Engineer Salzberg aims to 're-engineer' Assembly, make it work for voters
Illinois voters have expressed their concerns about the state to Benjamin Salzberg, Republican candidate for the State Senate District 29 seat, and he said he's all ears.
“I’m listening to their concerns,” Salzberg told the Lake County Gazette. “They’re very concerned about rising property costs. We have the highest property tax in the country. They’re concerned about being taxed and the rises in taxes."
Illinois has one of the highest property tax rates in the country, and Salzberg questions where the tax money is going, what programs and services are benefiting from the funds, and when citizens will see those benefits.
"The Democrats want to raise our taxes, but where is our current money going?" Salzberg asked. "What is it funding? We have over 400 different accounts and where are we going with that? ... The people are very frustrated.”
The high tax rates have scared away businesses, with the state being ranked worst in the Midwest for business-friendliness. This has caused instability in the job market. Recently released unemployment numbers show a shrinking job force.
“It’s another thing,” Salzberg said. “We lost over a couple more thousand jobs in just one month alone -- 2,500 to be exact -- and it’s incredible. I believe we have fewer jobs available in Illinois (right now) than before the recession in 2007. And so what do we do about that?”
The unemployment crisis is compounded by the current budget impasse, which is affecting every sector of the state, from the aforementioned businesses to social services to prisons to education. Salzberg has been carefully keeping tabs on education funding, considering he's an elected trustee for Oakton Community College. Funding for universities and schools is important to the businessman and educator, who has a master's in education.
Education, spending, passing a budget and getting Illinois back on track are very big issues for Salzberg and make up the foundation of his platform for running. While he knows the problems the state faces have no easy solutions, Salzberg offers his own suggestion: Re-engineer the state.
Salzberg holds not only a master's in education, but also a master's in business administration and a bachelor's in mechanical engineering. Salzberg runs a company called Profit Through Design Partners (PTD Partners), which has helped major businesses such as ADP and Amtrak find solutions to their problems. Salzberg has been doing this for 20 years, becoming a Six Sigma Lean specialist – a specialist with knowledge and familiarity to turn around a company. Salzberg hopes to use his vast experience to perform the exact same type of turnaround in Illinois.
“I am probably going to be one of the only people – I don’t think I have seen anybody in the Senate that has my background in problem solving – (with the skills) in turning things around,” Salzberg said. “I see a lot of people be lawyers out there or accountants, but I do not see people with my re-engineering background. We need people like me out there to re-engineer a new system, a new process, and get us back on track.”
Salzberg finds the level of skills and responsibility in the capital lacking and is disappointed by representatives who don't represent their people.
“There are people (in the capital) that, unfortunately, are not taking accountability,” Salzberg said. “They’re not looking to the benefits of the people. They’re looking to have a longtime career… ."
Salzberg said the politicians in the capital are ill prepared to deal with the state's problems, likening them to plumbers.
“I wouldn’t (hire) a plumber to operate on my heart; I would hire a surgeon," Salzberg said. “So why would the voters of Illinois continually re-elect people without problem-solving expertise to the legislature?”
What Salzberg said he hopes to do is serve the people, turn the state around, then leave. Salzberg said he is not looking at the Senate seat as a means to further his career because he already has one.
“I’m going there to help the state of Illinois, to turn them around, and then to go back to my business,” Salzberg said. “And that’s what my focus is on. It may take about 10 years. I don’t know until I get there.”
Salzberg is firm in his belief that Illinois has a healthy and hopeful future, but only if the problems are resolved sufficiently and correctly.
“I think that, in Illinois right now, we are at a point where we can get not only back on track, but we can be one of the most robust and profitable states in the country if it is done right, if it is re-engineered right,” Salzberg said.