Political newcomer Neil Anderson is hoping to oust incumbent State Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, in the District 72 state representative election.|
Mr. Anderson, a 30-year-old Republican who works as a Moline firefighter, defeated another young Republican, Jonathan Wallace, in the GOP primary to set up his run against Rep. Verschoore.
Rep. Verschoore was easily re-elected in 2010, taking 60 percent of the vote to beat Republican Mark Lioen. Rep. Verschoore was unopposed in 2006 and 2008 after being appointed to the seat in 2003.
In the March primary for District 72, Mr. Wallace and Mr. Anderson had a combined vote of 5,495. Rep. Verschoore was challenged by Democrat Glen Evans and the combined vote in his primary was 8,437.
Despite the Democratic history of the district, Mr. Anderson is promising to give Rep. Verschoore a run for his money and has been selected for Republican "young guns" program, which qualified his campaign for $100,000 in party funding.
Rep. Verschoore maintains a big financial advantage over his opponent, with $188,000 in cash on hand at the end of the third quarter, compared to the roughly $28,000 available to Mr. Anderson.
Rep. Verschoore relies on support from unions for much of his campaign money but also gets donations from corporations like Ameren and John Deere. Mr. Anderson has mainly relied on party money and individual contributions to run his campaign.
The Republican has signed the "Save Illinois Taxpayers Pledge" sponsored by a political action committee called For the Good of Illinois founded by Republican businessman Adam Andrzejewski.
The pledge ties Mr. Anderson to a plan to freeze property tax levies in Illinois for three years, repeal the 2011 state income and corporate tax increases, and push for an "adversarial forensic audit of the state's finances."
Illinois has a corruption problem, Mr. Anderson said, and the cost of the audit would be trivial compared to the savings it would unearth.
Rep. Verschoore is not convinced. Republicans unsuccessfully backed legislation in 2009 to force a forensic audit, which could entail investigating millions of transactions.
"Auditor General Bill Holland said it would take a minimum of 10 years and it would cost a minimum of $150 million," Rep. Verschoore said. "Now, if you can't prove that there's some fraud why would you do the forensic audit?"
On the state's public pension crisis, which is threatening to swamp the state's finances, Mr. Anderson said it was time to scrap defined benefit pensions for new hires.
"We have to get away from the defined benefit pensions for new employees," he said. "It's important we do it for people coming into jobs because that way they know what they're coming into."
Rep. Verschoore said whatever the proposals to cut the state's $83 billion unfunded pension liability are, unions have to be part of the discussion. If not, they could challenge a reform bill through the courts on questions of constitutionality.
"If the unions don't agree to this thing it's going to be tied up in court for probably two or three years because they've already got their briefs written and ready to go," he said.
Illinois is losing businesses to neighboring state because of taxes and over-regulation, Mr. Anderson said. As an example, he pointed to Jimmy John's, whose owner has threatened to pull some of his offices out of the state as a result of the state's tax increases.
"This is a big deal and the tax increases need to be repealed immediately," Mr. Anderson said.
Rep. Verschoore said Illinois has been adding jobs and that there was a lot of misinformation about the cost of doing business in the state.
"Illinois, even with what they say about the bad business climate, if you take everything into account if you look at Iowa, it's cheaper to do business in Illinois than Iowa," he said.
Mr. Anderson said Rep. Verschoore and his colleagues did not go far enough this year when they reformed the state's Medicaid program to produce estimated savings of $1.6 billion.
The Republican said traditional Medicaid should be scrapped for those who are not disabled, seniors or children. In its place, he'd offer health savings accounts, which he said would save money and ensure that beneficiaries have "some skin in the game."
"They are able to have an account that they are putting money into and so when they go to the doctor or go for a prescription they can feel good about themselves and say I'm doing this, I'm contributing to this and I am not getting something for nothing," he said.
Rep. Verschoore pushed back against the assertion from his opponent that Democrats have not been doing enough to cut spending, although he acknowledged more needed to be done to grapple with the state's backlog of unpaid bills.
"In the last two budget years we've cut almost $3 billion out of the budget," he said.
Rep. Verschoore has been a big proponent of the project to bring Amtrak to the Quad Cities, which he believes will complement the new Western Illinois University Riverfront campus he has advocated for and generally boost the local economy.
For Mr. Anderson, given the state's precarious finances, the cost of the project is too big.
"With the backlog of debt we have I don't think that's something that we can do right at this time," he said. "Do I think we should take away the funding that's already been allocated for it? No, I don't think so."
Mr. Anderson said he would set a self imposed term-limit of eight years, or four terms, if elected.
Rep. Verschoore, meanwhile, said he wanted to set the record straight about rumors that he would retired after being elected to hand the seat to an ally. The rumor was false and if elected he'll serve out his term, he said.
Name: Neil Anderson
City: Rock Island
Occupation: Firefighter/paramedic at Moline Fire Department
Education: Davenport Assumption High School, Iowa Central Community College and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate, Black Hawk College
Family: Married with one son and a daughter
Political Experience: none
Social Networking: Facebook (Neil Anderson), Twitter (@electneil)
Occupation: State representative, retired pipefitter
Family: Married with one son and three granddaughters
Political Experience: 9 years in the Illinois House, former township trustee for Bowling Township, campaign manager for former state representative, the late Joel Brunsvold
Social Networking: Facebook (Pat Verschoore)
Duties: Enacts state laws, acts on federal constitutional amendments and proposes state constitutional amendments. It also can impeach executive and judicial officials. State representatives serve two-year terms.
2012 Salary: $67,836/year.