Biss, Farkas square off in senate campaign debate
Republican candidate for Illinois 9th district senate Glenn Farkas during the debate at Glenbrook South High School on Wednesday, Sept. 19th. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 25, 2012 7:50PM
GLENVIEW — Illinois senate candidates fielded student-led questions Wednesday at Glenbrook South High School, where the debate kept coming back to solving the state’s dismal finances.
Running for the 9th Senate District, Daniel Biss, D–Evanston, represents the 17th House District.
His Republican opponent, Glenview resident Glenn Farkas, owns a wealth management company.
On public pension reform, Farkas said the state’s pension system is underfunded by more than $80 million – the highest in the country. He believes pension retirees must lose some benefits to lower the debt, which could be accomplished by combining 401k plans with cost of living adjustments.
“We could do this together, but we need to make sure politicians take their cuts first,” Farkas said. “They got us into this mess.”
Biss supports a cash balance plan for pensions that includes 401ks and their pooled investments, as well as guaranteed minimum benefits for participants.
“But I don’t see making this work without substantial changes in the system. It’s not enough. We must ensure the state will pay its share,” said Biss, who serves on seven House committees.
Farkas faulted Biss for favoring a graduated income tax, saying 35 states have such a system but are in worse financial trouble than Illinois, namely California.
“Higher taxes allow governments to spend more,” said Farkas, who frequently pointed out his pro-growth tax policies for attracting businesses and people to Illinois, while noting that 800,000 taxpayers have left te state.
“Illinois is a microcosm of our country – too much government spending,” he said, adding that he would repeal the corporate income tax. “... We need to show others Illinois is not a state that bleeds businesses.”
Biss is against school vouchers, while his opponent supports them for the sake of giving parents the choice between sending children to public or private schools.
“My vision of public schools is providing a quality education, regardless of where you live. Vouchers allow us to give up on that vision,” Biss said.
“Vouchers in the city and suburbs give choices. You still want to have (funding) follow them to the schools,” Farkas said.
On the issue of rising college tuitions, Biss said Illinois has sent less money to state universities today than in 1992, again blaming pensions.
“In every area, education has been cut because of pensions,” he said.
Farkas explained the fundamental answer to college funding was “fixing the state.”
“Pensions and Medicaid need fixing first,” Farkas said. “We need businesses here in Illinois and we must fix the state budget.”
Farkas has said he learned conservative business principals by starting his business, Avista Wealth Management. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a double major in marketing and finance. He later earned a master’s degree in finance at DePaul University.
Biss is completing his first term in the Illinois General Assembly. The former mathematics professor at the University of Chicago holds a doctorate in mathematics from Harvard University.