The District 31 seat in the Illinois Senate will be vacant as Suzi Schmit steps down following her first term on the job. Republican nominee Joe Neal will face off against current , who is representing the Democratic party.
Joe Neal was born and raised in Wadsworth and is a graduate of Warren Township High School. He earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He later earned a Masters of Transportation Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.
Neal served as the officer-in-charge of Navy Seabee units in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and in Nicaragua drilling water wells for underdeveloped communities. In June, 2011 Neal returned from tour in Iraq where he served in the construction battalion unit that oversaw the maintenance of 30 camps throughout Iraq used by Navy Seal and Army Special Operations Forces.
Neal currently serves as a Civil Engineering Corp Officer in the Navy Reserve at the Great Lakes Naval Base.
Neal is a tutor and mentor for low-income children of Christopher House in Chicago, a member of the Wadsworth Lions Club, a Shriner, the Newport Township Republican chairman, a board member with Wetlands Research, member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and past recipient of the Young Civil Engineer of the Year, and a member of the Navy League of the United States Lake County Council and past recipient of the Navy Leaguer of the Year.
Neal's Top Areas of Focus
1. Neal's focus is on job creation and economic development. Part of the problem is that so many people are leaving Illinois, forcing the the state to lose it's tax base, Neal said. He feels one way to get people and businesses to stay is to repeal the business tax increase and get it back down to four point seven percent.
Neal wants to reverse the 67 percent income tax hike on individuals and 46 percent income tax hike on corporations and work on a uniform tax policy that provides a level playing field for all businesses regardless of their size.
He also supports further reforms to workers compensation laws. "It's too expensive for businesses in this state because of the way the laws are written," Neal said. "Specifically the causation law where people can just claim they were injured on the job even without showing proof."
Neal said the unemployment insurance also needs to be adjusted. "Both of these workers compensation laws are wrought with fraud and it has to be fixed."
2. Neal aims to look at balancing the budget and get control of spending at the state level. He points to the $33 billion in revenue that came into the state last year, yet the Governor’s budget was at $34.5 billion. "We have to put some long term plans in to fix this budget," Neal said.
One way is through Medicaid reform. "If we bring eligibility requirements down to the national standard then we'd save $1.6 billion dollars a year" Neal said he also feels there is no solid system in place for residents to prove they live Illinois to receive medicaid.
"Someone could easily drive down from Wisconsin and make a claim in Illinois, forcing us to pay for it." Medicaid reimbursements have nearly doubled in the past nine years. "At that rate its unaffordable. We have to really take a look at this."
Neal also feels there are several easy fixes to adjust the budget and spending that he would support including combining the Treasurer and Comptroller’s offices saving the taxpayers $12 million, reducing the number of government appointments and commissions that should reduce the salaries of State Board Commissions by 5 percent, and by renegotiating contracts that could safe $300 million, according to former Comptroller Dan Hynes.
3. Another hot topic for Neal is pension reform. Neal said the amount of unfunded pensions is out of hand. "I've worked for an independent firm for some time and we have always had to leave our pension fund alone. But the state doesn't have to follow those rules? That's not right," Neal said.
His ideas to fix this problem include opening communications with the unions to resolve the issue and putting in place a three-tier system of changes for those who are already retired, and those who will retire. Neal wants to consider moving back the age requirements for receiving pensions, reduce the current three percent cost of living increase, and increase employee contributions into the pension fund.
"Our teachers and state employees are scared right now, and we have to fix this problem and take care of them," Neal said.
To find out more about Joe Neal for Senate, visit his website .
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