Northwest Herald

What should we ask candidates for office?

Monday, July 19, 2010

There must be an election coming up or something.

That’s the only explanation for Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to make members of his staff take 24 unpaid days off this year to save the state some money.

Of course, the Friday announcement comes just a couple of weeks after Quinn was embarrassed by news that 35 members of his staff had received an average of 11.4 percent in raises over the past 15 months.

Anyone think Quinn would have forced his closest managers to take furlough days if he weren’t up for election Nov. 2?
Me neither.

Will the governor next announce that the 46,000 state workers who received salary increases on July 1 – some as much as 11 percent – also be required to take furlough days? These raises weren’t as widely publicized as those for Quinn’s staff, but they’ll cost Illinois taxpayers more than $105 million.

And, according to the Illinois Policy Institute, tens of thousands of unionized state workers are to receive another round of salary hikes totaling 7.25 percent over seven months between June 2011 and January 2012.

All this while the state of Illinois struggles with a $13 billion budget deficit, has the worst credit rating of all 50 states, and drastically has cut funding to schools, social service agencies and health care programs.

Sound like sound fiscal practice to you?

Me neither.

How can a state that can’t balance its budget, and is six months or more behind in paying its bills, dole out raises to just about everyone it employs?

Would a private business do this?

Of course not. Not if it hopes to keep its doors open.

The great thing about our democracy is, we can do something about it at the polls in November.

Among other races, we’ll be deciding Illinois’ next governor, attorney general, comptroller and treasurer, as well as state representative for the 63rd and 64th Districts. The U.S. Senate seat formerly held by President Obama and currently occupied by Roland Burris also is up for grabs, as are congressional seats in the 8th and 16th districts.

Locally, we’ll be electing countywide seats for sheriff and county clerk; and County Board seats in Districts 2 through 6. The open seats in District 1 are uncontested.

Because of the importance of this election, we plan expanded coverage to help our readers prepare.

As we’ve done in elections past, we will be sending questionnaires to candidates in these contested races.

You can bet we’ll ask them plenty of questions about government’s spending practices, including how the candidates plan to get a handle on out-of-control public salaries.

But what else should we ask them? What issue or issues are most important to you, and will help you decide who to vote for Nov. 2?

We’ll start compiling questions for the candidates next week. Send me an e-mail, or give me a call, and let me know what you think we should be asking the candidates. We’ll consider using your questions in our questionnaire.

We’re now less than four months from this pivotal election. Are you ready to make an informed decision?