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General Election 2016: Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Candidate for the 49th State Senate District

Oct 25, 2016 10:05PM ● Published by Steven Jack

Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant

Name: Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant

Website: www.jenniferbertinotarrant.com

Employment: State Senator

Family: Two children

Education: Loyola University — Doctor of Education, Curriculum and Instruction with concentration in Finance and Leadership (2007) University of St. Francis — Master of Science, Curriculum and Instruction (1997) Illinois State University — Bachelor of Science, Major in Criminal Justice Sciences; Minor in Psychology (1991)

Previously elected office: Will County Regional Superintendent (2006-2012); State Senate, 49th District (2013-2016).

Relevant community service: Member, Joliet, Plainfield, Shorewood, Bolingbrook, Romeoville and Oswego Chamber of Commerce (2012–2016), Board Member, Vista Learning (2006–2016) President, Troy Educational Foundation (2011–2014), Board Member, Will County Center for Economic Development (2006–2012) Member, Zonta International (2006–2012)

What makes you qualified to serve the people of the 49th district?

As a fourth generation Will County resident, daughter of a small business-owner and life-long educator, I am an independent voice the 49th district can count on to champion common-sense legislation and make Springfield accountable to you, not lifelong politicians or special interests.

My qualifications as a teacher, principal, and Regional Superintendent have served me well in the Illinois Senate. I serve as a member of the education committee and have focused on bringing a first class education and more resources to our schools. Because of my qualifications, I was recently appointed to the Governor's bipartisan education funding reform commission where I focus on providing adequate and equitable education funding to allow all students access to a quality public education.

I am willing to work with both Democrats and Republicans to solve Illinois’s challenges with bipartisan solutions. My record speaks to this. Throughout my short time in the Senate, I have sponsored dozens of pieces of legislation that have been signed into law with bipartisan support, including laws that support veterans and seniors, improve public safety and infrastructure, and encourage small business growth.

What are your plans to reach across the aisle in the Senate to help accomplish things for the people of the 49th District?

I pride myself on being a common sense legislator and I’m not afraid to work across the aisle to find areas of compromise and advance legislation that will make a positive difference in the lives of the 49th District residents. This is not just rhetoric - below are eight legislative initiatives I recently sponsored that were signed into law by the Governor this summer after receiving overwhelming bipartisan support:

· SB324 - Provides veterans with access to small-business loans; Chief Sponsor; Effective June 24, 2016.

· HB1191 - Expedites I-55/Weber Road interchange project; Chief Senate Sponsor; Effective July 22, 2016.

· SB212 - Allows money taken from drug related crimes to fund drug and alcohol abuse prevention programs in schools and the community; Chief Sponsor; Effective July 29, 2016.

· SB2613 - Grants unpaid leave to parents who lose a child; Chief Sponsor; Effective July 29, 2016.

· SB2301 - Creates training standards for residential and community based programs providing dementia care; Co-Sponsor; Effective August 15, 2016.

· HB5805 - Extends the statue of limitation for those who financially exploit elderly or disabled persons; Chief Senate Sponsor; Effective August 15, 2016.

· HB4259 - Prohibits lobbyists from receiving pension; Chief Sponsor; Effective January 1, 2017. 

· HB4344 - Allows roads to be named after fallen soldiers from Illinois; Chief Senate Sponsor; Effective January 1, 2017.

If elected, I’ll continue to work with both Republicans and Democrats to pass legislation that will create a positive impact for residents in the 49th District and across Illinois.

What are the 3 biggest problems facing the people of the 49th District, and what do you propose to help fix these problems?

1.Enacting sound budgeting and fiscal policy to close Illinois’s budget hole.

Springfield’s problems can’t be balanced on the backs of working families. Suburban families need relief, not more taxes and solutions exist to cut spending and raise revenue without placing the burden on middle-class families.

First, we can take steps to cut redundant government spending through consolidation. Illinois has over 7,000 local units of government, many providing overlapping services. The costs associated with multiple layers of unnecessary bureaucracy can be eliminated to save money and increase efficiency. I know it can be done because I’ve done it. As Will County Regional Superintendent, I made our office more efficient and maintained school quality while cutting administrative spending.

Springfield also needs to lead by example when seeking to cut costs. In the Illinois Senate, I cut legislative salaries; Co-sponsored a bipartisan plan to eliminate the Lt. Governor’s position; Supported legislation to consolidate the Treasurer’s and Comptroller’s offices to streamline service and save millions.

There is also the troubling statistic that two-thirds of corporations in Illinois do not pay a state income tax. When corporations don’t pay their fair share, working families are forced to pay a higher portion of taxes to provide for healthcare and education services. We can take steps to close corporate loopholes and ensure those that do business in Illinois and benefit from tax- payer funded infrastructure networks and first-responder protection pay just like any other resident.

2. Encouraging job growth, starting with streamlined regulations along with education and training programs to keep workers in the 49th District competitive and attract employers.

Illinois can take steps to foster more small business growth, creating more good-paying jobs and expanding the tax base. My family owns an automotive repair shop in Will County and I understand the impact small businesses have on strengthening our economy and our communities. That’s why in the state Senate, I sponsored legislation to require state agencies to identify and eliminate regulation that is overly burdensome to small businesses, provided businesses that hire long-term unemployed individuals with tax incentives and worked to lower the costs of starting a business. I also sponsored legislation to create the Veterans Entrepreneurship Loan Program to lend a hand to veterans who return from serving our country and want to start a small business in our community.

We must also take steps to show investors and companies that Illinois is a stable and secure place to do business. A critical part to putting our financial house in order is pension reform. Decades of kicking the can down the road has saddled Illinois with over $100 billion in unfunded pension debt. We cannot afford further inaction. A solution must be collaborative and involve all parties; unilateral action is not the answer, nor will the courts allow it.

3. Education and support for schools in the district.

As a lifelong educator, I know the challenges of providing a first-class education with limited resources. Our state school funding formula is both outdated and regressive and struggles to provide our children with a quality education. In the Illinois Senate, I supported several education reform initiatives to address funding for low-income, English-language learners, and special education students - populations every school should receive adequate funding to serve. In addition, I have worked to address the State’s outdated and inadequate education funding formula to recognize the regional differences across the state.

Where do you stand on how the state of Illinois should provide education funding for local school districts?

Our state school funding formula is outdated, regressive and struggles to provide all of our children in Illinois with a quality education. In the Illinois Senate, I have supported several education reform initiatives that address funding that directly impacts the quality of education our students receive and resources available to our teachers. Our children deserve a first class education. I fully support more school funding with less of a reliance on property taxes

Do you support term limits?

I often hear frustration expressed by my constituents who complain they cannot cast a vote on legislative leaders. That is why I introduced a constitutional amendment to limit legislative leaders to eight-year terms. This is a common-sense approach to ensure power does not rest in the hands of too few people – both Republican and Democrat - for prolonged periods of time. Elected office should not be about personal gain or career advancement but about serving the people. Encouraging turn-over of leadership posts will bring new ideas and fresh thinking in the legislative bodies while allowing honest, thoughtful, and hard-working legislators - who can receive the support of a majority of their voting constituents - to continue representing their districts.

Elections act as voter-imposed term limits for rank-and-file legislators. It can take years for elected officials to gain the experience and wisdom needed to best navigate the complex procedures and relationships of government. Moreover, states that introduce term limits for rank-and-file legislators often find special interests and deep-pocketed donors control more of the legislative process as long-serving lobbyist take advantage of the high turnover rates and inexperience to further their own agendas. However, I will never deny my constituents the right to voice their opinion on any issue and I would support bringing the decision to term-limit legislators to the people to decide.

Should members of Illinois’ Legislature be paid while there is no state budget? Why or Why not.

Political agendas and personal egos on both sides are responsible for the current budget stalemate. If discussions focused only on budgetary items, we would be much more successful in passing a responsible budget. Unfortunately, this did not happen and we saw millions of people suffer the consequences of inaction. It is not right to hold vital funding hostage in pursuit of political gain. There is simply too much at stake.

I understand the frustration people have with the budget impasse – I’m frustrated too. But we must be aware that by supporting “No Budget No Pay”, we consent to allowing the executive branch to overstep its constitutional authority by withholding pay in return for a particular action.

We must work together in a bipartisan manner to achieve a budget. I’m ready to return to Springfield to vote on a genuine and fiscally responsible budget that will protect working families, keep our schools open, fund social services, and protect small businesses. 

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