Offices:

None.

 

Is there any additional experience you believe qualifies you for the position?

I have been a very active business community advocate as the Vice Chairperson on the Government Relations Committee of the Tooling and Manufacturing Association (TMA). My civic activities include the Park Ridge Soccer (PRS) Board of Directors for 17 years, student mentor at Springwood Middle School in Keeneyville District 20, National MS Society volunteer and fundraiser and Chicago Marathon Volunteer.

 

What would your priorities be if elected to this office?

First, I believe we must repeal the 2011 increase in the state income tax passed by the Democrat controlled legislature and signed by our Democrat governor. It should be noted that this District’s incumbent Democrat Senator Dan Kotowski also supported the increase. That tax increase and the general mindset among Democrats that Illinois can tax and borrow as the way to balance the budget is the reason I believe incumbents who voted for this ill-advised tax hike need to be replaced.

Second, create a positive economic climate for the State of Illinois so that existing businesses are not forced to leave and new businesses begin to consider Illinois as a place to start up or expand.  Currently, we are in a downward spiral with businesses and people leaving the state. This erodes our tax base. By creating a better business climate, we can reverse this spiral and over time, heal our economy.

Third, through my actions and behavior, I will attempt to restore belief in the honesty and integrity of government and government officials.  People need to believe that their elected officials aren’t just seeking office to accumulate power, wealth or status.  I am seeking office to run the government in the most ethical and efficient manner possible. As a citizen legislator, I will serve the interests of the people of my district and Illinois, not special or personal interests.

 

What are the most important issues facing your district and what would you do as a legislator to address them?

The biggest problems the state faces are the biggest problems my district faces.  I will repeat the answers I included in your first question, because the biggest problems in the district are high taxes, anti-jobs policies of the state government, and corruption that drives businesses to locate elsewhere.

First, I believe we must repeal the 2011 increase in the state income tax passed by the Democrat controlled legislature and signed by our Democrat governor.  It should be noted that this District’s incumbent Democrat Senator Dan Kotowski also supported the increase.  That tax increase and the general mindset among Democrats that Illinois can tax and borrow as the way to balance the budget is the reason I believe incumbents who voted for this ill-advised tax hike need to be replaced.

Second, create a positive economic climate for the State of Illinois so that existing businesses are not forced to leave and new businesses begin to consider Illinois as a place to start up or expand.  Currently, we are in a downward spiral with businesses and people leaving the state. This erodes our tax base. By creating a better business climate, we can reverse this spiral and over time, heal our economy.

Third, through my actions and behavior, I will attempt to restore belief in the honesty and integrity of government and government officials.  People need to believe that their elected officials aren’t just seeking office to accumulate power, wealth or status.  I am seeking office to run the government in the most ethical and efficient manner possible. As a citizen legislator, I will serve the interests of the people of my district and Illinois, not special or personal interests.

 

Illinois’ state government has a terrible reputation in terms of corruption. What would you do to change the culture of state government that has seen recent governors from both political parties convicted of felonies?

Not to repeat my answers, but again, through my actions and behavior, I will attempt to restore belief in the honesty and integrity of government and government officials.  People need to believe that their elected officials aren’t just seeking office to accumulate power, wealth or status.  I am seeking office to run the government in the most ethical and efficient manner possible. As a citizen legislator, I will serve the interests of the people of my district and Illinois, not special or personal interests.

In addition, I would support continued efforts by the federal government to find and prosecute corrupt administrators and legislators committing illegal acts.

 

Education in Illinois is funded primarily through local property taxes. What changes, if any, would make to that funding system?

I think property tax reform should be in the form of setting floor limits for the reduction of property assessments so that politically connected / financially generous property owners (and their lawyers) cannot get excessive reduction in EAV’s which unfairly burden the remaining property tax payers. This would apply to the Assessors, the Boards of Review and PTAB. I am certain a basic formula can be established which would set the base for all residential, commercial and industrial property under which no “tax break” could go.  

 

Illinois recently passed a significant increase in its income tax, yet the state continues to run a deficit. What specifically should be done to reduce the deficit?

I would cut the budget as follows:

First, State pension reform – please see above regarding my plan to reform the State’s broken pension system.

Second, scale back the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Too often DCEO has been the source of pet projects with little oversight to guarantee that taxpayer funds are not wasted.

Third, ensure the recently passed Medicaid plan reforms are implemented. Additional reforms should be enacted to return eligibility in some Medicaid programs to the national average to bring Medicaid spending in line with what our budget can afford. We must continually fight against the ever-present pressure to expand eligibility for this program, and we must be constantly vigilant to root out corruption and waste.

Fourth, I am pleased to see that the General Assembly took a good first step to reform retiree health benefits. These benefits need to be treated in the same manner as in the private sector. Beneficiaries need to share in the cost, both in premiums as well as deductibles and co-payments. In addition, this reform should be expanded to legislators.

Fifth, reduction in the number of Governor appointments and state commissions, or at a minimum, elimination of paid positions thereon. Far too often, these paid positions are nothing more than rewards to political supporters, family members, and insiders.

Sixth, I supported the elimination of the legislative scholarship program.

 

Illinois’ unfunded pension liability is $83 billion. The state’s inability to address the issue recently led Moody’s to downgrade Illinois’ credit rating. What should be done to address the state’s rising pension obligations?

We must immediately reform our state pension system.  The various pension systems have promised over $600 billion in future benefits and has only $70 billion in assets to pay for them. I believe we need to look to Rhode Island where they were able to reduce their unfunded pension liability by almost 50%.  Some of the ways they accomplished this:

-    Suspend COLAs until the unfunded pension liability is reduced.

-    Create a hybrid plan that blends defined benefits and defined contributions.

-    Increase the minimum retirement age for certain employees (Specifically those not at or nearing retirement age).

-    Preserve pension benefits earned to date, and ensure there is little or no impact on the ability to retire for those currently eligible to retire.

Failure to take bold action all but ensures that our pension system will collapse beneath its unfunded liability and deny public sector workers their retirement benefits.

I also believe the legislator pension program should be eliminated and replaced with a 401(k)-type plan. I plan to lead by example on this reform and will opt out of the legislative pension system that currently exists when I am elected.

I do NOT support shifting the Teacher Retirement System’s liability and future payments to local property tax payers. Besides adding to what is already an unbearable burden on property tax payers, this has the potential to create unfunded mandates for the local districts because the General Assembly would continue to set benefit levels.

 

Why would you do a better job representing the district than your opponent? If you are running unopposed, please just share why you are qualified for the position.

As an executive in the manufacturing industry and the former owner of my own business, I think I have the experience to help improve the Illinois business climate. Providing my fellow legislators and administration officials with the perspective of the business owner will curb some of the pro-tax and anti-business legislation which is counterproductive in the long run.  When the government makes it difficult for businesses to succeed, they often shut down or leave the state.  Without the tax base provided by profits and wages, the State will continue on a downward fiscal spiral from which it cannot recover.

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