Blumenthal: State needs pension reform, property-tax freeze
There’s a reason Illinois is drowning in debt, Martin A. “Marty” Blumenthal, Republican candidate for District 58 State House seat, said.
“The reason we spend so much is because of all the special-interest groups that are out there; mainly, the unions," Blumenthal said recently during an interview on WCGO.
For example, Blumenthal said, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) makes very unreasonable demands.
“The pensions are based on salary, and the salaries that the state workers get are much higher than they can get in the private sector," he said. "Then when they retire -- a lot of them before age 60 -- we’re stuck with it."
Luckily, the candidate has several solutions, the main one being to start curbing spending so that the state can actually get a balanced budget, as the Illinois Constitution requires, Blumenthal, an attorney in private practice since 1982 and a certified public accountant, said.
The Illinois Constitution currently stipulates that once such pensions are in place, they can’t be repealed.
“So the thing that has to be done is a constitutional amendment so that this can be taken out, and pensions can be regulated by the General Assembly to a level that the taxpayers can afford,” Blumenthal, who received his undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Illinois in 1974 and his law degree from Chicago Kent College of Law in 1981, said.
Another must-change item is to end the mass exodus of Illinois-based corporations and businesses that are heading to Wisconsin and Indiana, where it’s less expensive to operate, Blumenthal said.
Specifically, legislators must address the costs challenging small-business owners regarding the numerous mandates they face around the minimum wage, health insurance and workers' comp premiums, among others.
“These are all just astronomical, and when you can just go a few miles … across the border into Wisconsin or Indiana … they’re saving 20-30 percent on their overhead,” Blumenthal said. "You can’t blame them."
The trouble with these companies leaving is that they leave a job gap. For instance, Blumenthal said Illinois has lost nearly 100,000 manufacturing jobs in the past several years due to high workers' compensation premiums and high taxes.
Then there’s the issue of Illinois having the nation’s highest property tax rates, another discerning fact Blumenthal said must change.
“The first thing that we should be doing is freezing property taxes," Blumenthal said. "I mean a real freeze, not one of these smoke-and-mirrors types of limits on the assessments, but one that gives people some relief."
The GOP candidate said his suggested fixes wouldn't be immediate and that Illinoisans should try to stay optimistic.
“It’s certainly not going to happen overnight," Blumenthal said. "It took us 20 years to get in this (economic) condition, and it’s going to take several years to get us out."
Blumenthal , director of the Chicago Center for Neurological Research, director and treasurer for Central Avenue Synagogue and the incoming director for Children of Heroes, is running against incumbent Democrat Rep. Scott Drury in the November election.