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Q&A with Fortner
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Published: 9/26/2008 2:59 PM

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1. Why are you running for this office, whether for re-election or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what? What will be your main priority?

I feel I represented the district well in my first term. When I ran two years ago I said that I would apply my background in local government, transportation, education and science to aid my district and help improve Illinois. I have brought that perspective of local government to the House Local Government Committee, and I was pleased to receive the Metro West Legislator of the Year for 2008. I will continue to work on legislation to have strong and responsive local government. My goal is to continue to serve the district and use my skills and background for the state. My background in science education and physics research gives me a unique perspective on the problems and possible solutions for Illinois. I am comfortable diving into technical issues on committees and in debate and will continue to use those skills. One specific goal is to participate on a new task force was created by the legislature to study the status of nuclear power in the state. I look forward to making a significant contribution though my technical knowledge as a physicist and personal experience in West Chicago with the radioactive thorium cleanup.

2. For incumbents and non-incumbents. If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of important initiatives you've led. If you are not an incumbent, tell us what contributions you would make.

In my first term I played an active part on my committees and in legislation I introduced. One of my first bills was to provide a mechanism for counties to fund their Child Advocacy Centers. Counties are already taking advantage of this, and the Child Advocacy Centers of Illinois recognized me with an award in 2007. I applied my scientific background to sponsor and see enacted laws to help create high technology business parks, regulate phosphorus in the environment, and create a new Illinois Science and Technology Commission. One significant piece of legislation that I undertook this year was a bill to correct and improve the municipal aggregation law passed in 2007. This bill was the result of negotiation between utilities, power providers, municipalities, and the Attorney General. The bill passed the House, but it is hung up in the Senate largely due to the fight over rulemaking language. I will push to move this either in the veto session or next year.

3. Under what circumstances, if any, would you support raising the state income or sales tax? Please explain.

Before we look at tax increases we should ask whether the existing tax structure makes sense for a specific program. For example, the public generally believes that their state taxes on gasoline go to pay for their roads. That's only partially true since the 5% state sales tax that current generates about 18 cents per gallon goes to the General Fund, not the Road Fund. Shifting that tax to the Road Fund would generate more than $800 million per year and would allow the state to match the Federal dollars for transportation projects, but would not require an increase. One area that the state should pursue is to keep its system up-to-date with the modern economy. That means maintaining an even field for similar economic activity. For instance, Illinois should join with other states and treat the sales on the internet the same as any other method of sales.

4. Do you support the expansion of gambling by adding slot machines at racetracks? Do you favor licensing and building new casinos? Please explain.

Gambling is not a cure-all to the state's financial problems, and I do not favor the expansion of the number of casino licenses as was presented this year or expansion by adding slots to venues like racetracks. The state should issue the 10th casino license in a way that will provide the greatest benefit. The state should use competitive bidding as a part of any licensing, and the state must set up a process to insulate the political process from the bids and bidders.

5. Would you support giving voters the ability recall state lawmakers officials?

I support the recall of officials as an amendment to the constitution. Elections should be the primary mechanism to remove elected officials. However, there are cases where an official has clearly violated the public trust and the election cycle too far off to react in a timely manner. The standard for recall should not be trivial, since it does not serve the public to have officials frequently defending themselves against such challenges. Many other states have a recall provision, and their history shows that it is not frequently abused.

6. Did you support the suburban tax increases that were used to keep the public transportation trains and buses running without cuts or fare increases?

I am a member of the Mass Transit Committee and worked extensively with the committee in 2007 towards a bill to stabilize mass transit in northeastern Illinois. In separate working groups I helped find solutions to implement the governance reforms recommended by the Illinois Auditor General, and I supported the bill in committee to keep the process moving. Based on my committee work and meetings with top officials of the RTA, I became convinced that there were other mechanisms that could meet the funding challenge without increasing the regional sales tax. From the details of those meetings, I filed a bill last year that would fully fund mass transit by utilizing the part of taxes already paid on gasoline that do not go towards the roads, unfortunately that proposal was not given a hearing.

7. If you are elected, will you vote for the current party leader of your legislative chamber? Why or why not?

I am proud of the work of the Republican House Caucus during this legislative session. Our caucus pushed early and often for a long overdue bill to fund the basic infrastructure of the state, and we have seen the caucuses join us as we near a plan. In 2007 during the record long session, our caucus stood together to insist on a budget that was balanced and forced the state to live within its means. In the minority it can be hard to be heard in the process, but these were important successes. I would vote to return Tom Cross as our leader.

8. What do you think of the idea, widely circulated, of impeaching Gov. Blagojevich?

There has been no shortage of stories in the last two years accusing the Governor of overstepping his constitutional authority or suggesting involvement with criminal activity. The Illinois Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to initiate an impeachment of the Governor, and charges the House with the duty to conduct legislative investigations to determine a cause for impeachment. However, the Constitution does not specify the possible causes for impeachment. The right first step is to hold hearings to determine any causes for impeachment, and I would support that.