1) What is the No. 1 issue in your district and how would you address it?
Putting the 10th District back to work is the main issue in my district. Our economy has been dealt a terrible blow. Nearly 10% of Illinois residents are out of work. This is unacceptable. Quality jobs provide the foundation for our economic well-being and for the prosperity of every American family.
Before being elected to Congress in 2010, I owned and operated a small business in Northfield, IL, employing just under 100 individuals. I understand the pressures and challenges facing small businesses: the pressure to meet payroll, to provide health benefits for employees and their families, and to invest in equipment and technology to continue being competitive. I also understand the pressures on our working families to work hard and succeed, and to save money for the future and for our children’s education.
Fundamentally, American families want a stable job in a steady economy. But we also want more. We want innovation and we want new and better ideas about how to deliver goods and services. We need an environment that encourages and fosters ideas, entrepreneurship and economic opportunity for all.
In order to build a strong foundation for the future we need to focus on permanent sustainable solutions rather than relying on temporary measures. The limited recovery has to date been largely subsidized by massive spending by the federal government. Yet after almost $1 trillion of stimulus funding, uncertainty dominates the economy: uncertainty over tax rates, regulatory changes, financial and health care reforms, and the growing federal debt. There is a better way.
My plan includes helping small businesses grow and compete by reforming and simplifying the tax code, promoting access to capital for small businesses, increasing access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education to prepare students for jobs going unfilled, investing in transportation and infrastructure, fixing the FDA approval process that threatens thousands of pharmaceutical jobs here in the Chicagoland area, maximizing North American energy production to lower fuel prices, reducing excessive regulations that are hindering job growth, and helping domestic manufacturers compete around the globe.
Following this path will put our country back on track to prosperity and put America back to work.
2) How would you promote job growth in your district?
Putting the 10th District back to work is my top priority. Within the first two months in office I put together a 10th District Jobs Task Force which included local residents seeking work, employers, lenders, and educators to find out more about what is happening in our community and the positive changes that can be made. To date I’ve held two job fairs - one at Harper College and the other at the Lake Forest School of Management - bringing together 1,000 job seekers and 250 hiring employers and organizations. We provided training for job seekers on how to interview, write a resume and effectively network. We have many success stories from those events and plan to have similar Jobs Fairs in the future in other areas of the district.
One not so well known fact is that the 10th Congressional District is the number one manufacturing district in the country. To help ensure it remains so, I brought together 60 local manufacturers and the Department of Commerce to discuss how to take advantage of the new trade agreements and sell our local products made here in the 10th around the globe. In another event, I brought in the Chairman of the Export-Import Bank to explain lending options that are available to area companies to help them expand their exports overseas. A consistent message I hear from our area manufacturers is that they are frustrated they are having difficulty finding qualified applicants to fill open jobs despite high unemployment rates. I have taken this concern seriously and am focusing on working with these local businesses and area community colleges and vocational schools to bridge this divide and promote appropriate STEM education.
Illinois’ 10th Congressional District is a biotech hub, home to numerous companies that have helped America become the world leader in the advancement in life saving medical devices and treatments and employ tens of thousands of area residents. These innovators need certainty and timeliness from the government’s product approval process in order to create and sustain jobs. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval process is well respected around the world, the pharmaceutical and medical device process lacks transparency and consistency which delays access to potentially lifesaving treatments, hinders job creation in this critical sector of our economy, cripples the ability of companies to make major investment decisions about new research projects, and sometimes bankrupts promising opportunities with millions of dollars in unexpected costs. Two important programs are scheduled to be reauthorized this year, the prescription drug user fee program and medical device user fee program. These two reauthorizations present an opportunity to bring transparency and consistency to the FDA approval process, and with that, more efficiency, growth, and local 10th District jobs.
My comprehensive plan to put the 10th District back to work also includes helping small businesses grow and compete by reforming and simplifying the tax code, promoting access to capital for small businesses, maximizing North American energy production to lower fuel prices, investing in transportation and infrastructure, and reducing excessive regulations that are hindering job growth.
Putting the 10th District back to work has been and will remain my top priority in Congress.
3) Should the federal government cut spending and where?
Washington has buried our children and our grandchildren under a mountain of debt that is $15 trillion and growing. In 2011, the federal government collected $2.3 trillion in revenues and spent $3.6 trillion while borrowing $1.3 trillion to finance the rest of our budget obligations. Today, forty cents of every dollar spent by the federal government is borrowed. This is the equivalent of a family of four earning $75,000 but spending $125,000 every year. Clearly, Washington is broken.
One of the first bills I supported after being sworn into office in 2010 was a comprehensive budget that puts our country on the path to fiscal health and pays down our federal debt over the next decade. Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the United States Senate have refused to even consider this legislation. In fact, the Senate has not passed a budget in over 1,000 days. At a time when Washington must focus on living within its means, this is unacceptable. The House budget recognized that reforms are needed to the major drivers of our debt, Medicare and Medicaid, while protecting those over 55 years of age from any changes to their benefits. This budget also simplified the tax code and eliminated special lobbyist corporate tax loopholes and subsidies, while lowering the overall tax rate to make us competitive around the globe. The United States currently has the highest corporate tax rate in the free world and yet some of our largest companies are using lobbyist tax loopholes and subsidies to avoid paying taxes. Neither is fair. This is why lowering the rates, simplifying the code, and getting rid of special tax breaks are so important.
To put our country back on firm financial ground we must cut wasteful spending. Federal spending levels should return to 20% of Gross Domestic Product, the historical average, instead of letting it balloon to nearly 25% as currently proposed. We need a government that is efficient and effective, not wasteful.
In Congress, I am working to lead us out of our spending addiction and get our country back on track. I was the first freshman this year to pass a bill, H.R. 830, bipartisan legislation which terminated an ineffective government program and saved the hardworking taxpayers over $8 billion dollars. In recognition of the need to honestly confront our nation’s crushing debt burden, I joined with a bipartisan group of members who stepped forward to urge fellow lawmakers to “go big” with a bold, bipartisan proposal to reduce our deficit by at least $4 trillion. To achieve this, I called for all options to be on the table for discussion – including spending cuts, entitlement reforms, and revenues. It takes a willingness to work across the aisle in order to break the partisan gridlock, which I have shown I will do.
After years of runaway, wasteful spending in Washington, I am pleased that we have finally managed to shift the focus to fiscal responsibility. However, there is much more work that needs to be done. I will continue to push for a serious bipartisan deficit reduction package that honestly and effectively confronts the size and nature of our crushing debt burden.
4) If Republican, which GOP presidential candidate do you support?
I support Mitt Romney for President. His years of experience as a successful businessman give him a tremendous understanding of the economy and how to create jobs and his experience working in a bipartisan manner as Governor of Massachusetts are what the country needs right now.
5) Give an example of something you’ve done that is bipartisanship in nature.
As evidence of my commitment to bipartisanship and independence, Congressional Quarterly, after taking a comprehensive look at the voting record of all Members of Congress, determined that I am ranked the #1 House Republican most willing to work with the President. This analysis is consistent with the findings of multiple organizations, which have looked at my voting record and ranked me as one of the most independent Members of Congress.
Nearly every piece of legislation I have introduced has been bipartisan because I truly believe the only way we can move our country forward is by working together. I recently joined the No Labels movement, a group of bipartisan lawmakers that is working to reduce the gridlock in Washington that frustrates so many Americans. And this year, as part of my effort to do the simple things that can promote a spirit of bipartisanship, I sat with a Democrat colleague, Representative John Carney from Delaware, during the State of the Union to show our willingness to reach across the aisle. I also hosted a bi-partisan town hall meeting in my district with a local Democrat State Representative to show our constituents that we are dedicated to working together to represent our area.
I have worked in a bipartisan manner on legislative issues including co-sponsoring legislation supporting stem cell research, sensible gun control, and to provide equitable tax treatment of health care benefits for the LGBT community. I have voted to protect funding for Planned Parenthood to oppose weakening the clean air act.
And as I mentioned early, in recognition of the need to honestly confront our nation’s crushing debt burden, I joined with a bipartisan group of members who stepped forward in the Fall of 2011 to urge our fellow lawmakers to “go big” with a bold, bipartisan proposal to reduce our nation’s deficit by at least $4 trillion. To achieve this, we called for all options to be on the table for discussion – including spending cuts, entitlement reforms, and revenues.
We must put people before politics and progress before partisanship. Governing in a democracy requires compromise and we need leaders who understand that America can’t be run in any other way.
6) Name one good policy idea that comes from the opposing party.
I admire the goal and commitment of the opposing party to support environmental issues, and have enjoyed working with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to protect the Great Lakes. While I agree with the Republicans that we must be careful that environmental regulations don’t go too far and strangle job growth we must balance those concerns with the need to protect the quality of our air, water and wetlands and open lands.
7) How do you define family values?
One of the primary reasons I ran for Congress was because I saw Washington burdening our children under an ever-increasing mountain of debt that, if left unchecked, would make my generation the first to leave the country in worse shape than what we inherited from our parents and grandparents. I refuse to accept that course of action for my family, families in the 10th district and families all across the country. We can and must do better. We must improve our educational system so that our children are prepared for the 21st century workforce and we must preserve and protect our environment and natural resources so they are there for future generations to enjoy. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure we honor America’s enduring compact to leave our nation in a better condition for our children and grandchildren.
8) What are your thoughts on the healthcare law?
Washington missed a golden opportunity when it passed health care reform because the legislation focused more on access to insurance rather than deal with the major problems of cost or quality of health care. What is certain is that small businesses – the backbone of our economy – are saddled with higher health care costs for employees along with costly new regulatory mandates. I am deeply concerned that the new health care law will hurt American seniors. It cut $500 billion in Medicare benefits and transferred that money to pay for new federal healthcare bureaucracies. According to Medicare’s Chief Actuary, more than seven million Americans will lose their current Medicare Advantage plans, and other provisions will result in less generous benefit packages. The legislation was much too expensive and will steadily increase taxes on hard working taxpayers, while adding to an already unsustainable federal debt.
A key component of my plan for health care reform is implementing tort reform. An incredible amount of waste occurs because of a mentality that is caused by unchecked lawsuits. The cost of ‘defensive’ medicine – tests, procedures, referrals, hospitalizations, or prescriptions ordered by physicians fearful of lawsuits – is huge and widespread. This must be changed to protect the solvency of our healthcare system. I believe we can do more to eliminate corruption and waste in Medicare. To take steps in that direction, I cosponsored the Medicare Common Access Card Act, which is bipartisan legislation to secure and verify the identities of both Medicare beneficiaries and providers. It is estimated this could save over $60 billion.
My plan also offers choice across state lines. In nearly every other sector of the economy, consumers are free to choose across state lines and companies are free to market across state lines. This change would expand the choices available to consumers and increase the competition for each insurer, thereby driving down prices and improving service.
Real reform also requires greater transparency of pricing and outcomes data. Today it is nearly impossible to compare price and outcomes, and effectiveness. The current system does not encourage providers to report data with any kind of consistency and as such, price and outcomes comparisons are complicated and almost certainly “apples-to-oranges.”
Ultimately, I believe we must empower individuals by giving them the ability to make their own personal decisions on health care. As a small business owner I know first-hand the pressure to provide affordable care for employees and have seen health care costs rise year after year. I am committed to implementing a plan that will address cost, quality and access to health care for all Americans.
9) Who is your political role model?
Former 10th District Congressmen John Porter and Mark Kirk have been tremendous role models in the manner in which they governed from the center and gave the 10th District an independent voice in Congress. Another leader who has reached across the aisle to help move our country forward is Ronald Reagan. I admire him for his work to tear down the Berlin Wall and to grow a prosperous free enterprise system in the United States.
10) What’s on your iPod?
Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones, U2, Booker T. & the MG’s