Caulkins sees need to fix state's 'spending problem'
Dan Caulkins, who is running to replace retiring Rep. Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) in the 101st District, can't think of a time when the thought of just average has been so appealing.
“Illinois sticks out as one of the few states in the country running a deficit over the last 15 years,” Caulkins told Macon Reporter recently. “It would be nice to just be average. We have to change the state’s out-of-control spending and change the culture of Springfield.”
A new Truth in Accounting survey finds Illinois now ranks 49th in the country in taxpayer burden. In addition to the poor ranking, the survey also found that the average Illinois taxpayer now owes $50,400 in debt, based on 2016 government financial records.
Overall, the cash-strapped state has total liabilities of $235.9 billion, with just $25.5 billion in assets.
The state’s faltering reputation comes after well over a decade of uninterrupted Democrat rule, including 11 straight years of Democrats occupying the governor’s mansion before the 2014 election of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Even with Rauner in power, Democrats, with the aid of a handful of Republican lawmakers, banded together in summer to override a veto by Rauner to permanently increase the personal income tax by 32 percent.
“Illinois has a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” Caulkins told the Macon Reporter. “In all my years in government, sitting on boards and being a small business owner, I’ve never voted for an unbalanced budget.”
Caulkins now hopes to take that level of discipline to Springfield.
In slapping the state an overall "F" grade, Truth in Accounting researchers also highlighted that the state now owes nearly $117 billion in pension liabilities, or roughly half of its $210 billion in overall debt. In 2016 alone, pension liabilities grew by another $8 billion.
“We need to prioritize students over administrators and streamline our health care system,” Caulkins said. “Right now, we spend roughly 25 percent of our general budget on Medicaid."
Caulkins said part of the answer lies in better oversight.
“If you send me to Springfield, I will push hard for stricter monitoring of Medicaid eligibility,” he said. “We need to crack down on those on Medicaid who don’t deserve to be. The process has to be stricter.”
By and large, Caulkins said he doesn’t think Illinois lawmakers have dedicated enough time to the issues that matter most to many of their constituents.
“I don’t think there has been serious discussion about issues like workman’s comp and tort reform,” he said. “Other states have addressed these issues and it’s making a difference with the jobs they’re producing. Here, we have career politicians who haven’t had the will to take a tough stance and are only interested in staying in power.”
The 101st House District covers parts of Champaign, McLean, Dewitt, Macon and Piatt counties.