One of six state senators who have pledged not to raise income taxes from the current level of 3.75 to 4.95 percent is Kyle McCarter, a Republican from Lebanon.
Last week on the floor of the Senate, McCarter politely disavowed a compromise package of budget bills - known as the "Grand Bargain" - because plans don't include ways to shrink Illinois government. A short time later from his Senate office, McCarter streamed live on Facebook, slamming leaders for putting together a "backroom" deal that grows government beyond what people can afford.
In a question and answer that follows, McCarter discusses the state's budget quagmire. Among other things, he says the proposed budget fails to meaningfully reform the workers' compensation system. What's missing, he says, is a fix to the “causation standard,” which currently can hold a business fully responsible for a worker's injury even if it may not have been directly caused by that worker’s job.
Senators will return to Springfield for a promised budget vote on Feb. 7. In the meantime, McCarter said he and other members will identify $3-4 billion in cuts and allow for additional line item cuts of $1-2 billion so that expenditures line up with revenue.
Question: You were very outspoken about the budget package that Senate leaders Cullerton and Radogno delayed taking a vote on last Thursday. You said you hoped lawmakers would take the time before returning next week to consider ways to make government smaller. Is that happening right now, or going to happen? If so, what can you tell us?
Answer: Yes, it is. Myself and a few other senators are collecting ideas for reducing spending, as well as a group of Democrat senators. Out of respect for the taxpayers, the cuts need to be determined first. I am looking to the "Reality Check Budget" from 2011, my summary budget from last year, and the budget from Illinois Policy Institute that should come out sometime this week. The GB (grand bargain) plans on spending $38.3 billion. Our forecasted revenue without a tax increase is about $33 billion. I am proposing we outline cuts of $3-4 billion, submit the budget to the governor, and allow him to line item cut another $1-2 billion on his own. We have to make courageous steps to make Illinois government smaller and affordable to the taxpayers.
Question: In the package of 13 bills that make up the omnibus package, do the proposed reforms to pension and work comp systems go far enough? Is collective bargaining even on the table?
The reforms included in the GB do not go far enough. As an example the workers' compensation bill is valued at savings of only about $75-100 Million. The workers compensation bill that I have presented for many years now is valued at over $800 million because it includes the needed ingredient of Causation. The savings to the state of Illinois in the GB bill might only be $15-25 million, whereas my comprehensive causation bill would save the state about $300 million. This reform is a budget item and needs to happen as soon as possible. Many businesses are deciding whether to leave Illinois or invest elsewhere due to outrageous WC costs. I have not heard of collective bargaining being on the table but it should.
Question: If the structural reforms needed to get the state out of its financial nose dive are not part of the plan, then why aren't they?
Answer: Special interest groups are powerful forces within the capitol that can and will threaten lawmakers with money and the power to oppose them in the next election. The trial lawyers for example want no part of causation in a workers' compensation bill. It would cut into their profits. The government union leaders are not willing to agree to reducing benefits to state workers and teachers’ pensions even if the pension funds are near bankruptcy, even if the taxpayers cannot afford what has been promised them. A modified pension is a lot better than a bankrupt one.
Question: Is the governor - whose 2012 election and subsequent Turnaround agenda were calls for fundamental and systematic reforms - being as forceful as he should be? If not, why not?
Answer: I don’t think so, unfortunately. The people spoke and it is time to deliver. It would be tragic if the governor would agree to this GB, even if improved somewhat. It is punishing to the taxpayers and weak on reform, and an extremely bad deal for the people of Illinois. I don’t believe this is “shaking up Springfield” or “turning it around” which is what we thought we were getting.
Question: Do you believe the state's legislative leaders understand the plight of the common man and woman who might have a hard time dealing with an income tax increase?
Answer: It is not hard to figure out that having to give up two weeks pay to bail out this irresponsible overspending government is painful to working families. If legislators don’t understand this by now I hope their constituents will make this very clear before they get back to Springfield. Instead, House Democrats are spending their energy legally forcing the state to pay employees. This is the peoples’ government and we must remind the bureaucrats that they serve us and not the other way around.
Question: Would you draw any comparisons between the presidential election to what is happening in Illinois? The national Democratic party seemed out of touch with the middle class. Candidate Trump did not capitulate in his messaging, and he carried the day.
Answer: The Democrat majority and the Republican leadership are just as out of touch. “I did not see it coming,” is what one Republican leader told me the day after the election. They did not see it coming because they were and still are out of touch.
Question: Do Republican leaders in Illinois give up too much and too easily in negotiations? If so, why?
Answer: Our Republican Senate leadership are very poor negotiators. They give in too easily and most importantly they have made a deal with the Democrats before even getting the support and approval of our caucus. This is insulting. Now we are being asked for our “tweaks” or suggestions to make it better. Agreeing to a horrible deal and then coming back and offering crumbs to improve it is a awful way of negotiating.
Question: If Republican leaders aren't trying to figure out how to make government smaller, whose interests are they best representing?
Answer: My leadership wants so badly to offer a solution to the budget and make constituents happy that they are willing to agree to a deal that is horrible for the people of Illinois in the long term. Remember that all politicians want to be loved and many are willing to do about anything to stay in office to keep their power and pension. Those promoting the GB refuse to remember the historical failure of raising taxes and running over 200,000 people out of the state. This must be stopped. A smaller affordable budget without tax increases and real reforms must be passed for the sake of our future.
Question: Your term ends in 2018, and you've indicated you are self term-limiting...what's next?
Answer: I will continuing fighting for the people of Illinois perhaps in Congress or serving our new president to make our country great again. I am content however providing for my family and those families I employ in my businesses. I am confident God is going take good care of me in any situation as long as I continue to serve Him and others.