Local candidates get down to business

By Dan Farnham

Four area candidates in the November election addressed a room of Champaign County business owners for the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce breakfast forum Thursday morning.

The event, titled Know Your Vote, took place at the Hawthorne Suites Ltd., 101 Trade Centre Drive, Champaign, and is part of a series of Chamber of Commerce breakfast forums that feature guest speakers.

Attendees included 15th Congressional District candidate David Gill, 53rd State Senate District candidate Dan Rutherford,103rd State Representative District candidates Deb Feinen and Naomi Jakobsson. University law professor Steve Ross was also there as a representative for U.S. Senate hopeful Barack Obama.

Each guest speaker was given two minutes to state their platform. After that, the speakers responded to questions submitted by audience members.

Gill, a Democrat and a medical doctor, focused on health care.

Gill wants to create a universal national healthcare program comparable to those of other developed countries, in part, because he said he sees the plan as good for businesses.

By cutting out insurance company involvement, the single-payer insurance would be a more affordable plan for businesses, Gill said. Insurance companies drive up the price of health care plans by charging wasteful overhead expenses for profit purposes, he said.

“I’m a strict capitalist, but in cases of life and death, which health care is, the almighty dollar should not be that mighty,” Gill said.

Jakobsson, the Democratic incumbent, said she is honored that she was able to help the development of downtown Champaign and Urbana.

Jakobsson said she has voted against tax and fee increases while in office.

Deb Feinen, Republican candidate for the 103rd District House seat, said her experience as a small-business owner, lawyer and Champaign County Board member makes her qualified to handle business issues in the Illinois Legislature.

Feinen also touted use of renewable energy sources as a way to bring in more businesses to Illinois as well as help the environment.

State Sen. Dan Rutherford (R-Pontiac) was critical of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s spending practices since he came into office in early 2003. Rutherford is running unopposed in State Senate District 53.

Rutherford said Blagojevich has “no clue” about business, illustrated by the governor’s increase in business fees that discourage some businesses from staying in Illinois.

Many questions asked during the forum were in regard to business taxes incurred to pay for government programs and mandates.

Feinen, Jakobsson and Rutherford all said they were hesitant to raise business taxes because of government spending.

Jakobsson did not like the idea of making the public pay for unfunded government mandates. She voted against a bill that would tax local businesses to pay for a firefighter retirement fund, though she said it was a difficult issue because she knows some firefighters.

Feinen and Rutherford said they both see situations where they would support an unfunded mandate. Rutherford voted for the firefighter retirement fund tax and Feinen showed support for it. Feinen said it was a necessary expense to help the firefighters and their families.

Although he could not give official answers as to Obama’s opinions, Ross was able to talk about Obama’s platform and why he would make a good senator.

Ross said Obama supports negotiating drug prices with corporations and giving an annual tax credit to small businesses that pay for health insurance for all their employees.